The Complexities of the Witness:
A Complete Covid Unravelling

What now is the value of the witness? The role of the witness? Does it sit between? I refer back to my own thoughts about the fluidity between the roles of victim, witness and perpetrator. Weaving, moving, shifting between the three.

How am I supposed to write objectively about the effects of trauma during a pandemic? How am I supposed to see where I begin shifting from witness to the role of perpetrator when my hands are shaking and I can barely breathe? How am I supposed to reflect or research when every resource puts his hands on my neck again, forcing my head down?

How am I supposed to function when every stability I built has been ripped from under my feet? When my dream has become my nightmare? New ideas of victimhood. What happens when we are all the victim – fighting an invisible enemy, a systematic enemy, a political enemy, a financial enemy, a parasitic enemy. We are at war. We are fighting, but who is we?

Who are we fighting? An enemy to our health, to our grandparents, ourselves, our babies, our world as we know it. Our friendships, our communities, our intimacies.

I want to hide under my covers and never leave. I don’t have it in me to read holocaust scholarship. I don’t have it in me to prove a point. To support something or to believe anything. I can’t think forward. Everything is past based. All I can do is write of a woman who took cities as lovers. She never knew how badly her dream boat could beat her.

Recycling ideas:

Blah blah blah. If we watch are we perpetrators? Blah blah blah Santiago Sierra tattooing lines on sex workers. Vomit. What an asshole. Why do people exert power in that way? Why is dominance even a thing outside of the bedroom?

“When humans are material in the service of an artist and the artist insists on their individual subjecthood as an integral part of the work, the artist produces the same objectification in the guise of subject production that is performed through institutions of human resources and human capital.”[1]

Blah blah blah showing images of Jews in concentration camps is recycling the damage intended by the Nazis. They took the picture to dehumanise so when we re-exhibit them, that intention overshadows any intention we have of lest we forget. How else do we acknowledge a history though? I’m still so confused by this. I know that there are attempts at reconciliation through juxtaposition. Display photos of concentration camps (UNHUMAN) with photos of people before (HUMAN). Does this do enough to undo the intention of suffering and exploitation? 

“In genocide scholarship, it is recognised that the perpetuation of genocide is preceded by the dehumanisation of the target victim group. Dehumanisation can be furthered by using documents of visual material, as tools in the process.”[2]

Blah blah. War photography is exploitative. Photo journalism is exploitative. Did that guy who took the picture of the vulture trying to eat the little child actually kill himself? Good. Now who’s the perpetrator there? Wow. This is some fluid shit.

“Being a spectator of calamities taking place in another country is a quintessential modern experience, the cumulative offering by more than a century and a half’s worth of those professional, specialized tourists known as journalists” [3]

I tried to read more about Kevin Carter in The Bang Bang Club. I was relieved to know that he apparently chased away the vulture. He did kill himself but not so sure it had anything to do with the kid.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

-Edmund Burke

Isn’t nothing what we are supposed to be doing? Nothingness and aloneness. The term physical distancing never really took off. We are socially distanced. I find myself in a land unknown with no one and nothing but I’m not sure I would be any less lonely at home. Those in precarious labour are the first to experience a lack of distance. They are expendable. But also, I am looking forward to being able to go back to work. I cannot afford to not and my heart cannot afford to be far away for much longer. What do we call it when I am victimising myself? 

Wah wah


poor me.

 (Tangentially, and please accept this as very much an expression of my own unsupported opinion, I would like to acknowledge that the only positive thing that 2020 has brought into the world is an exceptional amount of memes. A few examples of which I will present at the end of this essay.)


[1] Stupart, L. (2016). Becoming Object: Positioning a Feminist Art Practise. Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of PhD in Art. Goldsmiths, University of London

[2] Kyriakides, Y. (2012). Art after Auschwitz: dimensions of ethics and agency in responses to genocide in post World War II art practice. Doctor of Philosophy in Fine Art. St Johns College, University of Oxford. p.28

[3] Sontag, S. (2019). Regarding the pain of others. London: Penguin Books. 14

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