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Announcement
October 31, 2011

Vera List Center for Art and Politics presents Forensic Aesthetics

Vera List Center for Art and Politics

Jorge Otero-Pailos, The Ethics of Dust: Doge’s Palace, Venice, 2009.

While legal and cultural scholars have labeled the third part of the 20th century–with its particular attention to testimony–as the “era of the witness,” the emergence of forensics in legal forums and popular entertainment signifies a new attention to the communicative capacity, agency, and power of things. Today’s legal and political decisions are often based upon the capacity to display and read DNA samples, 3D laser scans, nanotechnology, and the enhanced vision of electromagnetic microscopes and satellite surveillance. The aesthetic dimension of forensics includes its means of presentation, the theatrics of its delivery, the forms of image and gesture. The forensic aesthetics of the present carries with it grave political and ethical implications, spreading its impact across socioeconomic, environmental, scientific, and cultural domains.

The lectures and roundtable discussions by the participating artists, scholars and curators investigate these issues in a series of forums organized around a number of disputed objects.

Presented by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School and co-sponsored and co-organized with Cabinet Magazine, The Forensic Architecture ERC Project at The Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London, and The Human Rights Project at Bard College, on occasion of the Vera List Center’s 2011-2013 focus theme “Thingness.”

Friday, November 4, 2011, 6:00–8:00 p.m.
Osteobiographies: Presentations
Cabinet magazine, 300 Nevins Street, Brooklyn
Free admission

“Grave diggers” have, since the middle of the 1980s, been unearthing bones and turning burial sites into an epistemic resource from which the details of war crimes can be reconstructed and brought into the pale of the law. The practice of forensic teams, including archaeologists, anthropologists, pathologists, radiologists, dental experts, bio-data technicians, DNA specialists and statisticians of all sorts, mark a shift in emphasis from the living to the dead, from memory and trauma to empirical science, and from subjects to objects in accounting for atrocities.

Introduction:
Thomas Keenan, Bard College
Eyal Weizman, Goldsmiths, University of London

Presentations:
Eric Stover, writer and faculty director, The Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley
Grupa Spomenik / Monument Group: Damir Arsenijevic, Branimir Stojanovic, and Milica Tomić, Belgrade, Serbia


Saturday, November 5, 2011, 11:30 a.m.–6 p.m.
Parading the Object: Three Roundtable Discussions
The New School, Wollman Hall, 55 West 11th Street (enter at 66 West 12th Street), 5th floor
Free Admission

Organized as forum for people and things, the presentations are set in a theatrical arena arranged around a number of disputed objects. Introductions by Thomas Keenan and Eyal Weizman.

Roundtable I: Forensic Architecture
11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

Buildings are both sensors and agents; they materialize political and economical forces, and also the events that befall them. Buildings undergo constant formal transformations in response to forces and some of these processes can be reconstructed through structural calculations, blast analyses, and the determination of the failure points of structures, details, and forms.

Nikolaus Hirsch, Städelschule, Frankfurt a.M., Germany, moderator
Eve Hinman, Hinman Consulting Engineers, New York/San Francisco
Jorge Otero-Pailos, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), Columbia
University
Norman Weiss, GSAPP, Columbia University

Lunch Break 1:00–2:00 p.m.

Roundtable II: Constructed Evidence: The Thing Makes Its Forum
2:00–3:30 p.m.

What if the object is not a “witness” but an entity constructed for the express purpose of creating or activating the forum? Such an object might map the diffused networks of informal or illegal labor, or be called upon to narrate historical events in the absence of evidentiary materials.

Susan Schuppli, Goldsmiths, University of London, moderator
Amber Horning, John Jay College, New York
Sara Jordeno, artist, New York
Joanna Merwood-Salisbury, School of Constructed Environments, Parsons The New School for Design
Arne Svenson, artist, New York

Roundtable III: Animism
4:00–5:30 p.m.

Whenever the  passive/active nexus between object and subject, humans and the non-human is disturbed or even reversed–as in the coming-to-life of seemingly dead matter, the becoming autonomous of inert things–we inevitably step into the territory of animism: that non-modern worldview that conceives of things as animated and possessing agency. With regards to Forensic Aesthetics, the historical discourse of animism provides a foil for a reflection on the boundaries at stake.

Anselm Franke, moderator
Brigid Doherty, Princeton University
Spyros Papapetros, Princeton University
Hugh Raffles, The New School for Social Research

Closing Remarks
5:30–6:00 p.m.
Srdjan Jovanovich Weiss, Tyler School of Art, Architecture Department, Temple University

Thank you!

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