Eyal Weizman with Christina Varvia and Merve Anil

Evidentiary Aesthetics

Series: Open Seminars
Date: Tuesday 22 January 2019
Time: 18:30
Venue: AA Lecture Hall
Running time: 0 mins

This Open Seminar will take place on selected Tuesdays in Terms 1 & 2 at 6.30pm, starting Tuesday, 16 October.  

Architectural Investigations in Contemporary Politics and Conflict

The seminar introduces the means and modes by which architecture — as a contemporary set of techniques and as a body of knowledge — can become an investigative and evidentiary mode through which to interrogate contemporary politics and conflict.

Through the study of fortifications, border devices, digital surveillance, and infrastructural networks we already understand the way in which architecture could function as a form of slow violence, but with conflict increasingly becoming urban phenomena, played out within dense media and data environments, we also need to come to grips with the ways in which the relation between conflict and space is transforming.

At the shadow of new technologies of capture and detection – increasingly based on pattern recognition and other neural networks used in machine learning — also emerge ever more sophisticated techniques of secrecy and camouflage as well as new avenues for independent investigators. Counter investigating state policy and its associated secrecy are crucial because the facts of conflict are ever and always contested, incidents can have multiple readings, and states and security forces have a tendency for cover-up or denial in an environment now commonly referred to as ‘post truth’.  

Each of the seminars — building upon the work of the Forensic Architecture agency, its collaborators and friends — introduces a concept that bridges between architecture media and conflict.

Guests including Susan Schuppli, Lorenzo Pezzani, Laura Poitras, Edmund Clark will introduce concepts such as ‘secrecy’, ‘elasticity’, ’resolution’, ‘material aesthetics’, ‘slow violence’, ‘lethal algorithms’ and ‘artificial vision’. 

16 October – Session 1: Slow and Fast Violence: Seminar in the Memory of Paul Virilio - AA Lecture Hall
Politics is matter slowing into form, but also, conversely, following French architect-philosopher Paul Virilio, it is a set of material forms accelerating with the power of a blast or in the light speed of electromagnetic data flow. When he died last month at the age of 86, Virilio left architecture with a unique legacy, positioning it between the operational concepts of war and that of speed. His work, touching upon military tactics, technology, image and data flows and human-machine relations, is thus a fundamental starting point for the ‘evidentiary aesthetics’ seminar. The session will use Virilio’s work from Bunker Archaeology (1975) to Politics and Speed(1986) to introduce themes and concepts that will be covered throughout the seminar series.
1. ‘From Street Fight to State Right’ in Paul Virilio’s, Speed and Politics
full text online here:
2. ‘Introduction’ in Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor
full text online:
Further reading: 
- Michel Foucault, Society Must be Defended 
- Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population 

30 October – Session 2: Resolution (with Laura Kurgan) - 33 First Floor Front and Back
From cartography to photo-cartography, from data visualisation to spatial investigation, Laura Kuragn has been a leading voice in exploring the media frontiers of architecture. This seminar will lead from her book “close up at a distance” to new work such as her recent project on mapping strikes in Aleppo Syria to her recent collaborative installation  at the American Pavilion of the Venice Biennale. 
1. Laura Kurgan, Closeup at a Distance:
Further reading: 
- Ariella Azoulay, The Civil Spectator
- Judith Butler, Frames of War
- Caren Kaplan, Aerial Aftermaths, 
- Hito Steyerl, How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File

13 November – Session 3: The Incident: The long duration of the Split Second  - AA Lecture Hall
Thinking about violent incident needs to find a way to mediate between two types of historiography: micro history – as developed by the likes of Italian historian Carlo Ginsburg and the historical perspective of the longue durée as promoted by the Marxist historian of the mid-twentieth-century Annales School. In conflict of course any incident can have long term effects on the campaign and larger political development. These claims will be illustrated with reference to police violence from Rodney King’s beating by LAPD in 1991 to several FA projects, unpacking both instants and long term transformations. 
- Thomas Keenan, Claims
- Manuel Delanda, ‘Intro’ in War in the Age of Intelligent Machines 
- Jamie Kalven: Invisible Institute

