A Maelstrom of Bodies and Emotions and Things: Spectatorial Encounters with the Trial

International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue Internationale de Sémiotique Juridique 32 (3):621-640 (2019)
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This paper explores spectatorial encounters with criminal trials. Particularly focusing on the 2018 work of Australian contemporary visual artist Julie Fragar that followed her watching murder trials in the Supreme Court of Queensland, it is argued that the artist as a legal outsider grapples with the inhumanity of the trial. This grappling can go in two directions. For some there is a need to bring the human back, to see the person beneath the mask of the role that they are performing, to connect the gothic horror of the trial back to a redeeming humanism. For others, and this is evident in Fragar, the horror of the inhumanity is visceral and overpowering, and the grotesque masque of judgment needs to be witnessed. Both perform a corrective and critique to the business as usual of processing, judging and stamping onto human lives that is legal insider’s performance in the criminal trial.



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