Visions of the Trial: Courts and Visual Culture, a workshop presented by Birkbeck Law School and Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, 2011.
Leif Dahlberg (BIH Visiting Fellow/Kungliga Tekniska Hogskolan, Stockholm)
The uses and effects of video technology on social interaction and legal space in the Swedish Court of Appeal
“The paper studies the use of audio-visual media in contemporary Swedish courtroom praxis and how this affects social interaction and the constitution of legal space. The background to the study is the increasing use of digital audio-visual media in legal courts in Western countries during the last decennium, and in particular the new rules for court procedure introduced in Sweden in November 2008. An important innovation in Sweden is that interrogations and testimonies in the lower level court proceeding now are video recorded and, in case of a appeal trial, arere played in the appellate court. The paper is based on an ethnographicstudy of the court of appeal in Stockholm conducted in the fall 2010. The study focuses on the uses of video recorded testimony in the Stockholm court of appeal (Svea hovratt) to present evidence and build a case. The paper also focuses on the effects of audio-visual media in the constitution of legal space in the courtroom.”
Leslie J Moran (Birkbeck)
Watching the judiciary
“From the 18th century surveillance of the judiciary has been a preoccupation of those seeking to ensure that justice is not only done but is seen to be done. If in the past this scrutiny was undertaken in the published text of the judgment and the space of the courtroom since at least the end of the 19th century the press have also played a major role. From the 1920’s this has been performed under a general prohibition banning camera technology from the courtroom. This prohibition is often interpreted as bringing to an end the role of visual images in bringing the courts and judiciary to account. This paper challenges that assumption and explores the role visual images have played in judicial scrutiny under this regime of visual censorship. It is based upon a study of contemporary English press reports that use visual images in reports of court and judicial activity. The analysis is undertaken with an eye on the wider visual cultural profile of the judiciary.”
Barbara Villez (Professor of Legal Languages and Cultures, University Vincennes-St Denis/Paris 8)
Telephone camera technology and courtroom images
“Films made on telephone cameras are all over the YouTube. A good number of these deal with police arrests, but some offer images of the courts, especially in the US and surprisingly also in the UK. Trials are public, but few people attend them, unless they have an interest in a particular case. Nevertheless citizens in these countries have acquired considerable knowledge of courtroom procedure. This has come mostly from television entertainment series dealing with the law. The telephone films now available on the Internet and shared through MMS, are reaching a wider public, a younger public. The aesthetics and intentionality of these films differ greatly from the images viewers have been accustomed to. This seminar will be an opportunity to examine further the courtroom images in these films.”
“Judy Radul’s World Rehearsal Court is the culmination of several years of research into the relationship between the contemporary courtroom, where video plays an increasing role—not just as a record of the court proceedings, but as evidence—and the possibilities of live-feed cameras in installations.”
Thorough documentation of the project, including photographs, videos and essays can be found here:
Another related project by Judy Radul in collaboration with Geoffrey Farmer is Room 302:
“Recorded in five channel surround-sound the video was scripted in the form of a trial transcript, in which the auditory, rather than the visual, structures the proceedings. Outside the frame, the voices, including a “judge” direct the characters. The characters in the frame, a witness, lawyer, court reporter, and guard, sometimes switch positions. In the foreground, a foley microphone is surrounded by an array of objects, including a knife, cabbage, bottle of water, axe. The work was shot on the third floor of the former Vancouver Courthouse now the Vancouver Art Gallery. Important to the economy of the gallery is the regular rental of these spaces to film and TV productions. References to the status of objects as evidence, testimony, courthouse design and security were woven throughout the script. A collapsed pile of set materials from the court formed the sculptural installation which also served as the projection surface.”
Essay by Richard Fowler on Room 302:
A two-day colloquium organised by the Birkbeck School of Law and the Centre for Research Architecture / Forensic Architecture / Dept. of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London, 2011.
“This colloquium celebrates the intellectual life of Cornelia Vismann by bringing together a diverse set of participants – practitioners and scholars – to build upon and extend the ground breaking ideas and provocative discussions that her work has generated. Together we will try to evolve Vismann’s project and illuminate the inextricable connection between the law – its authority, its efficacy, its memory – and the medium of its transmission. The event is structured around three areas of investigation captured by three of her texts: Files on the obscure power of the legal files, Tele-Tribunalson the mediatization of legal hearings and The Love of Ruins on the discursive function of the fragment in writing and matter.”
Videos of some presentations from the colloquium are available here:
This essay by Cornelia Vismann was translated by Forensic Architecture on the occasion of Legal Media:
‘Breaks in Language at the Nuremberg Trial ‘
“In the conditional framework of the International Criminal Court, a fair trial meant: translation.”
