Eyal Weizman with Christina Varvia and Merve Anil
Date: Tuesday 26 February 2019
Venue: AA Gallery
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: https://www.dropbox.com/s/fazs3hug7hi2zb7/nixon-rob--slow-violence-and-the-environmentalism-of-the-poor.pdf?dl=0
- 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: https://www.dropbox.com/s/y0l9mml1u8ivw0u/Close%20Up_Kurgan%20excerpt.pdf?dl=0
- 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
- 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): https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/OCTO_a_00112
Alex Abdo, "The Power of Pictures", available at https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/torture/power-pictures
29 January – Session 8: Radical Listening (with Lawrence Abu Hamdan)
Unfortunately this session has been postponed - we apologise for any convenience caused.
12 February – Session 9: Liquid Traces (with Lorenzo Pezzani)
This talk critically investigates the aesthetic and spatial conditions that, in the context of the so-called “migration crisis”, have turned the Mediterranean into a military-humanitarian border, across which new assemblages of power, legal arrangements and uneven patterns of mobility have emerged in relation to a vast, and yet patchy, surveillance apparatus. Contrary to the popular representation of the maritime territory as a homogeneous and empty expanse, the sea is considered here as a technologically mediated space thick with events and complex relations between people, environments, and data. How can this sensorium be turned into a witness? How can it be mobilised to draw a political anatomy of violence inflicted at and through the sea?
Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani, 'Liquid Violence: Migrant deaths at sea and the responsibility of European states’
- Joseph Nevins, ‘A Beating Worse than Death: Imagining and Contesting Violence in the U.S.- Mexico Borderlands’, AmeriQuests 2, no. 1 (2005): 1–25.
- Yves Winter, ‘Violence and Visibility’, New Political Science 34, no. 2 (June 2012): 195–202.
- Sandra Harding, “Strong Objectivity?: A Response to the New Objectivity Question.” Synthese 104, no. 3 (September 1995): 331–49.
- Carlo Ginzburg, “Clues: Roots of a Scientific Paradigm.” Theory and Society 7, no. 3 (1979): 273–88.
26 February – Session 10: Field Philosophy / Operative Theory
The last open seminar, will reflect upon the series and ask how can the conceptual ideas that were discussed in the talks, screenings, and lectures be manifest in investigative work. Is there such a thing as ‘field philosophy’? How are analytical and investigative concepts brought into practice? Using a couple examples of Forensic Architecture’s investigations as starting points, the organisers together with the students will attempt to address, discuss and reflect upon these questions.
All lectures are open to members of the public, staff and students unless otherwise stated.