In a mid-sized, darkened room, still images are silently projected, selected, passed by and zoomed in on by a female hand working a tablet computer. The images present violently mutilated human bodies, victims of war and variously declared conflicts. While they are rarely seen in the mainstream media, these kinds of pictures proliferate on the Internet.
In a diagram describing the work, Thomas Hirschhorn asks, rhetorically perhaps: “Why is it important to look at such images?” A generation ago, it was common to believe in the power of images to awaken consciousness. Pictures were thought to make things more real. By contrast, today we may have reached a point where it is so easy to access vast numbers of similar images that their impact has lessened: just more litter in the heap of mass spectatorship and sensationalism.
It is no longer enough to simply rely on the knowledge that these images exist. What’s more, “just showing” them might indeed not suffice. To engage with the horrors they depict − that is to say, to reactivate their indexical value − requires more. Hirschhorn therefore calls on the sense of touch, albeit twice removed (in representation and mediated by a device), recalling Doubting Thomas’s need to finger Christ’s wounds to believe.