Since the 1990s, there has been a rise to pre-eminence of forensic imaginaries. This phenomenon can be observed in contemporary literature, as in novels by Kathy Reichs (Déjà Dead, 1997), herself a forensic anthropologist by profession, and in television series (Crime Scene Investigation, 2000; Forensic Files, 2000; Bones, 2005) that promulgate a belief in the infallibility of medico-legal expertise. Our affinity for evidentiary systems that purvey incontestable truths has as an emblem the word forensic. Disciplines engaged in criminal inquiries are now tagged with this term: forensic anthropology, forensic linguistics, forensic entomology, forensic botany, and so on. The addition of this qualifier is revealing of the turn to forensics that these sciences and disciplines have taken in recent decades. Television, literature, biological and human sciences, architecture, critical discourse, and countless other fields are now seen through the forensic prism.
This spectacularization of forensics is a trademark of contemporary life. So, it is unthinkable to presume that the visual arts have remained impermeable to the probative imaginaries associated with this cultural phenomenon. It is on analysis of this phenomenon that this thematic section is focused. What visual forms do our beliefs take today? Why do we always need images to say that something is true? How does contemporary art reconsider the regimes of truth that underlie forensics? Can we envisage a forensic aesthetic that contemporary practices will attempt to critique, metabolize, or subvert? If the art practices brought together in this presentation have a common denominator, it could be this: the affirmation of an aesthetic-legal paradigm of art characterized by the artist’s adoption of the posture of expert – or, better, litigant – and the re-establishment of the viewer’s function of arbitrator with regard to the image.
with essays by
Vincent Lavoie, Susan Schuppli, Alexis Lussier, Marianne Cloutier, Gaëlle Morel, Bénédicte Ramade
and works by
Errol Morris, Corinne May Botz, Paul Vanouse, William E. Jones, Emmanuelle Léonard, Phil Chadwick