A Prolegomenon to Image-based Historiography: Forensic Architecture’s Spatiotemporal Model and the Split-second Event

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Pacula, Nicholas Andrew
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This paper looks to the investigatory work of Forensic Architecture as a model for new practices of architecture historiography. Departing from architecture history’s long-standing familiarity with events corresponding to long histories, this paper investigates the split-second event and the media platforms that mobilize it. A close reading of a series of video-stills taken from Forensic Architecture’s video-based spatiotemporal investigations reveals that contemporary media has reconditioned our perception of the duration of historical events, as well as the spaces in which these events are thought to have occurred. Beginning with an outline of Forensic Architecture’s spatiotemporal model and the historical narratives it produces, this paper subsequently traces Forensic Architecture’s most recent investigations to eighteenth-century precedents, making evident a historical progression toward increasingly higher “thresholds of detectability.” The emergence of a “forensic aesthetics” in the mid-1980s is then read as the seed of a historiographic rhetoric concerned with densifying and diversifying medias and the platforms facilitating their circulation. Finally, Forensic Architecture’s investigatory work is understood as producing historical narratives in which historiographic methods that routinely differentiate between speaker, content, and reference are eclipsed, offering instead near-seamless continuity and an emergent opportunity to witness history speak for the events and objects under its gaze.
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