Specular Illuminations

Specular Illuminations is a projection of images and text about the criminal trace.  The work combines forensic images used to train crime scene photographers with excerpts from The Woman in White, considered to be the first sensation novel, and a precursor to detective fiction. The novel was written in 1859 just two years before the first colour photograph was printed, at the same time as ideas of evidence were becoming professionalised and power was shifting from the witness to the (male) lawyer.

The Woman in White is narrated through multiple voices, much like a trial. The text in Specular Illuminations are selected excerpts spoken by or about Miss Halcombe, whose forensic sensibilities help free her sister from the asylum and determine the identity of the woman in white. Miss Halcombe is a figure of resistance and intelligence, as well as of love and care, in world where women are subject to male power.  Her insights and deductions are felt on and through her body. These trusted sensations help her unravel the complex web of deceptions which have entrapped her sister.   But ultimately the question of identity rests not with Miss Holcombe’s subjective recollections but requires material proof recognised by the law. What counts as facts is not the surface of the body but its documentation.

The projected images are photographs used to train the police in forensic photography techniques. They demonstrate and interrogate the very mechanisms of forensic image-making: light, speed, exposure, colour, distance, aperture. They gesture towards photography’s mediated and often unstable relationship to truth and evidence. The images have been loaned to the artist for this show by Nick Marsh, a specialist in forensic photography. They are re-presented here, with some cropping adjustments made by the artist.

This work forces multiple relationships across time between an embodied forensic mind, and a visual forensic field, as well as between gendered ways of knowing. The title comes from the name of one of the images provided by Nick Marsh.

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