Testifying to the Image: The video of the assault on Rodney King as evidence, as event, and as exhibition

Ringborg, William Theodor. 2020. Testifying to the Image: The video of the assault on Rodney King as evidence, as event, and as exhibition. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Testifying to the Image: The video of the assault on Rodney King as evidence, as event, and as exhibition)
VIS_thesis_RingborgT_2020_redacted.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (298MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This practice-based dissertation thinks through a major dilemma within the world of curatorial practice: the exhibition of representations of violence within the space for art. It emanates from an exhibition on images of violence that I curated at Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, which led to questions about the discourse that dominates spaces for art and a restriction of knowledge that confines the image to the reconstruction of artistic intentions against a history of artistic intentions. “The discourse of visual culture,” on the other hand, as Ariella Azoulay has argued, “is not obligated to precedents in the history of art, nor is it necessary to return to them as points of reference or to respect the links that bind them.” The image is within visual cultures a point of departure. Debate does not end with or is limited by the image. How may one broaden the scope of the art- space by engaging the discourse of visual cultures?

The dissertation tackles this question in a single case study: the video by George Holliday of LAPD officers beating Rodney King in 1991. The study pays particular attention to the video in a triangulation of spaces: in the courtroom, on television, and in the gallery. Not only was the video of King’s beating presented as evidence in the infamous Simi Valley trial, it was also extensively broadcast on TV, as well as exhibited in the 1993 Whitney Biennial. The video of this assault in three discursive spaces offers the opportunity to reflect on the system of relations between image, viewer, and site. In doing so, it draws us towards questions not only of presentational circumstances and conditions of use, but also questions of who can speak in which spaces, what kinds of talk can and cannot be heard, and what conditions establish the possibility to make claims.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Curatorial, Curating, Testimony, Rodney King.

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


31 October 2020

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

08 Jun 2021 16:00

Last Modified:

31 Oct 2023 02:26



View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)