Burden of Proof: The Construction of Visual Evidence

Art, Photography
Recommended
3 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
(1user review)
 (Grace A-South, Koreme, North of Iraq, June 1992 © Susan Meiselas, Magnum Photos)
1/7
Grace A-South, Koreme, North of Iraq, June 1992 © Susan Meiselas, Magnum Photos
 (Photography extract from Decoding video testimony, Miranshah, Pakistan, March 30, 2012 © Forensic Architecture in collaboration with SITU Research)
2/7
Photography extract from Decoding video testimony, Miranshah, Pakistan, March 30, 2012 © Forensic Architecture in collaboration with SITU Research
 (Rodolphe A Reiss: Demonstration of the Bertillon metric photography System, 1925 © RA Reiss)
3/7
Rodolphe A Reiss: Demonstration of the Bertillon metric photography System, 1925 © RA Reiss
 (Richard Helmer: Richard Helmer’s face/skull Mengele superimposition 1985 © Photo Richard Helmer)
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Richard Helmer: Richard Helmer’s face/skull Mengele superimposition 1985 © Photo Richard Helmer
 (Alphonse Bertillon: Murder of Monsieur Canon, boulevard de Clichy, 9 December 1914 © Archives de la Préfecture de police de Paris)
5/7
Alphonse Bertillon: Murder of Monsieur Canon, boulevard de Clichy, 9 December 1914 © Archives de la Préfecture de police de Paris
 (Marfa Ilinitchna Riazantseva, 1937. © Archives centrales FSB et Archives nationales de la Fédération de Russie GARF, Moscou )
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Marfa Ilinitchna Riazantseva, 1937. © Archives centrales FSB et Archives nationales de la Fédération de Russie GARF, Moscou
 (Le Saint Suaire de Turin, negative image. Enlargements by Paul Vignon from photographs taken by Giuseppe Enrie (1931-1933) © Institut Catholique in Paris)
7/7
Le Saint Suaire de Turin, negative image. Enlargements by Paul Vignon from photographs taken by Giuseppe Enrie (1931-1933) © Institut Catholique in Paris

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

This exhibition, which spans 100 years of war, murder and other human atrocities, starts off on the right foot – particularly if your fascination tends towards the morbid. In 1903, Frenchman Alphonse Bertillon introduced the ‘metric’ technique, a new way to objectively capture crime scenes by employing precise calculations and other maths-type measurements. His approach was adopted by police, whose expertly composed God’s-eye-view shots of victims in situ – bludgeoned, strangled, seemingly untouched – are shown here in all their unwavering gruesomeness, and (possibly) unintentional artistry.

In all, ‘Burden of Proof’ offers up 11 ‘cases’, as they are described: examples of ‘experts, researchers and historians’ using photography as evidence after the fact to make an argument for justice or retribution. After compelling early photos by Rodolphe A Reiss of near-indiscernible footprints and other human traces (in 1906 he was appointed the world’s first chair of forensic science at the University of Lausanne), we dip into a study of the now-disproven photographs taken in 1898 of the Shroud of Turin, which apparently held trace evidence of the agony Jesus endured. After this comes a slideshow of faces staring straight into the camera: these are official records of soon-to-be executed victims of the Great Terror of 1930s Russia, during which 750,000 citizens were shot by the Soviet state.

All of it is genuinely affecting stuff. But there’s an inescapable sense that the exhibition is leaning heavily on the harrowing nature of its content, without offering anything beyond a concept-lite framework to bring it all together. This lack of cohesion is strikingly clear from the inclusion of a film about the film, ‘Nazi Concentration Camps’, which was directed by Hollywood legend John Ford and shown at the Nuremberg Trials. It includes some of the horrible scenes encountered by US soldiers during WWII, but it seems we’ve stepped away from a discussion of ‘evidence’ or ‘objectivity’ and into one of film as witness; courtroom as set. Given the nature of this show, a little more attention to detail would have been just the thing.

Ananda Pellerin

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The curator was very good - precise and to the point - our boredom threshold is not high for pontificators. The exhibition itself is fascinating and it really helped having the introduction. Our time was well-spent and our knowledge and curiosity increased and satisfied.