Edgar Martins, “Man leaves a 1904 page suicide note and then shoots himself as part of a philosophical exploration, 2010”, from the series Siloquies and Soliloquies on Death, Life and Other Interludes, 2016.
Siloquies and Soliloquies on Death, Life and Other Interludes began to take shape during the course of research carried out by Edgar Martins at the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Science (INMLCF) in Lisbon and Coimbra. Between 2013 and 2015, the artist took over 1,000 photographs and digitalised over 3,000 negatives from the vast and extraordinary archive held by the INMLCF. A significant number of these images depict forensic evidence in the form of weapons and objects used in crimes and suicides as well as crime scenes, death masks, projectiles, suicide notes and activities bound up with the work of forensic scientists. In parallel, Edgar Martins began to retrieve images from his archive and to produce new photographs of other subjects that were intended to offer a visual, narrative and conceptual counterpoint.
By establishing a fruitful link between documentary and factual records (related to real cases recorded and analysed at the INMLCF) and images that seek to explore their speculative and fictional potential, Siloquies and Soliloquies on Death, Life and Other Interludes sets out to examine the tensions and diversions inherent in the representation and imagination of death, particularly violent death. Correlatively, it also seeks to explore the essential but highly paradoxical role that photography – in all its epistemological, aesthetic and ethical implications – has played in enabling us to perceive and make sense of death.
Ever since it was invented, photography has played a key part in establishing death as a visual subject, or rather, as an intricate web of images, imaginations and imaginaries that span several areas of science and culture. This constellation of images exhibited by Edgar Martins not only strengthens the conviction that photographic images are products of a (technical and cultural) medium but also highlights the fact that our experience of each photographic image is also a product of ourselves, of our body as a living medium of images.