The Anthropocene Series looks at shows in the framework of the two year project launched by Haus der Kulturen der Welt, running from January 2013 to December 2014. Through a series of comprehensive exhibitions, the Anthropocene Project aims to investigate a paradigm shift in the natural sciences toward a human-centred understanding of nature.
Transposing architectural knowledge onto the terrain of biopolitics – the mechanism by which states police and govern the physical movements and life processes of their citizens (and, importantly, those without citizenship) – researchers from the Forensic Architecture project at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths College have developed a variety of international studies at the crossroads of spatial conflict and forensic inquiry. Their research aims to uncover the conditions under which material evidence is recorded and presented, in order to open new possibilties for thinking justice and legality.
At the opening of the Forensis exhibition at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in March, curators Eyal Weizman and Anselm Franke, alongside research associates from Forensic Architecture and SITU Research, provided a comprehensive 3-hour tour of the mass of materials on display. The case studies exhibited in Forensis focussed on different geographical sites, from the separation wall in Israel-Palestine to the Omarska Bosnian concentration camp, from Guatemala to the arctic regions of Northern Canada.
Many of the studies mobilize contemporary tools of forensics like 3D visualizations, satellite images, models, videos and other imaging processes (which are also commonly used as architectural tools) in the service of a renewed interest in the human-centred study of evidence. Within the context of the Anthropocene Project, the Forensis exhibition rethinks the supposed “objectivity” of forensic sciences in favour of a more multi-faceted study of the way human interpretation always impacts spatial narratives and conflicts, as well as the construction of truth.
What we gain from the exhibition, in part, is a fresh skepticism about scientific objectivity, and a recognition that visual data can be interpreted in many ways. In fact, like architecture and art practice, which often use similar technologies, forensic sciences rely on a certain aesthetic and visual language. Forensics, according to the curators and participants, is a way of creating fact through narrative presentation. The word forensis originates from Latin. It is the art of the forum: “the practice and skill of presenting an argument before a professional, political or legal gathering.” The exhibition at HKW investigates the fraught relationship between contested objects or spaces, human testimony and the social space of the forum.
A 2-day conference The Architecture of Public Truth took place on the opening weekend, with an impressive line-up of speakers. One panel discussion between Forensic Architecture project coordinator Susan Schuppli and Israeli Human Rights lawyer Michael Sfard, entitled “Anarchists against the Law,” shed light on just how influential the work of Forensic Architecture and SITU Research has been in terms of effecting actual political change. The two discussed the phenomenon of forensic warfare, or “lawfare,” and the contributions that Forensic Architecture’s visualizations made to a case against building a new section of the Israeli separation wall in Battir. Their collaborative project ‘Video-to-Space’ (presented in the exhibition hall) helped to reconstruct the scene of the 2009 killing of Palestinian Bassem Abu Rahma, one of the leaders of the unarmed struggle against the Israel West Bank Barrier. Using Forensic Architecture’s visualizations, Sfard and his legal team were able to temporarily halt the construction of the wall in the area.
A book of the research accompanying this exhibition has recently been released by Berlin-based independent art book publisher Sternberg Press. The extensive catalogue presents the work of the architects, artists, filmmakers, lawyers, and theorists who participated directly in the “Forensic Architecture” project, as well as the work of associates and guests.
Article by Alison Hugill in Berlin; Friday, Apr. 18, 2014
For more information on the Forensis catalogue: www.sternberg-press.com/pageId=1488
Alison Hugill has a Masters in Art Theory from Goldsmiths College, University of London (2011). Her research focuses on marxist-feminist politics and aesthetic theories of community, communication and communism. Alison is an editor, writer and curator based in Berlin. www.alisonhugill.com