Agonistes is part of Trigger #2: Uncertaintypublished in December 2020 by FOMU and FW:Books which deals with the role of the speculative in documentary making. This artist contribution is accompanied by a longer essay by scholar on whistleblowing Wim Vandekerckhove which you can find here.
Hoda Afshar, Agonistes (still), 2020.
1-channel digital video, colour, sound.
Courtesy of the artist and Milani Galler.
Whistleblowing continues to make headlines around the world, but despite policies meant to protect whistleblowers in Australia, their efforts are increasingly undermined by gag orders, policing and other forms of control: by efforts to silence those who have spoken out and discourage anyone who might think of doing the same. Meanwhile, the consequences whistleblowers face remain the same: if they aren’t simply ignored, they face the real threats of legal proceedings, imprisonment or worse.
Agonistes is based on the experiences of several men and women – former employees in immigration, intelligence, defence, youth detention, disability care and other government services – who chose to speak out and now live with the consequences. They describe personal and professional ruin, the breakdown of friendships and family relationships, the physical and mental anguish that followed their decision to call out alleged abuses and the reasons that led them to do so, despite knowing their possible fate. They explain that if they could go back, they would do it all again.
While their individual stories differ, the shared struggle of these men and women and their portraits expose the same agonising truth: the choice between responsibility and obligation – between morality and law – is, in a very real sense, the essence of tragedy.
Hoda Afshar, from the series Agonistes, 2020.
Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery