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First UK survey of the work of Forensic Architecture opens at the Institute of Contemporary Arts
Forensic Oceanography researchers conduct an interview with survivor Dan Haile Gebre in Milan, 21 December 2011. In this still, we see an early sketch of the chain of events map being used to help Gebre recall the events. Image: Forensic Oceanography, 2013.

LONDON.- The Institute of Contemporary Arts presents the first UK survey of the work of Forensic Architecture, an independent research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London.

The exhibition marks the beginning of a long-term collaboration between Forensic Architecture and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, extending into new areas of investigative research, and the development of a curriculum built around the methodologies and concepts that underpin the work of the agency.

‘Forensic Architecture’ is both the name of the research group established in 2010, and a form of investigative practice that traverses architectural, journalistic, legal and political fields, and moves from theoretical examination to practical application.

In recent years Forensic Architecture has undertaken a series of investigations into human rights violations and acts of state and corporate violence. These investigations have lead to the contestation of accounts of events given by state authorities, affecting legal and human rights processes, and military, parliamentary and UN inquiries. The work of the agency is grounded in the use of architecture as an ‘optical device’, employing forms of spatial and material analysis, mapping and reconstruction, and extending outwards to overlay elements of witness testimony, and the aggregative forms of visual documentation enabled by contemporary media.

The exhibition spans the Institute of Contemporary Arts’ Lower and Upper galleries as well as the Institute’s theatre. In presenting a selection of recent investigations, the exhibition provides a forum for the exposition of previously obscured evidence, and a critical examination of the theoretical and methodological ground for Forensic Architecture as a practice. The group’s investigations are presented as open-ended processes that interact with the world in which they exist, stir-up highly antagonistic responses and impact on political processes. The exhibition also becomes the physical infrastructure for a curriculum of a short course in Forensic Architecture. The individual investigations function here as anchors for public events, workshops and discussions.

Investigations presented at the Institute of Contemporary Arts include a report on the possible collusion between a member of a German domestic intelligence agency and a neo-Nazi group in the racist murder of Halit Yozgat in Kassel, 2006; a reconstruction of the Israeli forces’ bombardment of Rafah, Gaza, between 1 August and 4 August, 2014; the detailed mapping and examination of the events leading up to the 2014 attack by local police on students from the Rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa, Iguala, Mexico; and investigations into the deaths of migrants in the central Mediterranean Sea, and the subsequent evasion of responsibility for effective search and rescue operations by state and NATO coalition forces.

The exhibition and related public programmes also present new investigations, supported by the Institute of Contemporary Arts. One of these investigations stems from collaboration between Forensic Architecture and two Syrian filmmakers Amel El Zakout and Khaled Abdulwahed, themselves refugees. Amel documented her journey from the coast of Turkey to Greece, and the capsizing of the smuggler’s boat on which she and around 60 other people were travelling, through a camera attached to her wrist. Her footage and her story provides unique insight into the protocols of search and rescue operations, the complex relationship within Europe to migration, and the media coverage of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ – issues that the exhibition will present and debate.

Architect and theorist Eyal Weizman, founder of Forensic Architecture, 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. Since state agencies seek to monopolize both killing and the control of the narrative of events in zones of war and oppression, ‘counter-forensics’ must emerge to turn the state’s own means against the violence it commits.

Aesthetics sits at the centre of such an understanding, in the manner in which politics appears to us, and by which claims of truth are based on modes of representation and staging. Indeed, using models, videos, large-scale maps, graphics, and interactive platforms, the presentation of Forensic Architecture’s recent investigations at the Institute of Contemporary Arts constitutes a possible forum for counter-forensic practices, a site for the debate and pursuit of public accountability.

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