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 Jenna Bliss,  Professional Witnesses (2021)

Jaime Chu, a critic living in Beijing and a contributing editor to Spike, examines citizenship, empire, and belonging through the lens of Jenna Bliss’s video art for the April edition of Spike x Liste Expedition Monthly Picks. 

In eight video segments that comprise Professional Witnesses (2021), eight actors in different roles as survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York each perform a monologue whose script has been culled from self-recorded video testimonies for the Voices of 9.11 archive, the official 9/11 Commission Report by the US government and interview transcripts of first responders from the report. Against the backdrop of an all-white studio with their mannerisms, stylised like an early-2000s TV advertisement citing Errol Morris’s “Switch” campaign for Apple, Benetton ads and the like, the “survivors” and the ruptures in their performances gradually corrupt the sanctity of the testimony. Narrative becomes suspect, and susceptible to judgment. From a distance, we can now see how certain claims to innocence have been foreclosed by the conspiracy between global commercial capital flow and national consciousness. When victimhood becomes compromised as performance, who stands to profit? How soon is too soon?

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