Evil.13.3 (Fragments & Extensions 4 OE)

Tony Cokes

Tony Cokes, Video still from Evil.13.3 (Fragments & Extensions 4 OE), © Tony Cokes. Courtesy the artist, Greene Naftali, New York; Hannah Hoffman, Los Angeles; Felix Gaudlitz, Vienna, and Electronic Arts Intermix, New York.

“I saw
the severed hand
of a black activist
in a bottle
at a Port Elizabeth
police station.

The police
told me
it was
a baboon’s hand.”

Evil.13.3 (Fragments & Extensions 4 OE) deals with forms of trauma in different historic contexts, places and times. It is based on fragments from three books: W. G. Sebald, On the Natural History of Destruction, on the firebombing of German cities during World War II; Antjie Krog, Country of my Skull, on the testimonies of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission from which the quote is taken, and Philip Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, an account of the Rwanda Genocide. The work is part of Tony Cokes’ ongoing media installation project Evil, a series of returns to a set of unresolved questions. Through juxtaposing the different contexts of Germany, Rwanda and South Africa, broader, persistent dilemmas about traumatic images and the reporting of violence become apparent: What about the alleged transparency, the reliability of testimonies and their rhetorical contexts? What are the consequences of being confronted with accounts of explicit brutality? And what does this mean for the politics of memory? Approaching these aspects requires detours through archives, personal as well as institutional, in order to achieve any degree of legibility – a legibility that remains inevitably unstable.

In 2010, the work Evil.13_Alternate Versions – ONHD (c.my.skull) was first presented at HKW in the framework of the first Berlin Documentary Forum, in a formation called Rules of Evidence: Text, Voice, Sight arranged by Okwui Enwezor. The current installation combines text fragments with additional layers of recursion and expansion, also including more current references.

The initial strategies that this project deploys were the result of exchanges between Okwui Enwezor and Tony Cokes. Now, in Enwezor’s absence, it follows those methodological traces in fragmentary extensions, speculating where they lead, like trailing ghosts in a haunted ruin.

Part 1: Three-channel installation, SD video, 2010
Part 2: Single-channel, SD video, 2006, 2010
Part 3: Single-channel projection, HD and SD video, 2006, 2010, 2022