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Mengele's SkullThe Advent of a Forensic Aesthetics

Thomas Keenan, Eyal Weizman - Mengele\'s Skull
A study (specially commissioned as part of an exhibition at Portikus) in which Thomas Keenan and Eyal Weizman discusses the way that forensic investigation and identification of Joseph Mengele's remains marks a transition, giving way to an "era of forensics", in which things—such as bones—act as the witnesses of past events.
In 1985, the body of Josef Mengele, one of the last Nazi war criminals still at large, was unearthed in Brazil. The ensuing process of identifying the bones in question opened up what can now be seen as a third narrative in war crime investigations—not that of the document or the witness but rather the birth of a forensic approach to understanding war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In the period coinciding with the discovery of Mengele's skeleton, scientists began to appear in human rights cases as expert witnesses, called to interpret and speak on behalf of things—often bones and human remains. But the aesthetic, political, and ethical complications that emerge with the introduction of the thing in war crimes trials indicate that this innovation is not simply one in which the solid object provides a stable and fixed alternative to human uncertainties, ambiguities, and anxieties.
The complexities associated with testimony—that of the subject—are echoed in the presentation of the object. Human remains are the kind of things from which the trace of the subject cannot be fully removed. Their appearance and presentation in the courts of law and public opinion has in fact blurred something of the distinction between objects and subjects, evidence and testimony.
Published on the occasion of the eponymous exhibition by Hito Steyerl, Thomas Keenan & Eyal Weizman and Paulo Tavares, curated by Anselm Franke, at Portikus, Frankfurt am Main, in 2012.
Eyal Weizman (born 1970 in Haifa) is an Israeli intellectual and architect. He is Professor of Spatial and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London and Director of the Centre for Research Architecture—a “laboratory for critical spatial practices”—which he created, within the Department of Visual Cultures, in 2005. He is the founding director of Forensic Architecture.
Graphic design: Zak Group.
published in August 2012
English edition
11,2 x 17,2 cm (softcover)
88 pages (25 color & 24 b/w ill.)
ISBN : 978-1-934105-91-7
EAN : 9781934105917
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