Forensis

FORENSIS

Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin

15 March – 5 May 2014

How do mortal remains, DNA samples, and satellite images become forensic evidence? What role do imaging techniques and methods of representation play in the investigation of crimes or political acts of violence? How are objects made to speak?

The exhibition FORENSIS and the accompanying conference will explore the procedures, tools, and spatial arrangements used in forensics, as well as the potential of a new aesthetic-political practice. With this exhibition, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt devotes itself to the rapidly expanding field of artistic research and knowledge production and, through diverse examples, examines the interleaving of science, media, and the political sphere.

Curated by Anselm Franke and Eyal Weizman.

FORENSIS is a co-production by Haus der Kulturen der Welt, funded by the Capital Cultural Fund, and by Forensic Architecture, ERC-funded research project based at Goldsmiths, University of London.

In the framework of “The Anthropocene Project” (2013–14)

Contributors

  • Lawrence Abu Hamdan
  • Nabil Ahmed
  • Maayan Amir
  • Anthropocene Observatory (Anselm Franke, Armin Linke, Territorial Agency/John Palmesino and Ann-Sofi Rönnskog)
  • Jacob Burns
  • Gabriel Cuéllar
  • DAAR (Alessandro Petti, Sandi Hilal, Eyal Weizman)
  • Forensic Oceanography (Charles Heller, Lorenzo Pezzani)
  • Grupa Spomenik (Damir Arsenijević, Ana Bezić, Pavle Levi, Jelena Petrović, Branimir Stojanović, Milica Tomić)
  • Ayesha Hameed
  • Samir Harb
  • Helene Kazan
  • Thomas Keenan
  • Steffen Kraemer
  • Adrian Lahoud
  • Model Court (Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Lorenzo Pezzani, Oliver Rees)
  • Modelling Kivalina (Andrea Bagnato, Daniel Fernández Pascual, Helene Kazan, Hannah Meszaros Martin, Alon Schwabe)
  • Gerald Nestler
  • Godofredo Pereira
  • Nicola Perugini
  • ScanLAB Projects (Matthew Shaw, William Trossell)
  • Susan Schuppli
  • Francesco Sebregondi
  • Shela Sheikh
  • SITU Research (Robert Beach, McKenna Cole, Therese Diede, Akshay Mehra, Charles-Antoine Perrault, Bradley Samuels, Xiaowei Wang)
  • Caroline Sturdy Colls
  • Paulo Tavares
  • Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss/NAO
  • Eyal Weizman
  • Ines Weizman

Related publication

FORENSIS: The Architecture of Public Truth

Edited by Forensic Architecture
Sternberg Press, 2014

Related conference

The Architecture of Public Truth

Conference at HKW (Berlin)
15 – 16 March 2014

Press

Editorial

Forensis is Latin for “pertaining to the forum” and is the root of the term forensics. The roman forum was a multi-dimensional space of negotiation and truth-finding in which humans and objects participated together in politics, law, and the economy. With the advent of modernity, the meaning of forensics shifted to refer increasingly to the domain of law, and particularly to the use of medicine—and later science more generally—in the courts. Today, forensics is central to the ways by which states police and govern their subjects, and, through its popular representations, has become a defining feature of contemporary culture.

By returning to the wider concept of forensis, this exhibition seeks to unlock the potential of forensics as a political practice. Inverting the direction of the forensic gaze, it seeks to designate a field of action in which individuals and independent organizations can detect, represent, and confront abuses of power by states and corporations in situations that have a bearing upon political struggle, violent conflict, and climate change.

This exhibition presents the work of the architects, artists, filmmakers, and theorists who make up the Forensic Architecture project at the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, as well as that of its close collaborators and guests. It includes forensic investigations that seek to provide new kinds of evidence for international prosecution teams, political organizations, NGOs, and the United Nations (these interventions are designated in the exhibition by the term CASE). Additionally, the show features critical examinations of the history and present status of forensics in rearticulating notions of public truth (designated by the term FILE).

As it explores the development and transformation of forensis, the exhibition traverses multiple scales: from the human body, through buildings, territories, and seas, all the way up to the scale of the planet—the ultimate forensic object that human-induced change, articulated by the concept of the anthropocene, has transformed into both a construction site and a ruin.

