Talk by Valérie Hayaert (Paris IAS fellow) within the framework of the conference "Before Judgment. Critiquing Imagery and Style of Good and Evil", organized by the Minerva Research Group "The Nomos of Images. Manifestations and Iconology of Law"
An uncanny play of prefixes to the German term Urteil (judgment or adjudication) mirrors the common observation that every act of sentencing (Verurteilen) is preceded by prejudice (Vorurteilen). Judicial judgments are as much shaped by images and forms as by language.
Hence, legal norms themselves can be apprehended as artefacts of social and cultural practices, which not just regulate actions, but co-create the identity of subjects and communities acting through them.
The conference analyzes the place and significance of visual media in determining the interplay between norm and deviation: How is “evil” visualized and framed in normative terms? In what ways are “good” and “evil” manifested as opposing forces and by which means do these images – directly or indirectly – refer to perceptions of legality?
Ranging from demonically imbued images, figurations of “evil” (devil, demon, monster, tyrant) and the techniques of its exorcism (apotropaics) to visual strategies of criminalisation, from the forensic commensurability of representations, proportion and dimensionality to its unrepresentability and banality, from the figures of judicial language to the status of images as witnesses, the question of “evil” will serve as a leitmotif for reconsidering the relationship of society, legal practice and visual culture.