Retrospectivity

Retrospective thinking is more or less the same as looking back on events that have already taken place. In Art, a retrospective is a look back at an artist’s activity over a period of time.

Art can break topics down for all to comprehend. The process of creating and consuming Art for the purpose of exploration and expansion goes beyond Art itself. I use the word ‘retrospectivity’ as a key to my work because my creations only began to take shape after I understood the word. Retrospective thinking is more or less the same as looking back on events that have already taken place. In Art, a retrospective is a look back at an artist’s activity over a period of time.



In Law, retrospective law making is ‘the controversial process by which a law is made applicable on a date prior to its creation’ and is so named Retrospectivity. This legal term has lost its popularity in recent years. Linguistically, the word has both the past and present within its structure. It is a unique word not found in the average vocabulary yet it is found at the heart of all we do as a time-obsessed species. There are always exceptions, but quite often when we are older we view life as brief and fall in love with the past whereas when we are younger we tend to be in love with the idea of the future and what it might hold. The way we experience the past and engage with the future as a community and as individuals is worth the time to explore.



To reiterate, Retrospectivity is the process by which a law is made applicable on a date prior to its creation. Laws are usually created prospectively, either taking immediate effect or made applicable from a future date. Some consider retrospective law-making as against the principles of natural justice or more simply put; unfair. Unfair because it’s difficult to stay on the right side of the law if you don’t know what the law is.



A philosophical juxtaposition: When addressing past events we often judge ourselves and others by the moral and ethical code we possess in the present, although our perceptions may have changed with age, experience or information not previously available. Even in the case of very recent events we can fall victim to factually incorrect memories coupled with hindsight bias. Therefore it is arguable that our identities, relationships, values and opinions are all formed (to an extent) with the involuntary practice of Retrospectivity. This begs two questions; what is natural justice? And is it fair?



Having now established time as inextricably linked to morality, I can begin looking at the idea of Art as a tool for measuring both time and morality, and Retrospectivity as a culture within this context. Returning to my ethos of inclusivity, which I believe to be the only humane choice in any community and a clear-cut question of one’s morality; my focus shifts to criminal law specifically. I propose it is a crime against humanity to take part in exclusion. At its most dramatic, the concept of Retrospectivity in Criminal Law can be understood as a method of charging, prosecuting and judging an act that was committed at a time before the act was considered a crime.



What has this got to do with Art? Well, all my current work is set within this framework and I would love the time and space for research and collaboration with a focus on answering this question. So far I have written a scripted performance with an interactive audience in mind where they are given the tools for arguing the innocence or guilt of an individual accused of ‘exclusion’ by Retrospectivity. This model can be implemented in a number of settings; as a creative community workshop, it has the ability to heal many a broken link. I hope to have the opportunity to explore much deeper and give birth to a digestible idea that translates into a tangible concept.