20 November – Session 4: Algorithmic War (with Laura Poitras) - AA Lecture Hall
Academy Award (for Best Documentary) winning documentarist Laura Poitras in an open conversation about her film Citizenfour, which contributed to the exposure of the revelations of Edward Snowden, about her involvement in the NSA disclosures, her exhibition at the Whitney Astro Noise, and her film Risk about Julian Assange. 
Read and Watch: Article: Titanpointe: The NSA's Spy Hub in New York, Hidden in Plain Sight
Film: Project X
Interview: In the Eye of the Storm

27 November – Session 5: Material Aesthetics: Architecture is Matter Slowing into Form  - 33 First Floor Front and Back
Can we think of architecture, a building, cities, or territories as a sensorial surfaces recording their environments in long exposure; how to read force (events/processes) back from the study of form? The analysis of bones by pathologists offer an important model for such an architectural reading. But further they allow for a transition between subject and object, they it started in the mid 1980s what we call now “the forensic turn”.
- ‘Introduction’, Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter 
Further reading:
- Jennifer Gabrys, Program Earth 
- Thomas Keenan and Eyal Weizman, Mengele’s Skull
- Eyal Sivan and Rony Brauman, The Specialist 

15 January – Session 6: Frequencies (with Susan Schuppli)
This week’s seminar explores the politics of the electromagnetic spectrum and especially those frequency emissions operating beyond the threshold of human perception. It also comprises short student presentations related to assigned readings.
- “Introduction” in Kahn, Douglas. Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts. Oakland: University of California Press. Pp. 14-24.
Pringle, Thomas. "Photographed by the Earth: War and Media in Light of Nuclear Events." European Journal of Media Studies 3 2 (2014): 131-54.2) 

22 January – Session 7: Secrecy (with Crofton Black and Edmund Clark)
How do governments carry out covert operations, how do they create secrets, and how can these secrets be perceived? Black and Clark's Negative Publicity is an examination both of the paper-trail left by CIA rendition and detention operations around the world, and of the process of investigating it. They will discuss themes raised by this and other of their works.
Crofton Black and Edmund Clark, Negative Publicity: Artefacts of Extraordinary Rendition (Aperture 2016)
Trevor Paglen and A. C. Thompson, Torture Taxi (Melville House 2006)
Robert Bailey, "Unknown Knowns: Jenny Holzer's Redaction Paintings and the History of the War on Terror", October 142 (2012): 
Alex Abdo, "The Power of Pictures", available at

29 January – Session 8: Radical Listening (with Lawrence Abu Hamdan)

12 February – Session 9: Liquid Traces (with Lorenzo Pezzani)
Abstract and Readings (TBC)

19 February – Session 10: Artificial Phenomenology (with Adam Harvey) 
Abstract and Readings (TBC)

All lectures are open to members of the public, staff and students unless otherwise stated.

September 2019
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Welcome to 2019-20

Dear School Community,

The Architectural Association is a place where we forget our labels as architects, as artists, as economists, as writers, as poets, and we become citizens of the world – a world that we believe we can change, transform into something other, more interesting, more radical, more free, more equal, more us. The new academic year brings a series of important conversations to the forefront of architectural education and contemporary culture through new and familiar voices and projects. There are urgent tasks at hand. Our programmes throughout the school have accepted the challenge to address issues of climate and ethics. As architects we always speak on behalf of the other, but we also need to constantly ask ourselves, who has the right to speak, and on behalf of whom? How am I affecting the environment with my actions? How can I care more about others? 

This year I invite us all to practice radical empathy, to care about the planet, the other and the future. To listen, to ask, to share, to discuss, to debate, but ultimately to care. 

