The interactive documentary "Inside the distance" stages re-enactments about restorative justice encounters as described by victims, offenders and mediators. It explores the position of each party and the many ways in which these positions are fluid. The project was developed by professor and artist Sharon Daniel in cooperation with a series of Belgian partners who gave her access to victims and offenders who participated in a restorative justice process in order to conduct her research project.
During the week of REstART, we met Sharon for a virtual discussion moderated by Brunilda Pali from the KU Leuven Institute of Criminology (1 December). Special guest of this talk is Bie Vanseveren, one of the senior mediators that contributed to this artwork with her work experience.
Sharon also joined the REstARTISTS' common discussion closing the Festival (5 December).
Scroll down to view the recordings.
"I need the answers to certain questions, and paradoxically, only the man who attacked me can help me"
Criminal acts are rents in the fabric of the social order – expressions of something that doesn’t fit. The mediators interviewed for this project described how mediations almost always begin with a focus on the details – victims and offenders wanting to confirm each others’ understanding of what happened – who was hurt and how – followed by attempts to find some way to understand why.
"At some level, at some moment, we are all victims - we are all offenders."
Inside the distance explores the subject position of each party (victims, offenders and mediators) and the many ways in which those positions are fluid. Within Inside the Distance the space of mediation – the mediation table – is represented as a boundary object – a place of cooperation without consensus.
The structure of the project – a web documentary and an installation with video and a touch-screen interactive interface – is organised into three parts:
“the Accounts” – presents the narratives of mediation cases as described to me in interviews with Mediators. These narratives are visualised through staged enactments that represent the notion of being and holding accountable.
“the Positions” – addresses the instability of subject positions – as articulated by Victims, offenders and mediators through their own personal reflections
“the Spaces” – takes up the ethical, theoretical, and discursive space of justice and punishment and the public and political space mediated or, perhaps, governed through law and criminalisation in statements made by mediators, psychologists and criminologists.
Sharon Daniel is a digital media artist who creates interactive and participatory documentary artworks addressing issues of social, racial and environmental injustice, with a particular focus on mass incarceration and the criminal justice system. Her work is located at the nexus of art and activism, theory and practice. Over the course of her career she has produced two distinct but related forms of internet art – participatory media platforms and interactive new media documentaries. While this work is often expanded into interactive installations, which have been exhibited and published internationally, Daniel’s core practice is the development of innovative online interfaces to databases of original interviews and participant-generated content. Her work has been exhibited in museums and festivals internationally. Her last project is “Exposed”, intended to increase awareness of this critical danger that Covid-19 presents in prisons and jails and to advocate for prisoners' lives.
Inside the Distance includes interviews with mediators, criminologists, victims and offenders conducted in Leuven and Brussels in 2015.
This project is a co-production by LINC-KU Leuven, STUK Arts Centre, Courtisane, University of California Santa Cruz, European Forum for Restorative Justice, Suggnomè – Flemish Mediation Service (now called Moderator), and funded by OPAK.