Archaeology of Violence

ARCHAEOLOGY OF VIOLENCE

THE FOREST AS EVIDENCE

In 2012, nearly three decades after its transition to democracy, Brazil’s truth commission was established to investigate State crimes between 1946 and 1988.

One of the most contentious issues examined refers to the violence inflicted upon the indigenous peoples of Brazil after the US sponsored coup of 1964. This situation was particularly acute in Amazonia, where large-scale programs of development and resource exploitation were implemented on native habitat.

The investigation uses remote sensing techniques to locate the village clusters of the indigenous Waimiri-Atroari people, nearly exterminated in the 1970s.

Differentiating old-growth from young forests that overgrown on village ruins, the images manifest the way in which the botanical composition of the forest can be read as archaeological evidences. The cartographies presented here interpret Amazonia as a “constructed landscape”, an environment historically shaped by political and cultural forces.

Researchers

Paulo Tavares

“OPERATION AMAZONIA”

In 1966, the government launched “Operation Amazonia”, a large-scale program of regional development that sought to convert practically the entire Amazon Basin into a vast frontier of resource extraction and agricultural colonization. Aided by cold war mapping and imaging technologies, Amazonia was visualized as a deep territory upon which governmental decisions and grand planning strategies would be projected, leading to dramatic changes in both its natural and social landscapes.

Territorial Design: the continental urban-matrix as planned in the Plan for National Integration (map by INCRA, 1971). These macro-strategies completely reconfigured the map of Amazonia.

The Trans-Amazon Highway under construction, Magazine Manchete, 1973.

The Trans-Amazon Highway under construction, Magazine Manchete, 1973.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEEP CARTOGRAPHY

In order to identify zones of strategic resources, a large-scale mapping survey named Radar Amazonia — or RADAM — was initiated in the early 70s. Employing radar-based remote sensing technologies firstly used in the Vietnam War, RADAM was responsible to produce the first detailed biophysical and geological inventory of Amazonia, and completely altered the ways by which Amazonia was visualized, interpreted and intervened upon. Pages extracted from RADAM’s geological inventory for the region of the city of Manaus.

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Radar-imaging map extracted from RADAM’s geological inventory for the region of the city of Manaus.

 

 

PACIFICATION

The “Service for the Protection of the Indian” (SPI) was a state agency created in 1910 to establish “peaceful contact” with indigenous groups and oversee their welfare. The SPI employed a similar strategy to the colonial ‘reductions’, concentrating indigenous groups in “Posts of Attraction”, which later turned into agricultural colonies where the Indians were gradually “nationalized”.

The agency founding ethos was simultaneously pacifist and expansionist, humanitarian and governmental, ideologically opposed to the extermination of the Indians while at the same time serving as one of the most efficient mechanisms to open up their lands for colonization. By late the 1960s, when the SPI was composed of a network of more than a hundred posts distributed throughout the Brazilian territory the agency has become complicit in the extermination of indigenous groups.

Pacifist and Expansionist: the indigenist Nilo Oliveira Vellozo, at that time head of the research bureau of the SPI, distributes gifts to Kuikuro indians during a mission to the Culuene River basin in the state of Mato Grosso, southern Amazonia, 1944. Gift-giving was a widely used tactics to make contact with “hostile” indigenous groups.

Pacifist and Expansionist: the indigenist Nilo Oliveira Vellozo, at that time head of the research bureau of the SPI, distributes gifts to Kuikuro indians during a mission to the Culuene River basin in the state of Mato Grosso, southern Amazonia, 1944. Gift-giving was a widely used tactics to make contact with “hostile” indigenous groups.

Protectionist Intervention: map of the network of outposts and bases of the SPI in 1946 (courtesy of Museu do Índio, Rio de Janeiro).

Protectionist Intervention: map of the network of outposts and bases of the SPI in 1946 (courtesy of Museu do Índio, Rio de Janeiro).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOTANICAL ARCHAEOLOGY OF GENOCIDE

Located just a few hundred kilometers to the north of the city of Manaus the territory of the Waimiri-Atroari was subjected to a series of violent raids during the nineteenth century. Rich in mineral resources, this zone was defined as a central ‘pole of development’ within the planning schemes designed for Amazonia.

Between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, it is estimated that nearly two thousand Waimiri-Atroari disappeared, either because of direct action of military forces, (who were responsible to conduct the road-building works), or indirectly through the deadly epidemics brought by workers and settlers. By 1984, when Brazil was entering into civilian rule, 321 Waimiri-Atroari have survived.

