A new exhibition at The Institute of Contemporary Arts surveys the work of Forensic Architecture, an independent research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London.
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What all these events, separated in time and space, have in common is that the narratives about them promoted by state authorities are contested. What they also have in common is that they have been analysed, mapped, and reconstructed in painstaking detail by the independent Forensic Architecture research agency, based at Goldsmiths.
The exhibition, ‘Counter Investigations: Forensic Architecture’ (7 March – 6 May 2018), at The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) presents a series of investigations into state crimes and human rights violations within and outside war zones undertaken by Forensic Architecture. According to Wired, the agency’s founder, Eyal Weizman, has ‘invented a new academic discipline’ and the exhibition is both a survey of the agency’s investigations and an exploration of what this new discipline of ‘forensic architecture’ might look like.
Looking is the best way of understanding this new subject: it turns complex spatial and material analysis, mapping and reconstruction, footage, and witness testimony, into accessible models, videos, maps, graphics, and interactive platforms.
These visualisations – the reconstruction of a café, figures crammed into vehicles, smoke rising from a cityscape – are effective because they repurpose the visual language and technology state agencies often use to describe their versions of events, turning the tools of the state against the violence it produces.
The Ayotzinapa Case: A Cartography of Violence
Architect and theorist Eyal Weizman, who founded Forensic Architecture in 2010, has articulated a theoretical ground for the practice through the etymological origin of forensics in ‘forensis’, Latin for ‘pertaining to the forum’. The Roman forum was a ‘multidimensional space of politics, law, and economy’, in contrast to the contemporary understanding of forensics as the application of science and medicine within the frame of a court of law. Where state agencies control the narrative, a ‘counter-forensics’ is necessary to turn the tables and use forensic tools to expose acts of violence and oppression committed by the state. This is where the ‘counter investigations’ of the exhibition’s title begin.
The subjects of these investigations – killings, disappearances, torture – are serious and disturbing (in every sense) and their results continue to challenge accounts given by state authorities, affecting legal and human rights processes, and military, parliamentary and UN inquiries.
Rafah: Black Friday
In this context exhibiting at venues such as The ICA might seem strange. But Forensic Architecture believes that evidence must be made public and liberated from the overly bureaucratised nature of the courts; it uses the ICA as an alternative forum in which civil-society investigations can be presented. The exhibition begins with an issue central to the life of all Europeans now – the question of migrants and refugees from their fate in the country of origins, through the arduous journey across the Mediterranean to the dangers they are facing in western cities.
The exhibition marks the beginning of a long-term collaboration between Forensic Architecture and the ICA. The two institutions share a commitment to a form of work that undoes the borders between journalism, theory, technology, and art – a cross-disciplinarity that mirrors that subject matter of the politics of borders and walls which its investigations confront.
Drone Strike in Miranshah
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