The Society of False Witnesses Featured At Sursock Museum in Beirut

Waste eats your histories, 2016
140 photographs
by Jessika Khazrik or The Society of False Witnesses

This photo-based exhibition is part of Blue Barrel Grove (2014-ongoing), a project re-investigating the history of illegally imported waste in Lebanon, and its resurgence in the present.


All the flowers that were thrown on my head come back panting, 2016
Four photographic collages

by Jessika Khazrik or The Society of False Witnesses

The Arabic etymology of waste, nifāyāt, is derived from the verb nafā, meaning “to exile” as well as “to deny”. These photographic collages follow from the artist’s writing on waste as exiled matter that often exiles the spaces it inhabits.


About the Exhibition

While re-investigating the case of toxic waste trade brought illegally from Italy to Lebanon in 1987—some of which was dumped near Jessika Khazrik’s childhood home. Recently, Jessika stumbled upon thousands of photographs in the laboratory of eco-toxicologist and herbal pharmacologist Pierre Malychef, one of the three official scientific investigators assigned to the case. Malychef was an avid documenter of dumping sites as well as local flora for over five decades.

After seven years of investigation, the case was forcefully closed when Malychef was detained and accused of being a false witness. Rather than considering his photographs, scientific reports, and tests as material evidence of the toxic waste, the prosecutor accused him of fabricating and staging the toxic waste trade and inversely used the photographic and scientific evidence as proof of the staging. Through this act, the prosecutor upholds that—according to the Lebanese jurisprudential understanding of the values and falsification of truth and knowledge—all documents, scientific tests, and photographs are fictional and hold no power of truth and testimony.


Khazrik’s discovery of Malychef’s involvement in the case and his body of work in photography and research initiated the founding of the interdisciplinary platform The Society of False Witnesses, whose first research center will be located in the late eco-toxicologist’s lab in Bsalim, with the intention of archiving his work and making it publicly accessible onsite and online. The center is scheduled to open in 2018.