Waimiri Atroari Attraction Front: Pages extracted from the plan of pacification of the Waimiri-Atroari designed by father João Giovanni Calleri in 1968 after an identification flight over the Alalaú, Abonari and Uatumã Rivers

Waimiri Atroari Attraction Front: Pages extracted from the plan of pacification of the Waimiri-Atroari designed by father João Giovanni Calleri in 1968 after an identification flight over the Alalaú, Abonari and Uatumã Rivers

“PACIFICATION” OF THE WAIMIRI-ATROARI: Relocation of villagers conducted by the Waimiri Atroari Attraction Front (FAWA)

Map of forced removals and re-settlement of indigenous villages conducted by the Waimiri Atroari Attraction Front (FAWA)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before the massive population depletion and the subsequent process of directed re-settlement conducted by FAWA in the late 70s and early 80s, the spatial organization of the Waimiri Atroari territory could be described as being similar to other Carib groups of the Guiana shield such as the Yanomami and the Akawaio.

Networks of small and autonomous villages were distributed throughout the margins of the tributaries of the Camanaú, Alalaú and Abonari Rivers, forming larger clusters interconnected by several pathways.

Rigorously geometric, the architecture of the villages was formed by a communal house, circular or oval in shape and extending up to 18/20 meters in diameter, situated at the centre of a larger ellipsoid plaza surrounded by gardens of fruit and nut trees and fields of swidden agriculture. Clearings were gradually expanded around the central nucleus, encircling the village within another ring that could reach over hundred of metres.

Villages were periodically abandoned and moved to different areas, performing a constant movement through the forest landscape. Fallow swiddens tend to re-attract quantities of game and concentrate species of fruit trees and medicinal plants, so the abandoned villages continue to be utilized for several years. Archaeological evidences also demonstrate that most probably the new settlement is located within an area that had been inhabited in the past, since sites of ancient indigenous occupation in Amazonia, which are characterized by the presence of a black soil of anthropogenic nature known as “dark earths”, are extremely fertile and indigenous peoples can identify this.

The nomadic architecture of the mydy taha with its multiple rings of swiddens, gardens and fallows––the historical movement of occupation and abandonment, forest clearings and re-growth performed by the Waimiri Atroari villages––left a traceable footprint in the landscape, whose archaeological record can be identified in the botanical structure of the forest. These secondary forest formations, which began to grow in the 1970s, when the violence was most intense, evidence the location of villages that were destroyed or forcibly evicted.

Second-forest age mapping identifying anthropogenic interventions in the botanical structure of the forest

Second-forest age mapping identifying anthropogenic interventions in the botanical structure of the forest

A potential map of Waimiri Atroari village clusters that existed before the violence in the region of the upper Alalaú River.

A potential map of Waimiri Atroari village clusters that existed before the violence in the region of the upper Alalaú River.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE FOREST

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The apparent impossibility of finding architectural records of the Waimiri Atroari settlements, the seeming disappearance of their villages into the forest, requires a shift in the methods of reading the terrain and harvesting spatial data. For rather than leaving no ruins, it is the very nature of the ruins that is radically different from traditional archaeological evidences. When the forest is interpreted as an archaeological resource on its own terms, and patterns of distribution and composition of the living vegetation are read as inscriptions of social-political history, the architecture of the villages erased by the politics of pacification appear registered in the forest fabric. Their geography demonstrates that the Brazilian State was not intervening upon an empty territory, thereby revealing the existence of a planned strategy aimed at disrupting, transforming and annihilating modes of inhabiting the forest that were considered inimical to the project of national development.

This cartography also uncovers an image of Amazonia that radically opposes the colonial ideology fostered by the military regime, according to which the forest was a de-populated, underdeveloped, primitive territory. This ideological edifice was inherited from evolutionist descriptions that portrayed Amazonia as a pristine natural environment inhabited by collectives that were incapable of transforming the landscape, but instead of a lack of traces of anthropogenic interventions in the landscape, this botanical archaeology of genocide show signatures of highly manipulated environments. The violent reconfiguration of the socio-ecological architecture of the forest was the means by which the state assumed tighter control over the Waimiri Atroari territory, and despite the lack of all other possible forms of evidence, the history of the violence and its victims survive in the memory of the living forests of Amazonia.

 

Chechnya Album

CHECHNYA ALBUM

OCTOBER 1999-JANUARY 2001

At first it looks just like a tourist’s album, the kind of book full of souvenir photos that people used to put together after a holiday, before the world went digital, to show friends and family. The photos are glossy, badly glued, deforming the pages a bit; the captions are meticulously scrawled, the dates precise. There’s the usual mix of images: landscapes, skies, buildings; pictures of friends, of slightly remarkable events, of happy moments, of the tourist himself posing in front of a landmark. Nothing special.

It’s true though that the buildings are a mess, and the natives seem armed to the teeth. For these are photos of war, of the Second Chechen War, as it’s known. And most of the photographs document the appalling destruction wrought upon Groznyi and other villages by the intense Russian bombardments that began in September 1999 and continued, without cease, through March or April 2000. Yet in contrast with the horrors depicted in some photographs, the sheer banality of the others, of the album itself, is grating. It is true that even in a war there are quiet moments, moments of pleasure with friends, of soft irony, of beauty even, and these, on occasion, also get photographed. And then again, the album was never meant to be public.

