I focus on two contemporary art installations in which Teresa Margolles employs
water used to wash corpses during autopsies. By running this water through a fog
machine or through air conditioners, these works incorporate bodily matter but
refuse to depict, identify or locate anybody (or any body) within it. Rather,
Margolles creates abstract works in which physical limits – whether of bodies or
of art works – dissolve into a state of indeterminacy. With that pervasive
distribution of corporeal matter, Margolles charts the dissolution of the
social, political and spatial borders that contain death from the public sphere.
In discussing these works, I consider Margolles’ practice in relation to the
social and aesthetic function of the morgue. Specifically, I consider how
Margolles turns the morgue inside out, opening it upon the city in order to
explore the inoperative distinctions between spaces of sociality and those of
death. In turn, I consider how Margolles places viewers in uneasy proximity to
mortality, bodily abjection and violence in order to illustrate the social,
political and aesthetic conditions by which bodies become unidentifiable. I
ultimately argue that her aesthetic strategies match her ethical aspirations to
reconsider relations to death, violence and loss within the social realm.
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This article focuses on the judicial consideration of the scientific analysis of the Tomašica mass grave, in the Prijedor municipality of Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Often referred to as the largest mass grave in Europe since the Second World War, this grave was fully discovered in September 2013 and the scientific evidence gathered was included in the prosecution of Ratko Mladić before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Based on the exhaustive analysis of all the publicly available trial transcripts, this article presents how the Tomašica evidence proved symptomatic of the way in which forensic sciences and international criminal justice intertwine and of the impact of the former over the latter on the admissibility of evidence, the conduct of proceedings and the qualification of the crimes perpetrated.
Debates on the relevance of repatriation of indigenous human remains are water under the bridge today. Yet, a genuine will for dialogue to work through colonial violence is found lacking in the European public sphere. Looking at local remembrance of the Majimaji War (1905–7) in the south of Tanzania and a German–Tanzanian theatre production, it seems that the spectre of colonial headhunting stands at the heart of claims for repatriation and acknowledgement of this anti-colonial movement. The missing head of Ngoni leader Songea Mbano haunts the future of German–Tanzanian relations in heritage and culture. By staging the act of post-mortem dismemberment and foregrounding the perspective of descendants, the theatre production Maji Maji Flava offers an honest proposal for dealing with stories of sheer colonial violence in transnational memory.
Between 2012 and 2017, at the Ł-section of Warsaw’s Powązki Military Cemetery, or ‘Łączka’, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance exhumed a mass grave containing the remains of post-war anti-communist resistance fighters. Being referred to as the ‘cursed soldiers’, these fighters have become key figures in post-2015 Polish memory politics. In this article we focus on the role of the volunteers at these exhumations in the production of the ‘cursed soldiers’ memory. Following the idea of community archaeology as a civil society-building practice, the observed processes of sacralisation and militarisation show how the exhumations create a community of memory that promotes the core values of the currently governing national-conservative PiS party. We found that tropes related to forensic research and typically identified with cosmopolitan memory paradigms are used within a generally nationalist and antagonistic memory framework.