Jonathan Hernández   
You are under arrest, 2000, 218 newspaper photographs, 90 x 135 x 5 cm

Born 1972 in Mexico City (Mexico)
Lives and works in Mexico City (Mexico)

The Mexican artist Jonathan Hernández works with various photographic material, including press photos and archive images, which he finds, collects and organizes according to formal and content-based criteria. You are under arrest includes more than 200 newspaper photographs, which he presents arranged within five picture frames. They all depict situations in which people are being arrested or taken away. They include police photos, photos of arrests taking place and photos of courthouses. Some also depict armed security forces in active deployment, involved in violent clashes. Many of the men and women who have been detained appear broken and resigned to their fate, others seem proud, ostentatiously displaying their handcuffs to draw attention to an alleged injustice. By avoiding any context such as captions or accompanying text, and by not offering any classification or evaluation, Hernández enables the viewer to look at the images in a comparative fashion and to concentrate on them alone. Recurring patterns and similarities become clear and we receive an insight into the way our current visually-dominated media landscape works.

The work was created between 2000 and 2002; it therefore covers the time of the terrorist attacks in the US, which unleashed worldwide uncertainty. Political discourse was dominated by discussions about national security. Tighter controls and other security measures were introduced in many countries, often amid heavy protest. On close inspection of the images, is not easy to identify individual people. The Hollywood actor Nick Nolte can be recognized in one photo, in another the former President of Serbia Slobodan Miloševic, who had to answer to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The situation is not always clear. People who constitute a public threat and terrorists can be seen alongside journalists, press photographers and political activists. The lack of an interpretive framework means that preconceived judgements, which we in society at present are making more and more frequently, are difficult to form here. As a result, the individual person with their worries and fears comes more into focus. Questions about genuinely dangerous scenarios, about responsibility and the rule of law come to the fore. For one thing remains fundamentally important to the maintenance of democracy: everyone is equal before the law – at least as an ideal that should be strived after. Jonathan Hernández offers an interesting as well as controversial frame to reflect on these ideas.

Text: Ingo Clauß