“IBM’s interpretation technology is based upon a principle of telephone circuits. Users are entangled in all kinds of communicative paradoxes. A multi-lingual trial is transformed into a large-scale local phone call, where a dialogue with the crowd is transmitted, in essence a phone call with all those present. The system is a distanced medium without distance. It amplifies voices within earshot and produces long distance calls within eye contact. The earpiece of the telephone mutates into hundreds of headphones, the telephonic mouthpiece into microphones. Participants of the trial become call participants. They are connected with the events of the trial via wires and headphones. Telephonic translation is a transmutation.
Classical courtroom architecture, which elevates the judge, is also affected by this transmutation of the teleconference through the technology of interpretation. Cabling each participant with everyone else, including the audience, inverts the hierarchical structure of the court. The interpreters in Nuremberg were placed above everyone else in glass cabins,in order to be able to gain eye contact with all the moving mouths in the room. Such an interpretation system puts the basic conditions of a regular trial out of order. The demands of translation technology restrict placement and the specific discourse of legal organisation. Judge, accused, and audience are subjected to its demands without distinction.”
“The Memory of Justice” (dir. Marcel Ophüls, 1976) is a documentary that explores the subject of atrocities committed during wartime. The film was inspired by Telford Taylor’s book, “Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy”, an examination of United States conduct during the Vietnam War in relation to actions taken by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Taylor was the chief council prosecutor during the Nuremberg Trials and is interviewed extensively in the film.
“This monumental film is perhaps Ophuls’ most controversial work as well as one of his greatest. “The Memory of Justice” explores the nature of war crimes and the possibility of justice by juxtaposing the Nuremberg Trials with the conflict in French Algeria and the war in Vietnam, but, as Ophüls eloquently argues, ‘to compare is not to equate.’ This complex film employs dialectical juxtapositions, relevant visual motifs, and complex sound/image patterns to force the audience into confronting the necessity of judgment and justice, no matter how complicated or difficult. “The Memory of Justice” is also a self-reflexive work about the making of a film that links past, present, and future on the grand scale of world history with the personal history of Ophüls’ wife, children, father and himself and their relationship to the events which precipitated the Nuremberg Trials. In short, this is one of the documentary masterpieces of the 20th century.”
The full film can be found on youtube:
Eyal Sivan and Marcel Ophüls discuss The Memory of Justice:
Deptford.TV moves on to Deckspace.TV.
Please point your browsers to Deckspace.TV.
This page is now an archive…
In the academic year of 2011/12 the Vice-Chancellor of Warwick University, Nigel Thrift, was awarded a pay increase of £42,000. He now receives a pay packet of £316,000 – earning over twenty-two times more than the lowest paid worker at this university (£14,202).
This is not unusual. Vice-Chancellors of the country’s most selective universities have received similar pay increases. These come at a time of continuing economic crisis, rising youth unemployment and falling intake of students from less-privileged backgrounds. This is symptomatic of widening social inequality and a mass transfer of wealth from poor to rich, public to private.
Widening inequality within higher education is driven by the marketization and privatization of universities. Institutions that were once for the public good are now being turned over to private, profit-driven interests. This is deliberately advanced by government policy on higher education. Our university system was once acknowledged as one of the best in the world. This is now being dismantled.
Unlike their Vice-Chancellors, university staff members have experienced a real wage pay cut. Made in the name of ‘growth’ and ‘efficiency’, these cuts go hand in hand with longer hours, less money and insecure contracts for postgraduate and junior staff members. This puts enormous pressure on staff and visibly reduces teaching standards, forcing us to ask: efficient at what?
At the same time, students are forced to take on the burden of financing higher education. While fees climb to £9,000 a year, bursaries are either cancelled or transferred to ‘fee waivers’; meanwhile, in universities like Warwick, maintenance costs are driven up by the construction of ever-more expensive accommodation. The vast post-university debt (£43,500) now facing less privileged students whose families cannot afford to pay up-front makes university education seem both risky and undesirable for many. This process is changing the perception of higher education from a public good to a private investment, from a communal right to an individual privilege, accessible only by the few, as demonstrated by falling applications from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The widening gap in pay between senior managers and frontline staff, and the debt forced on students, means that the university now reproduces social inequalities rather than contesting them. This undermines the university’s democratic function as a space in which free thought, debate and critical inquiry is fostered in order to give people the tools to challenge social hierarchies and play an active role in the public sphere.
Our opposition to the rising salary of the Vice-Chancellor speaks to a deeper opposition to the continuing marketization and privatization of higher education. The problems at Warwick University are problems for the entire university system under market logic. The management of this university is failing to make the case for the protection and promotion of the public university, so we must do it. The government’s radical restructuring of higher education has crept up on us, and we must act now if we are to resist – before it’s too late.
We contest these reforms to our university, however the voice of the student body has been reduced to customer feedback and merely tokenistic representation in the governance of this university. There is currently no space for dialogue over the future of our own university. We are occupying this council chamber in order to open that space, to start that dialogue and to make our voices heard. If we are to halt this government’s assault on the university we must make ourselves heard TOGETHER and begin to work towards an alternative. Join us.