Selected installation views from the opening of Forensis, 14 March 2014. © Laura Fiorio/Haus der Kulturen der Welt

RESOLUTION 978 HD

Resolution 978 HD

Gasworks, London

10 May 2013 – 7 July 2013

Model Court, realized with the support of Forensic Architecture

From the press release: “Gasworks presents an exhibition by London-based artists and researchers Model Court, an ongoing collaboration between Lawrence Abu HamdanSidsel Meineche HansenLorenzo Pezzani and Oliver Rees. Using video, sound, drawing and installation, their group work interrogates the production, dissemination and transmission of the law, exploring how images and representations serve to complicate the production of legal space and the borders between nations.

Their exhibition at Gasworks comprises a newly commissioned film and installation focusing on the recently concluded trial of François Bazaramba, a Rwandan national convicted of genocide by a small district court in the Finnish town of Porvoo. During the proceedings, Bazaramba was held in Finland and became a Skype participant in his own trial whilst the judges and prosecutors travelled to Rwanda and Tanzania to set up court. Owing to its use of telepresence technologies, this trial provides an unparalleled case study for understanding the relationship between media technologies and the principle of ‘universal jurisdiction’ – whereby states or organisations can claim criminal jurisdiction over accused subjects regardless of their nationality or where an alleged crime was committed. To what extent do emerging technologies displace the process of justice? How do images approximate bodies? And how do fibre optic cables and video conferencing software such as Skype produce unexpected political connections?

Written from the perspective of an unnamed technician responsible for the audio-visual setup of Bazaramba’s trial, Model Court’s film uses a semi-fictional narrative to explore the trial’s relationship to notions of aid, neo-colonialism and the production of history. Housed within an installation that engages with the court’s official and unofficial photographic material, the film critically examines the complex and often dysfunctional audio-visual infrastructure used to bridge the jurisdictional divide.

Taken together, the film, installation and an accompanying series of events aim to interrogate this extraordinary yet naïve attempt by a regional Finnish court to intervene in a genocide that took place many miles and years away. The intention is not to present a history of Rwanda or to contest the culpability of Francois Bazaramba, but rather to tell a story about the transmission of one legal space into another, engaging with the cultural specificity of ‘international’ justice and its vision for Africa (so far the only continent to have been investigated by the International Criminal Court).”

 

The Freedom of Speech Itself

The Freedom of Speech Itself

The Showroom, London
1 Febrary – 17 March 2012
Lawrence Abu Hamdan

Since 2010, The Showroom has been working with the artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan on the ongoing research project Aural Contract, commissioned as part of the gallery’s participatory programme Communal Knowledge. Here the exhibition presents the most recent stages of the project as an installation featuring a new commission The Freedom of Speech Itself, excerpts from Abu Hamdan’s audio archive, and a workshop led by the artist on Harold Pinter’s play Mountain Language. To accompany the exhibition is a series of events titled The Right to Silence that focus on the legal status of the voice, programmed in collaboration with Electra.

The Freedom of Speech Itself is an audio documentary looking at the the history and contemporary application of forensic speech analysis and voice-prints, focusing on the UK’s controversial use of voice analysis to determine the origins and authenticity of asylum seekers’ accents. Testimonies from lawyers, phonetic experts, asylum seekers and Home Office officials reveal the geo-politics of accents and the practice of listening that led to shocking stories of wrongful deportations. When combined with the experimental audio composition these interviews are designed to fully immerse the listener in the heart of a discussion that profoundly problematises the nature of listening, forensics, free speech, migration, borders and the law.

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Mengele’s Skull


 

Selected views of the exhibition:

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COMMON ASSEMBLY

Common Assembly

Nottingham Contemporary (Nottingham)

28 January – 15 April 2012

DAAR: Decolonizing Architecture/Art Residency (Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, and Eyal Weizman)

Also on display at The James Gallery (New York)
15 March – 2 June 2012

Decolonizing Architecture/Art Residency (DAAR) is an art and architecture collective set up by Alessandro Petti, Sandi Hilal and Eyal Weizman, based in Palestine. Their work is a critical examination of the role played by architecture in the occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Their work imagines the “decolonization” of Palestine through new uses for oppressive Israeli infrastructure. The evacuated Israeli military fortress of Oush Grab becomes a public park and a haven for starlings, storks and birds of prey that use the site to rest while migrating – birds recognise no national boundaries. A surburban-looking Israeli settlement – one of many heavily guarded hilltop outposts aggressively encroaching on Palestinian territories in the guise of innocent family dwellings – is redesigned as an interconnected community living space.

