Model Court: RESOLUTION 978 HD
10 May - 7 July 2013
Review by Yvette Greslé
‘Model Court’ is the name of an ongoing collaborative project between London-based artists and researchers Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Lorenzo Pezzani and Oliver Rees. Their photographic installation and film RESOLUTION 978 HD explores the capacities of art as a critical practice, as it enters the discursive spaces produced by the courtroom (both virtual and actual). The film’s focus is a recently concluded trial that crossed backwards and forwards between continents and national borders; between Rwanda and Finland.
The case of Rwandan pastor François Bazaramba is the first genocide case to be prosecuted in Finland. Bazaramba stood accused of organising the killing of civilians during the Rwandan Genocide. In 2003 he sought asylum in Finland but was held in custody there from 2007. In 2009, on the grounds of the right to a fair trial, the Finnish Ministry of Justice refused to extradite Bazaramba to Rwanda for prosecution. The Finnish courts mobilised ‘Universal Jurisdiction’: a legal principle founded on the notion that ‘genocide’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ can be tried anywhere (regardless of the nationality of the accused, or the country where the crime took place). The Finnish court travelled to Rwanda while Bazaramba remained in prison in Finland, participating in his trial over Skype.
One of the strongest aspects of the film is its opening up of the ways in which we might imagine and theorise the spaces produced (and constituted) by politics and ‘the law’. We observe the hierarchical and ritualised spaces of the courtroom as a structure both architectural and institutional. The film also draws our attention to less definable, more ambiguous spatial phenomena. We observe activities, gestures and conversations that take place on the edges of the trial: we witness technicians preparing the court room and officials at sites of violence. The artists deploy the critical strategies of experimental film practice: jump cuts and the muddling and juxtaposing of footage and sounds from incongruous sources (ranging from documentary and television soap opera to television test patterns). These strategies staged from the outset render our viewing precarious: we are not always sure of what it is we see or what it is we hear, despite the documentary stance of much of the footage (and its narration).
RESOLUTION 978 HD emphasises the ways in which audio-visual technologies (from teleconferencing to Skype) trouble the enactment of Universal Jurisdiction across the space-time continuums of international justice. The film makes visible many points of disconnection, and the politics of difference is apparent throughout. The film and the sounds that it reproduces make visible and audible the fractures that complicate the trial’s enactment of objectivity and neutrality. Technology (so central to the Bazaramba trial) is a phenomenon both of dialogue and dislocation (not necessarily evenly distributed, and subject to disruptions of environment and geographical distance). The film pushes us to think about the artwork’s capacities as an interlocutor (as a critical voice) in the field of contemporary politics and the local and global inflections attached to knowledge in the 21st century.