Material Witness is an ongoing experimental documentary project that examines a series of media artefacts, which have emerged out of situations of contemporary conflict and historical violence. The project tracks these media materials through the various public and legal forums in which they participate as corroborative or disputed forms of “evidence” such as the ICTY, the UN, International Atomic Energy Agency and COP15. Rather than focusing entirely upon the content of such media as might be expected, the project also explores the ways in which crisis is registered as a “material violation” itself. In other words how histories are materially or computationally encoded by media and by what means the complex political realities they are embedded in are rendered visible. An inquiry, in short, into how objects become agents of contestation between different stakeholders and truth claims.
This particular segment explores two massacre videos that were shot during the final days of ethnic conflict; one in Izbica Kosovo in 1999 shot by Liri Loshi and the other, an anonymous execution video, captured by mobile phone in northern Sri Lanka sometime in 2009. In the case of the former the tape has entered into the legal proceedings of the ICTY where it functioned to provide evidence of war crimes during the Milosevic and Militunovic trials. With respect to the Sri Lankan context, the video has only circulated within the courts of public opinion despite a UN enquiry as to it authenticity and the crimes depicted gone unpunished.