Susan SchuppliMay 4, 2023
Media, Forensics, Evidence
MIT Press 2023
Susan Schuppli is Director of the Centre for Research Architecture in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. In her book, Material Witnesss, her research is an exploration of the evidential role of matter in contexts including the natural disaster, climate change, and conflict zones. In this interview she discusses her work as a writer, artist and educator.
The evidential role of matter--when media records trace evidence of violence--explored through a series of cases drawn from Kosovo, Japan, Vietnam, and elsewhere.
In this book, Susan Schuppli introduces a new operative concept: material witness, an exploration of the evidential role of matter as both registering external events and exposing the practices and procedures that enable matter to bear witness. Organized in the format of a trial, Material Witness moves through a series of cases that provide insight into the ways in which materials become contested agents of dispute around which stake holders gather.
These cases include an extraordinary videotape documenting the massacre at Izbica, Kosovo, used as war crimes evidence against Slobodan Milosevic; the telephonic transmission of an iconic photograph of a South Vietnamese girl fleeing an accidental napalm attack; radioactive contamination discovered in Canada's coastal waters five years after the accident at Fukushima Daiichi; and the ecological media or "disaster film" produced by the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Each highlights the degree to which a rearrangement of matter exposes the contingency of witnessing, raising questions about what can be known in relationship to that which is seen or sensed, about who or what is able to bestow meaning onto things, and about whose stories will be heeded or dismissed.
An artist-researcher, Schuppli offers an analysis that merges her creative sensibility with a forensic imagination rich in technical detail. Her goal is to relink the material world and its affordances with the aesthetic, the juridical, and the political.