David Houston Jones, “Visual Culture and the Forensic: Culture, Memory, Ethics” (Routledge, 2022)

The relationship between images and truth has a complicated history. In the Western tradition, the Kantian settlement on aesthetic judgment as detached from external interests gave rise to artistic production of images that were read with epistemic authority. But the advent of modernity has at once shaken this certainty and reinforced it. No sooner than we reckoned with the singular history painting and illustrated magazines, we have landed in a mass-media world where any possible image can and does exist.

And the more we are surrounded by images, the greater claims they make. Photographs are not only routinely used to convey news, they are used to establish what is and isn’t true. The crime scene photograph is now as likely to be used in a court of law as in a newspaper infographic explainer. The artifact is at once the evidentiary carrier of truth and a visualisation used to confirm it. It creates meaning and it argues for it

Visual Culture and the Forensic: Culture, Memory, Ethics (Routledge, 2022) bridges practices conventionally understood as forensic, such as crime scene investigation, and the broader field of activity which the forensic now designates, for example, in performance and installation art, or photography. Such work responds to the object-oriented culture associated with the forensic and offers a reassessment of the relationship of human voice and material evidence.

David Houston Jones speaks to Pierre d’Alancaisez about the evidentiary and forensic burden of art and photography, the artifice of crime imaging, the visual traces of data, and the ontology of data and objects.

David Houston Jones is Professor of French and Visual Culture at the University of Exeter.

Pierre d’Alancaisez is a contemporary art curator, cultural strategist, researcher. Sometime scientist, financial services professional.

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