July 12, 2012
Eyal Weizman: The Least of all Possible Evils & Mengele’s Skull
In conversation with Kodwo Eshun
Eyal Weizman will be in conversation with writer, theorist and co-founder of The Otolith Group Kodwo Eshun to launch The Least of all Possible Evils & Mengele’s Skull: The Advent of a Forensic Aesthetics, co-authored by Thomas Keenan.
The principle of the ‘lesser evil’, which asserts that it is acceptable to pursue an undesirable course of action in order to prevent a greater injustice, exercises a powerful influence on Western ethical philosophy and modern politics, most recently in the invasion of Libya. In The Least of All Possible Evils, Eyal Weizman examines the dark side of this pragmatism, arguing that too often the end becomes a mechanism for perpetuating the means.
Weizman is the author of the critically acclaimed Hollow Land, which explored the political space created by Israel's colonial occupation. Following on from this, Weizman pursues the problem of the lesser evil – the moderation and minimization of violence as a mechanism of government and control. The Least of All Possible Evils investigates its political consequences and traces its intellectual genealogy from classical ethics and Christian theology, through the political theory of Hannah Arendt to contemporary debates on humanitarianism.
Mengele's Skull explores how forensic aesthetics brings into view the way in which boundaries are currently drawn and stabilized, transgressed and shuttered. In practice, forensics is called upon after the fact: in the aftermath of conflict, crime, and violence, when limits have already been breached, fractured, violated, and are put to the test by ongoing crises that call for resolution. But forensics is not primarily concerned with justice; it is both before justice, as that which establishes the conditions for judgment, and that which happens in place of justice, when agents are no longer accountable.
The borderland investigated by forensic aesthetics is one in which the categories of living and dead, subjects and objects, past and present are put into question. It is concerned with the technologies and protocols governing this borderland: its biopolitical containment and expansion, the representation of violence, the (re)construction of historical narrative, or the politics of proof manifest in entertainment and mass media. It is at this frontier that objects are brought to speak. In this sense, forensics is also a projective practice that constructs languages and spaces of agency. Forensic aesthetics accounts for this blurring of borders—a blurring registered by aesthetics—and also testifies to new sensibilities, describes new territories of action and agency, and critically reflects on the technologies of assessing, calculating, restoring, and redrawing those very boundaries