Judy Radul’s Courtroom Drama

Judy Radul’s, World Rehearsal Court, exhibited for the first time last year at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia, is taking part in the group exhibition Behind the Fourth Wall: Fictitious Lives – Lived Fiction with works by Harun Farocki, Omer Fast, Michael Fliri, Andrea Geyer, Marcello Maloberti, Aernout Mik, Frédéric Moser & Philippe Schwinger, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Allan Sekula, and Ian Wallace, at the Generali Foundation, 9 June – 15 August 2010, Vienna, Austria.
In World Rehearsal Court the Vancouver-based interdisciplinary artist delves into the exploration of theatricality inherent in contemporary judicial processes. Travelling to the International Criminal Court in Hague became the entry point for Radul that stimulated the expansion of the work. Radul extracted vignettes of proceedings from the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Subsequent to the alteration of names and places, these trial transcripts became the script for her video piece. Hague, an internationally neutral territory where trials disseminate heinous war crimes and profound human atrocities, becomes a utopia of international law and justice re-contextualized by the artist.

Judy Radul World Rehearsal Court 2009 Installation detail Courtesy of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery / photo Howard Ursuliak

The fundamental aspect of the mega-media installation operates as prerecorded video of courtroom proceedings that is displayed in a seven-channel, four-hour-long video installation. The multiple screens appear in succession offering a collective, cinematic experience that alter the viewing regime as one negotiates screens to extrapolate meaning. The reenactment of law’s key players (judge, defense, prosecution) exposes the performativity inherent in legal proceedings. Thus the performances become frameworks to signify deeper political and social trajectories that construct discourses of truth and power. The theatricality is played out through the courtroom aesthetics and the camera angles fixed intently on the facial expressions and physical gestures made by the actors.  However, the written record is the basis of the piece and is transmitted through the oral performance. So dialogue, speech, and tone of voice are integral, particularly when testimony, memory and truth are portrayed. The elongated testimonials and deciphering of specificities reveals the sheer banality of judicial systems. The conflicting testimonies and incessant clarification entices moments of sarcasm and humor.

The other component of the installation occupies a separate space and features twelve monitors that feed live time interaction captured by computer-controlled cameras. The monitors are grounded and their positioning does not impose a sense of surveillance but rather transmits a sense of immediacy and presence so one feels implicated in the narrative. The ambiance differs drastically to that of the screening space of the video, as there are found and built objects to explore and produce a visceral and tactile interaction. One’s own presence captured by various angles and made visible on the monitors all seems to suggest being part of the performance. Pop culture signifiers such as a postcard-sized image of icon Rachel Welch comingles with larger than life-sized sculptures of the heads of students who assisted Radul on the project. A page of literature taken from Statements on Poetics hangs on a wall while on the other end of the room court cloaks appear; all seemingly referents of facts juxtaposed with fictions. These codified signs are posited so as to reveal a process of collecting, tracking, tracing, archiving, documenting as well as revealing the artistic process. In this way, the gallery serves as a site of examination where critical tensions that surface in the video are contemplated.
Natalie Panovic