Like every year, new appointments and initiatives will expand both our academic and institutional horizons. Academic voices joining us are: filmmakers Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine, whose work focuses on experimental narratives and cinematographic forms in relation to contemporary architecture and the urban environment; Berlin-based architect Sam Chermayeff (AA Alumni), founder of the practice June 14; Didier Fiúza Faustino (AA Tutor 2010-16), an architect and artist working on the relationship between the body and space; Gabu Heindl, an architect and urban planner who is the head of GABU Heindl Architektur in Vienna, an interdisciplinary studio specialising in public interventions, cultural and social buildings; David Kohn, London-based architect and founder of David Kohn Architects working internationally on arts, education and residential projects; Viviana Muscettola, an associate director at Zaha Hadid Architects and an executive member of the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat; OMMX, a London-based practice led by Hikaru Nissanke and Jon Lopez; OFIS, an international architecture office based in Ljubljana and led by Špela Videčnik and Rok Oman (both AA Alumni); Superpool, an international research-based architecture practice located in Istanbul and led by Selva Gürdoğan and Gregers Tang Thomsen; and Bostjan Vuga (AA Alumni), architect and founder of SADAR+VUGA. Other people joining us include Eleanor Dodman, Liza Fior, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Lizy Huyghe, Guan Lee,  Melodie Leung, Gili Merin, Ivan Morrison, Anna Muzychak, Bushra Mohamed, Jonathan Robinson, Alvaro Velasco Perez and James Westcott. This diversity of new voices, will add to the units and programmes and will continue the multiplicity of agendas that the AA is known for. 

Every course, programme and unit throughout the school operates under a highly specific and idiosyncratic methodology, which offers every student a myriad of options and possibilities. More about the overall academic offerings can be found here. More about Experimental Programme units and staff can be found here; Diploma Programme units and staff can be found here and information about the unit selection process can be found here.

After more than a decade at the helm of the PhD Programme, Simos Yannas has stepped away to focus on the Sustainability and Environmental Design (SED) Programme that he leads at the school. The new Head of the PhD Programme, Pier Vittorio Aureli will shape the programme in the years to come. Elif Erdine will be the new Head of Emergent Technologies and Design (EmTech) after Mike Weinstock stepped down; however, he will continue to teach within the programme as Founding Director. 

Print Studio is transforming with a new Head of Publications, Maria S. Giudici who will – in addition to being the editor of AA Files – oversee new publications that continue to position the AA at the forefront of critical discussions through printed matter. Ryan Dillon is our new Head of Academic Communications, and will edit the annual AA Book, lead the relaunch of the AA Radio/Podcast, and oversee the content of the new website amongst other platforms to enable and facilitate all imaginable forms of communication and engagement within the AA School Community. In addition, Rory Sherlock, is joining us as Assistant Editor. 

These new voices join our renowned academic and administrative staff, who together, will surely provide for relevant discussions and debates throughout the entire school as we continue our journey into the future. As part of this, and our continued commitment to achieving Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) (a final decision on our application is expected this autumn), we have gone through a process of internal validation, adjusting nomenclature to reflect who we are and what we do, and to make sure our programmes maintain their identity. Former Complementary Studies is now Core Studies; Technical Studies is now Environmental and Technical Studies (ETS), Media Studies is now Communication and Media Studies (CMS), First Year and Intermediate School (years 2-3) is now the Experimental Programme, and Diploma School (years 4-5) is now the Diploma Programme.

The AA is committed to experimental methods in teaching and learning and this can be seen in the many initiatives being launched. In Term 3 Speculative Studies, a series of interdisciplinary seminars over five weeks, will present courses on politics, law, philosophy, ethics, art history, poetry, dance, gastronomy, social technology and microbiology. Other topics and courses will be added from proposals put forward by students in an Open Forum to be held in Term 1. These courses will introduce new areas of expertise and methodologies to our collective culture.

A four-day symposium titled Experimental Methods will bring our community together for a discussion and debate on what experimentation is and can be at the AA, which will take place during Open Week in both Terms 1 and 2. Tutors from across the school will lecture on their particular academic approach as well as their own professional practice and research. Each day will end with a keynote speaker and a round table discussion, and the week will culminate with an Open Jury in which students can present their work to a panel of invited critics. 

For the first time in the history of the school, Diploma students and Postgraduate students will be able to take joint classes as part of an expanded pool of Electives. These advanced seminars will be provided by our ten Postgraduate Programmes in areas of technology, criticism, sustainability, material culture, computation and more, allowing us to push the boundaries of architectural education and to have more dialogue across all parts of the school.  

This year we will continue with the Open Seminars; on Mondays, Plan the Planet, brings together experts across different disciplines to discuss the current ecological crisis in order to articulate new strategies, policies, relationships and spaces; on Tuesdays, Evidentiary Aesthetics investigates the technologies and politics of the body; and on Wednesdays, we will be able to study the Origins of Capitalist Urban Space.