The centrepiece of their exhibition is a life-sized section through the abandoned Palestinian Parliament in a suburb of Jerusalem – a parliament that has never been used. Construction started during the 1996 Oslo Accord when peace seemed possible and was halted in 2003 after the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, marked the failure of the political process.

The project began with the discovery that – mistakenly or intentionally – the building was constructed on Israel’s unilaterally declared border within Jerusalem. The parliament is partly within Israeli territory and partly within Palestinian controlled land – a small strip, no wider than the border line, is in legal limbo.

DAAR will build the section of the abandoned Palestine Parliament that the border line crosses in three dimensions. This suspended and elongated structure will act as a forum for debate on the future of Palestine during the exhibition.

How can political participation be organised for a partially exiled and geographically dispersed people? Palestine’s complex and developing nationhood offers the opportunity to think beyond the nation state as conceived and imposed by former European colonial powers.

DAAR projects have been shown at the Venice and Istanbul Biennales, Tate in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, among many others. In 2010 DAAR was awarded the Prince Claus Prize for Architecture.

Common Assembly is a project by Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, Eyal Weizman, Nicola Perugini with Yazeed Anani, Nishat Awan, Ghassan Bannoura, Benoit Burquel, Suzy Harris-Brandts, Runa Johannessen, Zografia Karekou, Cressida Kocienski, Lejla Odobasic, Carina Ottino, Elizabeth Paden, Sameena Sitabkhan, Amy Zion.

Selected views of the exhibition:

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Face Scripting: What did the building see?

Face Scripting: What did the building see?

Sharjah Biennal 10
16 March – 16 May 2011
Shumon Basar, Eyal Weizman, Jane & Louise Wilson

Between 8pm and 9pm on 19th of January 2010, Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mahbouh was killed in room 230 of Al Bustan Rotana Hotel, Dubai. A month later the Dubai Police released a video composed of footage from hundreds of surveillance cameras in Dubai’s airport, shopping malls and hotels that traces the assassination to Mossad agents. Since its broadcast on YouTube, that video has been seen by countless viewers across the globe. It operated as an agent in a murder investigation. Face Scripting is a story, made a year later, that ghosts the Dubai Police’s forensic film. It rehearses the generic architectural syntax of hotel rooms, corridors, and lobbies – those thresholds of blank transition. It also investigates the algorithmic technology of face recognition where unique individuals are identified from the blankness of crowds. This is not a documentary, just one combination culled from an infinite possibility of possible scenarios.

Face Scripting: What Did the Building See?, 2011, single screen projection, surround sound, gauze box: 900x600cm, 2 mirrors: 300x380cm each, 1 HD projector, CCTV monitor, Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation and co-produced by the Farook Foundation with support from Luis Augusto Teixeira de Freitas and Mohammed Abdulkader Hafiz

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Addendum by Eyal Weizman:

The film, made with Shumon Basar and Jane and Louise Wilson for the Sharjah Biennial of 2011, dealt with the investigation of the assassination in Dubai of Hamas operative Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in January 2009. The subject of our film was “the story of the story” – it was an examination of the forensic investigation of the Dubai Police’s work.

Here are the basic facts of the story as we unpacked them in the film: The body of al-Mahbouh was discovered on the 19th of July in Al Bustan Rotana Hotel, Dubai. Within 24 hours, the Dubai authorities released a list of suspects, most of them carrying European passports, along with their photos. Three weeks later, Chief of Dubai Police, Dhahi Khalfan Tamin released a video, which was put online, associating Mossad with the killing. The film was co-produced with the Dubai Media Office, the same agency that has promoted Dubai’s brand of real estate development. The film was edited and inter-titled like a murder mystery.

Rather than keep this comprehensive real-time evidence secretly filed in an archive until the conclusion of the investigation, or until legal charges are brought forth, Tamin chose to spectacularized it. The film was indeed fascinating. Since its broadcast on YouTube the video has been seen by millions of viewers across the globe. The power of its evidence was in its becoming infotainment. Crowd sourcing meant that journalists, bloggers and other citizens started to fill in the gaps the film left out, extending the reach of Dubai police. It was once more a demonstration that the principle of diffusion of neo-liberal security is more effective than the intimidating policing and investigative techniques of authoritarian regimes.

