Pinboard #6: Daniel Tisdale

Daniel Tisdale, Rodney King Police Beating, from “The Disaster Series,” 1991.

The series of black and white photographs captures four men in black clothing surrounding one man who is lying on the floor in front of a parked car. This image suspends the moment in which one of the standing men is about to kick the man on the floor. The haziness of the image creates unrecognizable figures whose professional titles or skin color has been obscured only to leave an image of an assault for the viewer to reflect on. Daniel Tisdale has taken an image from an iconic videotape shot by George Holliday of Rodney King being beaten by LAPD officers following a car chase in 1991. The same image of the assault is duplicated twelve times, described by Lauri Firstenberg as a “Warholian silkscreened grid by which the formation of stereotype through repetition is demonstrated.” Through this grid, the work echoes the progression of a film reel, with movements frozen in time.  The flaws in mechanical reproduction process are revealed in the upper half of the shot that duplicates the car ceiling and heads of the figures.

The significance of the role of the videotape in the infamous trial highlights the nature of the interpretation and framing of the footage. During the trial, the defendant’s lawyers interpreted the video in a manner to justify the amount of force by the accused police officers. This refers back to the status that photography carries as a purveyor of truth. In Gonzalez’s opening statement to her essay Morphologies, she states “the medium of photography has always been allied with truth claims: as evidence in courts of law.” I would also link this work to Nicholas Mirzoeff’s essay on Race, Photography, and the Index where he states in respect to New York States’ decision in 2002 of accepting digital photographs as evidence in domestic violence cases, a reinforcement of the idea that  “Photography did not die. Rather it has become clear that photography has always been and remains a medium susceptible to a range of external interventions.”


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