Throughout the year, the Directions Series offers an open forum for conversations between AA Students, Academic and Administrative Staff and the AA Director. These events offer a platform to communicate and discuss the direction of the school. The first event of the Directions Series will take place on Monday 30 September at 7pm in the Lecture Hall when we can start raising questions and propose new agendas as we all work towards our future and jointly develop the AA 2020-25 Strategic Plan.

To broaden and strengthen our academic resources additional initiatives have been set up. The new Writing Centre aims to assist students with their essays and written work; the Student Care Centre is to provide mental health support; and the Student Affairs Office will provide students with logistical support during their time here at the AA, and advice in career placement and work opportunities in London and around the world for their year out and after graduation. 

To conclude the academic year we aim to introduce a new way of transmitting and disseminating the work of our fifth year students at the AA Forum/Final Presentation. Over two days after tables, all graduating students will present their project in an open format to a wide group of tutors, guest jurors, curators, press, friends and colleagues, making their last presentation at the AA a real moment for celebration and dialogue. The AA Forum/Final Presentation will be open to all students to attend, and will take place in any imaginable space throughout the school. 

This autumn we launch the AA Residence, a cultural platform exploring and studying new ideas and forms of practice at the intersection of architecture, art, technology, policy and design. It is composed of a series of independent labs that consist of an interdisciplinary cohort of resident fellows including architects, artists, policy makers, engineers, scientists and creative entrepreneurs that are all researching and producing experimental work. The AA Residence will work as an incubator in a shared workspace and professional development programme, providing architects and entrepreneurs the tools required to build new practices and initiate projects that impact, promote and amplify culture, and contribute to the re-imagination of the future. The 2019-20 labs will be announced in October. 

Last year’s Projects Review 2019 was produced with the goal to achieve zero waste, and has left us with some new pieces of furniture that we hope to enjoy throughout the year. As part of this exhibition, the first edition of the Press and Practices Preview took place the day before the opening, and proved to be a success. Fifth year students and those with scholarships and bursaries had the opportunity to explain their unit agendas and project aims to invited guests. They did this alongside volunteers who provided an introduction to the sometimes complex issues that the school and its programmes address. Thank you to all tutors, students and volunteers that committed time to this effort. The Projects Review exhibition received great press coverage and many positive responses. To continue this momentum the AA Book, together with a series of podcasts with staff and students, will be launched in the autumn.

Over the last year we have recognised and celebrated the amazing diversity of the Architectural Association, that consists of students and staff from 81 different nationalities. In an attempt to build on this great cultural resource we will launch Architecture in Translation, a project that celebrates the wealth embedded in the use of different languages as part of the production and dissemination of ideas, discourse and debate about architecture. This project will work across many areas within the school. Within HTS, Mark Cousins has produced a series of seminars that will explore the theoretical questions and opportunities of translation in architecture. In addition to this, juries in different languages will take place throughout the year and will be used to identify terms, concepts and values inherent to different linguistic and cultural contexts in order to produce a ‘multilingual dictionary of architectural terms’ for the twenty-first century. 

Last but not least, to start the year, a different kind of tradition is being introduced entitled, Plant a Tree, which will take place during Introduction Week and invites all new students and staff to Hooke Park, the AA rural campus in Dorset. While on-site, we will learn about the facilities and then ceremonially, each and every one of the 300 new voices joining the school, will plant a tree to contribute to the forest, offset carbon emissions, and take part in a dialogue of ideas about the future as responsible members of the AA and of this planet. Plant a Tree is more than a symbolic act, it is the commitment to a future that is ours to build.

As new and returning students and staff wander throughout the school, its spaces and places and within the corridors that build our intellectual home, you will find on the walls images of projects that each of the 779 students of the last academic year produced. With these drawings up on the walls, now is the time for identifying new debates and engagements. For those knocking on my door, and I encourage all of you to do so, you will see next to the Expanding Horizons poster – in a circular frame – what I suspect will be the most important image for many of you this year: this is of course an invitation to visit and share some of your ideas. 

I am looking forward to seeing all of you during Introduction Week and throughout the year ahead to discuss in detail the initiatives outlined above, and the ones that we will create together.



Eva Franch i Gilabert
AA School of Architecture