The video was composed of footage from hundreds of surveillance cameras in Dubai’s airport, shopping malls and hotels that traced the supposed movement of the assassination squad. The 29 minute long video described the 19 hours leading up to the assassination through the arrival, meeting, movement and exiting of up to 26 different characters – dressed as business men and women, tourists, tennis players. The members of the assassination team are seen arriving separately at the Dubai Airport, casually going through passport control and baggage security, checking into different luxury hotels, gathering in a shopping mall, moving onto another hotel, tracking and following the victim through the lobby, reception, elevators and corridors, some of them changing costumes and wigs, wearing different make up, entering into the hotel room where the dead body of al-Mabhouh was later found, leaving this room, checking out and flying off to different places world wide. It takes the viewer through a series of non-spaces, generic interiors of flow and transit: an interconnected spatial continuum of air-conditioned interior spaces that seems to have no outside. All shots are interior shots. Incidentally, we noticed, the interior of room 230 — the room in which the assassination took place — was the only space not captured on film.

The assassination squad was recorded every time they entered and exited a fold within this space – the cameras being located at the transition between them. So in a sense one could say that these traversals sequenced the video. Doors of different kinds – airport doors, revolving doors at the entrance of hotel lobbies, sliding glass doors at a shopping mall, mirrored doors of an elevator – made the edits. If architecture could be understood an editing machine the door was the cutting blade, we thought.

Face recognition software identified the people involved. The film was thus the result of the intersection of architectural syntax and facial singularities, a narrative flows between spaces and faces, so to say.

Practically, the Dubai police force, extracting data from the face recognition software arrived at the assumed identity of a few suspects. Running backwards, every intersection between two or more agents gave the algorithm scanning the films another line of inquiry. They could thus track the new faces in the crowd until they were meeting further suspects, generating another bifurcation in the investigation. And this bifurcation network might continue ad-infinitum because every time those agents will meet colleagues in Dubai or any other country, more agents will be identified. The entire network had to be dissolved.

Face recognition software was essential because it automated the otherwise manual work of searching for and detecting a single or few faces amongst crowds adding to millions registered on tens of thousands of cameras.

The technology of face recognition was introduced into the princely for dealing with it enormous labor force. It seems that in this city-state, whether you are a tourist or a worker, you clock in and out looking at the camera.

Contemporary facial recognition software, such as those used by the Dubai Police, combine two algorithms: geometric, which looks at the physicality of the head as a three dimensional object – and photometric which studies the image of the face and compares its properties with photographs of faces to eliminate or search for variations. The first concentrate on the underlying skull and the second of the face. Analyzing an image, the geometric algorithm calculates the relative position, size and shape of the eye sockets, nose, nose-bridge, cheekbones, forehead, brain-casing and jaws; it looks for the morphology of the skull under the shadow of the skin.

In detecting and tracing the geometry of the skull only the relevant features from each face/skull were saved, so that the face/skull data could be compressed like a jpg… The useful bits for identification are called “diagnostic fragments” – the rest is deleted. These diagnostic fragments are used to compare with other face/skulls within crowds for matching features.

Because the geometric algorithm extracts the main formal landmarks of the shape of the underlying skull from an image of the subject’s face, it may be seen as the inversion of the ‘skull face superimposition’ that Thomas Keenan and I described in our book on Mengele. Perhaps it is in fact a double inversion, alternately striping and buildings the face from the skull. The advantage is that the skull – unlike the skin – cannot be tempered with, painted, made up stretched or distorted –techniques that are used for camouflaging and are likely to confuse the algorithm.

Camouflage distorts or breaks the form of that which it seeks to hide. Uniform camouflage breaks the unity of the body just like ‘dazzle camouflage’ broke up the visual cohesiveness of warships in World War I. Facial camouflage is directed not (only) at the naked eye but at the recognition capacity of the algorithm. It is usually achieved by special patterns of makeup that deepens or widens the shadow on a person’s face, thus distorting its true depth of its ‘topography’, In this way the shape of the skull could no longer be extracted from the image of the face. Sometimes a strategically-placed sticker, thick eyewear, a band aid, or a beauty mark can do the same job. The person camouflaging should know what is the algorithm doing the identification, so as to attempt to escape it. In the case of the assassins there were analogue camouflaging technique, made to evade digital identification. They sometimes looked like a pixilated equivalence of primitive masks.

