The exhibition is supported by the EU’s Culture Programme within the framework of L’Internationale, a museum network whose members will open exhibitions simultaneously. Inaugural events will be streamed live. Inaugural discussion between investigative judge Baltasar Garzón, his collaborator Manuel Vergara, former Middle East correspondent for TVE, Yolanda Álvarez,and Eyal Weizman and Rosario Güiraldes (FA) on the use of evidence, activism, the law and politics in the so-called age of post-truth.
“Forensic Architecture. Towards an Investigative Aesthetics”
April 28 – October 15, 2017
MACBA (Contemporary Art Museum of Barcelona)
Plaça dels Àngels, 1
‘Architecture’? ‘Forensic’? These are terms that, when brought together, shift each other’s meaning, giving rise to a different mode of practice. In 2010, Eyal Weizman (Haifa, 1970) created the Forensic Architecture (FA) research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London. It brings together archives of evidence on contemporary conflicts, creating new analysis methodologies as a form of political intervention in the field of human rights. It is formed by a multidisciplinary team of architects, artists, activists, scientists, lawyers and filmmakers who work to uncover State violence by confronting facts with official accounts. To do this they expand architecture beyond its own limits. Architecture, understood as a ‘political visual form’ using buildings as sensors that accumulate information in their material deformation, is being asked here to include forensic practices.
For example, in wars that have become an urban conflict, the cloud created by a bomb is considered as a building in a gaseous state. It is composed of the materials that formed the building (concrete, plaster, fabric, human remains…) and provides valuable information to synthesise events in space and time. Through models, video analysis, new technologies, interactive cartographies and other resources, FA reconstruct events independently or at the request of various NGOs, such as Amnesty International. U.S. drone attacks on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border; the Saydnaya torture prison in Syria; the Battle of Rafah in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip in 2014 – the most important evidence of which were the videos recorded by the native population – or research into the rights of nature and animals and the line separating them from human beings, are some of the cases they have pursued.
Forensic architecture can also be understood as the creation of forums or courts. The latter do not necessarily exist before the crime is committed, but are often founded after having the evidence. When judicial channels are exhausted or inaccessible, other forums in the public space become necessary to expose their own conclusions through the media, UN assemblies, activist meetings or exhibitions in museums.
TOWARDS AN INVESTIGATIVE AESTHETICS
What is the role of ‘aesthetics’? This ‘forensic aesthetics’ includes detailed attention to the image, the context, the detail… Those in FA who come from an art background contribute a type of sensitivity and attention that helps to decode the images. They are specialists in visual forms and facts, and have the capacity to understand and shape visual signs. The idea of truth that they pursue is not positivist, but rather a truth that is constructed pragmatically with all the problems of representation. The production of evidence depends on aesthetics, presentation and representation. ‘FA’s purpose is to use aesthetics as a way of intensifying the research process by opening the senses and increasing our sensitivity to space, matter, stories and images.’
The wall traversing the exhibition across three sections (Proposition, Investigations, Centre for Contemporary Nature) has been conceived as an essay that echoes the investigations included in the galleries, presenting the kind of theoretical and methodological reflection that contemporary investigative aesthetics demands today.
Proposition unpacks the theoretical and historical framework within which the practice of Forensic Architecture operates. It outlines the methods, assumptions and critical vocabulary relevant to the field, while also elaborating its constraints, potential problems and double binds. Investigations features a detailed elaboration of a selection of recent cases undertaken by Forensic Architecture and its collaborators. It includes responses, denials and attacks that the work has engendered. Finally, Centre for Contemporary Nature presents investigations that interrogate the threshold between human violence and the environment, especially along the global forest line of the tropics.