During the First War, in 1996, I lived for six months in Groznyi (I was working for the French aid agency Action contre la Faim), and I didn’t take a single picture. I didn’t believe in cameras then, only in memory, and other than a handful of photos made by some friends, or those published by journalists, I have no images of that war. The second time around, when I returned in 1999, something had changed; but what? I am not sure. I didn’t yet have children, that immense generator of photographs; probably my bosses back in Paris asked me for pictures, so they could visualize what was going on. I was working for the same aid agency as the first time around, we were trying to get in-country to distribute aid, and because of the risks, hardly any foreigners actually entered Chechnya; my superiors knew they never would (although my desk officer, shown in a couple of pictures, finally did come for a visit, in June 2000).

The photos documenting the destruction—the reason the album has been included here—were taken fairly systematically, neighborhood by neighborhood, roll after roll (small APS capsules actually, the last new film format before digital), and developed and stored in boxes specially conceived for the panoramic format. However, except for the photos related to the Aldi massacre, taken at the request of Human Rights Watch, their objective was not human rights, nor politics. One important stake, at the time, was guessing the number of people who had returned to live in the ruins. The authorities, by mid-2000, claimed that some 100,000 people lived in the city, which had a direct incidence on the amount of food and other aid the UN and the NGOs would provide. Our visual estimations of the level of destruction made these claims ridiculous: the buildings left standing, at that time, couldn’t have housed more than 20,000 people, in the whole city. And the photographs showed this to the UN and European officials who signed off on the programs without ever visiting Chechnya.

Next to that, there was the natural impulse to document our programs—the distributions, the beneficiaries, the obstacles (checkpoints), the field trips. Then there were the photos taken as souvenirs, of friends and colleagues. Most of these have been blanked out here: except for my colleague Shamil Dachaev, murdered in 2001 as I recall, the others are still living in Chechnya, and being shown here could conceivably put them at risk. The city and the villages, since 2000, may have been rebuilt, but the violence remains, just below the surface.

The album came much later. It was a convenient way to select and organize the best photos, to caption then, probably with my children in mind, just in case I wasn’t around when they grew up to show them these images myself. I enjoyed making it. And then, with its neatly organized mix of scenes, people and scenery, it landed on a shelf, where it’s been gathering dust ever since. Just like any tourist’s album.

Photographer & Writer

Jonathan Littell

Interview and Assistance

Andrea Bagnato

Translator

Charlotte Mandell

During the Second Chechen War (which began in 1999 and tapered out around 2005), because of the kidnappings, all the NGOs were based in Nazran, which was the capital of the neighboring Republic of Ingushetia. We had police escorts when in Ingushetia and we travelled in and out of Chechnya; we never really slept over. My organization, Action Against Hunger (Action Contre la Faim, ACF), was one of the only two—the other being Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)—that didn’t take escorts into Chechnya, for reasons of objectivity and neutrality.

The checkpoint in the image at the top is at the crossroads between the main highway, which is called the Rostov-Baku Tras, and the intersections to Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya. [These were the two places where we started working: the first two villages right over the border, administratively inside Chechnya.] And this was a checkpoint of Cossacks, as they indicate: “DONtsy” means Don Cossacks, and they have this lovely graffiti, “Terrorism is a disease, but we, DONtsy, are going to cure it.” The bottom photo shows a checkpoint—they had a checkpoint about every kilometre on the Tras. From the border to Groznyi you had to go, if I remember correctly, through 31 checkpoints, all similar to the type you see in the picture here. And so this bottom one is pretty representative. The checkpoint is actually a fortified camp, because they got attacked at night, so they’ve got concrete blocks around it, and tanks. And in each checkpoint they were racketing all the people going through. We didn’t pay because we had official papers, we were an NGO, but all the civilians going through the checkpoints had to pay 10 rubles a head per checkpoint, which means 300 rubles to get from the border to Groznyi. The money was being passed up through the chain of command, up to the Ministry of Interior general who was in charge of all the checkpoints in Chechnya. He was making, according to what we were told at the time, a million dollars a month from this. Obviously everybody along the chain of command was keeping a cut, but the general at the top got a million dollars a month, which is pretty typical of the way the war was run in Chechnya.

There was a major episode at the beginning of February 2000 where 3,000 fighters retreated from Groznyi through the town of Alkhan-Kala, immediately to its west: they were trapped there, they went through minefields, many died or were wounded in the minefields, the Russians were waiting for them and bombed them, and then they had to go further west towards the big forest called the Samashki Forest, and they hid a bit in the forest and then cut through Shaami-Yurt, Katyr-Yurt and Gekhi-Chu, to escape up into the mountains. And as they were moving in groups of 20, 50, or 100 men, the Russians were just pounding all the villages along the way with heavy field artillery and aviation, mostly field artillery.

