mengele’s skull


Modern human rights forensics began in Argentina with the victims, and in Brazil with the perpetrator. And it began with the same question asked of the bones: “Who are you?” Like testimony, forensics has political, ethical, and aesthetic manifestations. The emergence of a forensics aesthetics—marked for us most clearly by Helmer’s video presentation in São Paulo—signals a shift in emphasis from the living to the dead, from subject to object, in the aftermath of atrocity and the pursuit of human rights. But just as the survivors of the camps required the space of the trial itself to emerge as witnesses, and in a real sense emerged as such in the very act of speaking, so too things do not simply come with their agency already fully operational. A forum, which in this case was a scientific-aesthetic space, and all the techniques of presentation (of making-evident) that come with it, is required for facts to be debated. If things have begun to speak in the context of war-crimes investigation and human rights, it is not simply that we have acquired better listening skills, or that the forums of discussion have been liberally enlarged. The very entry of bones and other things into these forums has changed the meanings and the practices of discussion themselves. In fact, the entry of non-humans into the field of human rights has transformed it.

more from Thomas Keenan and Eyal Weizman at Cabinet here.