Cover image of the review
Detail of Items from the Victorian Bar Collection, c. 1930 – c. 2010 furniture, artwork, objects, books, wig by various artists, makers and craftspeople, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Victorian Bar. Photo: Leon Schoots

Homo Sacer: Life Unlawed

22 Apr 2023
La Trobe Art Institute 14 Feb - 7 May 2023

The law is like a mean dancer who has practised their moves ahead of time without telling anyone else what the dance is. Although the word “law” means something laid down or fixed, deriving from the Old English lagu and Old Norse lag, it is in fact constantly moving. In principle, courts are meant to be beacons of stability and impartiality, but as we know they often fail at that. In the common law system, where judges develop legal precedents on a case-by-case basis, the law intimately co-exists with those it governs, developing incrementally through judges deciding the legal disputes at hand. As people pass through the system, a trace (stored in journals, books, databases) is always left behind. In this sense a person is a subject to law while also a contributor to it. Take the infamous Mrs Donoghue, who by swallowing a dead snail in a ginger beer bottle and suing the manufacturer, gave birth to the law of negligence. This tango between law and people deeply entwines this discipline with questions of social being-in-the-world.

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