Investigat­ive Aesthetics: Conflicts and Commons in the Politics of Truth

- By Matthew Fuller and Eyal Weizman Verso, £14.99 (softcover)

The world for Matthew Fuller and Eyal Weizman is one in which everything senses. From mussels closing when encounteri­ng pollution, and buildings recording the actions and associatio­ns of their makers and the lives of their inhabitant­s, to blindfolde­d prisoners who can recreate a space through their recollecti­ons of sounds. Everything is placed in a network of cause and e–ect, and of total surveillan­ce. And if, as Fuller and Weizman do, you believe that aesthetics relies on the capacity to sense, you’re now dealing with a vastly expanded aesthetic domain that doesn’t merely relate to art and appearance­s, but to pretty much everything else as well. The world, in that sense, is woven together in a manner that is inherently aesthetic, and one that, when looked at in a certain way, constitute­s a sensing commons, one that requires discipline­s – among them art, architectu­re, journalism, oceanograp­hy, ecology, technology – to merge, collaborat­e and mutually contaminat­e in order to organise the multiple perspectiv­es and datasets on o–er, to triangulat­e truth and make some sort of sense of it all.

The deployment of that commons, as a means of uncovering or assembling buried truths, of making sense of various forms of sensemakin­g, features prominentl­y in the work of Forensic Architectu­re (which Weizman heads and on whose advisory board Fuller, a professor of cultural studies at Goldsmiths university, sits), as well as related organisati­ons such as Bellingcat (two of whose investigat­ions feature as case studies in this book), artists such as Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Trevor Paglen and Edmund Clark, and fellow travellers such as Feral Atlas. Such a sensory commons, of course, features just as much as in the tactics of the powerful hegemonic structures that Fuller and Weizman set themselves against. Hyperaesth­esia – an overload of sensory experience – can be deployed by government­s and corporatio­ns with something to hide to make sure that sensation stops making sense: a ‘shock and awe’-type tactic. Aesthetics is a battlegrou­nd, a contested space; Investigat­ive Aesthetics is part battle-plan or tactical guide and, more fundamenta­lly, part user’s manual for surviving this beautiful and terrifying world. Mark Rappolt

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