Mengele’s Skull, 2012
Thomas Keenan and Eyal Weizman

Prints on Acrylic, two video channels 2:25, 2:36 min
20,5 x 28 cm
Courtesy of the artists and Richard Helmer and Maja Helmer

The installation Mengele’s Skull documents the identification of the body of Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele, exploring a forensic approach to evidence of war crimes. Mengele drowned in Brazil in 1979 and was exhumed in a suburb of São Paulo in 1985. Forensic scientist Richard Helmer superimposed Mengele’s headshots and images of his skull with the help of novel video techniques. The ensuing identification process became a legal and technological turning point, relying on material evidence produced by scientific devices and experts, rather than the linguistic dimension of witness testimony.

Mengele’s Skull examines the making of evidence through a historical forensic study. The scientific and technological analysis of photographic material documented in the installation eventually created highly aesthetic pictures. The work documents a methodological shift in the use of photography and other technologies for enhancing the image’s evidentiary character as well as articulating a form of forensic aesthetics.

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