Futurist Forensics w/ Patrick Brian Smith (University of Warwick)
//Jan. 17, 2023
//1250 Guy St. FB 630.15
Of late, we have witnessed a "counter-forensic turn," operating at the intersection of human rights activism, open source investigation, and documentary practice. Within this emergent mode of critical practice, state-sanctioned forensic and evidentiary techniques are subversively taken up to create counter-archives of accountability and resistance—the tools of capture, control, and surveillance are used against their own operative logics. However, whilst such counter-forensic practices aim to subvert dominant models of mediated control, surveillance, and violence, I argue that they risk recreating a similar set of reactionary desires for power, control, and 'hypervisibility' that have undergirded popular imaginaries of the forensic for decades. To push back against the shortcomings of such emerging counter-forensic epistemologies, this paper will examine the possible alternative futures of the forensic in documentary practice.
This talk will focus on Indigenous media collective the New Red Order's ongoing Culture Capture project (2019-), a multi-media and multi-sited work that explores the potentialities of "additively" altering and editing settler colonial monuments and statues through techniques of 3D scanning/modeling. I read the project as potentially constitutive of a form of "futurist-oriented forensics" aimed at fostering an Indigenously-informed cosmo-epistemological "mode of documentary praxis, whilst simultaneously undermining and disrupting the forensics' deep historical entwinements with settler-colonial violence and surveillance (Pugliese, 2020). Ultimately, I argue that the scope of the domains within which such forensic work can be conducted must be expanded, re-examining which publics, communities, and aesthetic-political practices can be included in its scope, as they offer speculative, experimental, and counter-hegemonic forms of evidentiary practice to resist multifarious forms of state violence and violations of human rights.
Patrick Brian Smith is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Warwick, working on a project entitled Mediated Forensics. His research interests include documentary theory and practice, spatial and political theory, forensic media, and human rights media activism. He has taught courses on visual culture, film and media histories, documentary theory, and activist media cultures. His book Spatial Violence and the Documentary Image is forthcoming from Legenda/MHRA. He is a co-convener of the BAFTSS Documentary SIG. His work has been, or will be, published in journals such as JCMS, Discourse, Media, Culture, & Society, NECSUS, Afterimage, and Mediapolis