In these examinations, it was of course not about the single skull and its morphology, but about a network assembled through it. It is connections and patterns that need to be demonstrated, and this requires a multiplicity of skulls and the connection between them.

Eyal Weizman’s contribution, as one of four authors of this piece, derives from and is connected to the Forensic Architecture project.

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Krimiseries: Evidence, Narrative and the Forensic Imagination

Krimiseries: Evidence, Narrative and the Forensic Imagination

Museum London, London, ON
26 June – 26 September 2010
Mac Adams, Deimantas Narkevicius, Raqs Media Collective, Susan Schuppli, Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock

Curated by Shauna McCabe

While the intensification of forensic detail in contemporary media has dramatized renewed conviction in the infallibility of science, popular consciousness has simultaneously sustained a deepening scepticism of claims to objective truth. Reflecting multiple excavations of meaning, whether popular genres or the expanding field of scientific and historical reinterpretations – all highlight a broad slippage of codes, or at least, their ciphers. Within a post-symbolic climate, “crime-solving” has become a central cultural trope. Krimiseries highlights a series of contemporary installations that reflect this attentiveness to documentary evidence and the potential for latent meaning. Curated by Shauna McCabe, the projects of Raqs Media Collective (IN), Deimantas Narkevicius (LT), Stih & Schnock (DE), Mac Adams (US), and Susan Schuppli (CA) take as their impetus a shared critical stance, seeking to underscore the elusiveness of meaning and contingency of interpretation. Each work suggests lingering ambiguity, subtly transposing detection and reconstruction as methodologies within creative practice. Subjecting visual and semiotic givens to scrutiny in order to recount more existential mysteries, each work reflects a broader forensic impulse. Working with elements of myth, memory and imagination, the artists engage nested perceptual imaginaries within cultural fragments. As much poetic as empirical, the forensic imagination revealed imbues evidence with story, highlighting the ways in which both fiction and fact are socially constructed.

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Re-enactment of the Rose Mary Woods “Stretch: By Various Secretaries.”

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18-1/2 minutes of silence in Tape 342 represented as a audio wave file.

Projects: The work of Welsh-born, New York-based artist Mac Adams spans photography, sculpture, and public installation. Adams has often used idioms of popular gothic and noir genres to foreground deep-seated semiotics and possibilities for contradictory, unresolved interpretations. The photographic diptychs from the Mysteries series (1974-81) featured in Krimiseries use techniques of juxtaposition and allegory to convey their theme – violence – and involve the viewer as witness and participant in the reconstruction of event, chronology, and possible crime.

Berlin-based Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock have produced an interdisciplinary body of work engaging questions of collective memory, history and social justice. Much of their work explores how memory functions in the public sphere, in projects like Places of Remembrance (1993), Bus Stop (1994/95), Show Your Collection (2008) and The Art of Collecting – Flick in Berlin (2004). In their current installation, Traces, they work with the collection of Museum London to explore the potential of cultural artefacts to suggest narrative and plot, and activate associations of excessive and obsessive energy.

Working within the domains of video, sound, and interactive media, Canadian artist Susan Schuppli examines new or alternate understandings of relationships between historical media artefacts and events. Her installation Stretch (2008) focuses on the missing or ‘silent’ erasure of 18-½ minutes in Watergate Tape No. 342, addressing ways in which material evidence can offer alternate witness statements to the histories into which they had previously been embedded, producing, in effect, different socio-political configurations.

Lithuanian artist Deimantas Narkevicius has consistently tested the communicative possibilities of film, generating distinctively poetic documentary forms. Connecting past to present, history with personal testimony, Disappearance of a Tribe (2005) presents a cinematic assemblage of black and white photographs depicting his late father. Narkevicius transcends the everyday and biographical with a sense of deeper investigation, remixing documentary material to reassess narratives of modern history and collective identities.

Raqs Media Collective was established in Delhi in 1991 by Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta. While their artistic, curatorial and media practices have become increasingly hybridized, a key concern persists – the creative exploration of open-ended, complex forms of documentation. Initially exhibited at the 2003 Venice Biennale, the five-screen video and sound installation Five Pieces of Evidence subverts expectations of a straightforward crime story, integrating facets of missing persons, street maps, urban myths, and global networks to evoke a sense of multiple, shifting intensities of the city and the elusiveness of simple resolution.