Ephemeral Evidence (2019)

A multi media installation and a printed publication, Ephemeral Evidence (2019) is the displaying of the experiential foundation of Forensics of Imagination.

INTRODUCTION

In 2018 I was researching a story that takes its beginning in the murder of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme, an ongoing and painful mystery since that fateful Stockholm night in 1986. My colleague and I were interested in one early prime suspect, Victor Gunnarsson. The police went with a different theory and let him go. Gunnarsson went into exile in North Carolina in the United States where he was subsequently murdered under equally mysterious circumstances. The man convicted of this murder might very well be innocent. 

Within this ecology of murder mystery, a number of strange coincidences and correlations began emerging to me. Oddly, similar things began occurring in the research process itself as well as in my own private life. These otherwise separate worlds seemed to intertwine in ways a police investigation would not even take note of… but I became intrigued with the question of significance and this twilight of incredible/uncredible.

The trajectory of these encounters is represented in the publication Exhibits of Ephemeral Evidence (look up and to the right—click to read). I entitled it so because the ephemeral quality of these observations made them difficult to materialise other than through a literal narration.

Out of this struggle I came up with the conceptual solution of the multi media installation of Ephemeral Evidence: Images representing each of these significant encounters printed on film and suspended in time and space form a constellation of translucent signs through which one observes other signs. The view from the position of the spectator determines the connections that can be formed. In the back I placed two projection screens displaying my own research footage documenting notable encounters on site in North Carolina and Stockholm. NB: The full concept of the installation is presented in conceptual notes and sketches at the bottom of this page.

VITAL SIGNS (WORK IN PROGRESS)

One of my more spectacular encounters began in the summer of 2018 with a text message from a stranger claiming he had found my diary on the streets of Aarhus, which is where I grew up in Denmark. At the time I was living in Amsterdam and I hadn’t been there in a long time. Also I didn’t keep a diary so I was quite intrigued. It turned out to be an old travel notebook of mine—name and number and a finders fee printed on the first page—that I had no idea I was even missing. Inside it I found two playing cards from the game Magic - The Gathering, one a card bestowing a ‘monster’ the ability to fly and one removing that same ability. In the back of the book someone had written a note in orange highlighter to someone named Lxxx. It turned out to be a rather long letter detailing an overdosis and a psychosis. It seemed to be a suicide note. I called the police who was unable to help and so I took to the streets myself to find this Lxxx and whoever wrote that letter, dead or alive. 

Skip ahead to the spring of 2020: I am now in the process of producing a three part radio documentary for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation based on my research of that notebook, the magic cards and the letter. I managed to find the guy who wrote it. He's alive and we're connected.

VIDEO

Warning: graphic images around 01.55 in both videos

Installation view video of multimedia installation Exhibits of Ephemeral Evidence at the Shifting Perspectives exhibition at EYE Film & DAS, Amsterdam July 2019. Some of the video footage is used in the Visual Abstract as well; some is nstallation specific.


NB: This is a rough preliminary edit of footage shot by a friend, dop Federico Sande Novo. I'm awaiting an official presentation cut from the Master of Film at Dutch Film Academy.

Visual Abstract of my artistic research while with the Master of Film programme at the Dutch Film Academy 2017-19. My overall research project is called Forensics of Imagination. (Exhibits of) Ephemeral Evidence is one outcome. Vital Signs will be another.

INSTALLATION VIEW PHOTOGRAPHS

CONCEPTUAL NOTES & SKETCHES

EXHIBITS OF EPHEMERAL EVIDENCE 

PROJECT PROPOSAL FOR AN AUDIOVISUAL INSTALLATION: FORENSICS OF IMAGINATION DISPLAYED

I’m toiling with an idea for an audiovisual installation based in part on my research into the life and death of Victor Gunnarsson (the cases of the murder of him and of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme), in part on my encounters with The Unreal: A spatial exposition of Forensic Imagination.

Picture a typical detectives bulletin board with a collage of portraits, documents, clippings, maps, crime scene photos, etc. diagrammatically connected with red yarn. Rather than organising these items on a flat surface I will suspend them in three dimensions as an exploded view of the interrelation between elements: 

Graphic artefacts (photographs, documents, maps, etc.) printed on transparent, adhesive film are mounted individually on perspex or transparent vinyl cut to size (in the following referred to as images). These images will be suspended from a ceiling by invisible nylon line in such a fashion that they barely intersect on the height and width axes but with sufficient distance on the depth plane for achieving a significant parallax effect. This makes the position of the spectator key to the intersection and portion of images visible, thus allowing the spectator’s own bodily movement to determine the experience of the installation and the perception of the subject matter/narrative/knowledge available: faces multiply, maps of different parts of the world overlap, certain words are highlighted or obfuscated or interchanged, etc. 

Consequently the installation becomes more than just an exhibition of artefacts belonging to a certain case organised by me; rather the spectator becomes an active co-creator of the piece and the narrative in a dialogue about how we assign significance or even meaning: coincidence versus convergence, the familiar versus the outlandish, accustomed representation versus urgent alternatives. The piece is more concerned with perception than narrative. The underlying questions are, in bigger words: How does consciousness emerge? — and thus: our perception of the world?

Audiovisual recordings from my locations-, archival-, and casting research could be integrated in the installation with monitors or projection screens placed in the space: cinematic moments which literally or symbolically reflect the images and which visually are reflected in the concrete materiality of the suspended images. They would be placed behind the suspended images and thus visible through them — or on the sides of or behind the spectator and thus visible as reflections in the suspended images. 

At a certain position in the exhibition space perhaps one would be able to observe an overview of the totality of the installation. However, exactly at this position, the spectator her- or himself will be illuminated in such a way that the desired overview is obscured by one’s own shattered reflection in the suspended images. I’m aware of a possible need of contextualisation for the spectator. This and all of the above will rely on prototyping and testing. 

PETER HAMMER

AMSTERDAM FEBRUARY 2019