One of the main clues to this kind of destruction is the roofs. You see the roofs have been blown off, the metal sheeting of the roof, but the wooden structure is still intact. That is typical of destruction by artillery and aerial bombardment, where it’s mostly the blast effect that blows the sheeting off the roofs. In the other photos you’re going to see buildings that have no wooden structure left on top. Those buildings were burned by the soldiers when they entered the village. When they occupied the villages, the federal troops burned a lot of houses, either with gasoline or by using gas bottles, blowing them up from the inside. And so the way you can tell between bombardment and wanton destruction by soldiers burning houses is from the presence or not of these wooden roof structures. The building on the right was quite clearly burned: you see the flames rising above the door from the inside of the building. It was probably torched by the soldiers when they occupied the village a bit later on.

A direct hit would destroy the wooden structure, obviously, but then the walls would have collapsed too; the whole building would collapse. Like in the top photo: you see the building on the right where a whole side is collapsed. That building took a direct hit. But in the case of the ones where the wooden structure remains but the sheeting has gone, these buildings took a hit nearby and the blast blew off the sheeting. And in the bottom photo you see a building that must have been hit directly through the roof by a shell. But the roof is still there, even though it’s crumpled and damaged, which is different from the photo on the right where there’s no roof at all. The federal troops would occupy the villages they accused of supporting the fighters, and would torch intact houses as a vengeance. The debris you see in the photo on the right was debris that was pulled out of the houses; people had already come back and cleaned the houses.

The heavy fighting continued all the way into March. 600 fighters of Gelayev, a senior commander at the time, now dead, were trapped in Alkhazurovo and Komsomolskoe, and were basically annihilated. All the survivors were captured and mostly murdered after their capture; this is all very well documented. The fighting ended at the end of March. So we must have gone in three or four weeks after the major combat operations had ended. By that point, by the time we were allowed in, the fighters had moved up into the mountains and the fighting was more localized. And clearly we were entering with permission of the Federals, so we could only go where they allowed us to go, when they allowed us to go. We weren’t doing this clandestinely. But still it was relatively soon after the Katyr-Yurt destruction—the people had just come back a few weeks before us.

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The mosque has taken a direct hit from a shell. The Russians were also using a lot of grad: multiple-rocket launchers on trucks, sometimes called Katyusha, that fire a series of rockets. And at the bottom you see bits of different types of ordnance that the man was showing us: some of it is rockets, some of it is shells. Grads are a highly imprecise weapon: you fire 10 or 20 rockets at the same time, it’s a scatter-effect weapon, and firing that on a populated village full of civilians is considered a war crime by international standards. There is no way you can claim accuracy or discrimination with that type of shelling. So you see the mosque has been hit by shelling, you see the houses; on the next page this man’s car has been burned. I don’t remember whether the mosque was bombed or the roof collapsed during shelling.

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This poor lady is standing in the debris of her house, a huge amount of debris. Artillery doesn’t make holes that big, so that would probably be a half-ton bomb dropped from an airplane. If it were a one-ton bomb, the house wouldn’t have been left standing. Then you have my former office, of which the roof is still standing—it’s pretty damaged. It was my office during the First War. I just went back to visit it.


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I was shooting with an old type of camera—it’s actually film, an APS format which allowed me to do panoramic views, so I did all these panoramics to show the buildings. In that panoramic at the top you can clearly see that an airplane flew right over the building and just dropped one bomb after another, all along the entire length of the building. It’s one, at most two, strafing raids from an airplane just systematically flying along the axis of the building and dropping half-ton bombs, destroying the entire height of the building. The bombs fall through their own weight a couple of floors into the building and detonate towards the bottom, thanks to a delaying device on the fuse.


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In the next photo, the panoramic at the top shows the ruins near Minutka, one of the main roundabouts of the city. At the time there was a series of buildings around Minutka which were known as the devyati etazhey, the “nine-floor” buildings. They were called that because they were the only nine-floor buildings in the city. They were dynamited by the Federals in March 2000, shortly after they took Groznyi, with the official reason being that the Chechens were using them as a snipers’ nest. So they destroyed, they dynamited, every single one of these nine-story buildings, which were the main, tallest, most important civilian habitations in the city. Nothing was left. And the bottom photo: we headed through the city towards the west and went to a suburb called Aldi. The photo is taken from a hill, looking back at the city and the Zavodskoy district.


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You see different types of destruction on these buildings: shelling hits, mostly shelling on these buildings. And in the bottom photo you see one apartment which is inhabited; in the middle of these devastated apartments, someone’s put her laundry out to dry. And you see there is a chimney, with smoke from the chimney coming out. Everything else around has been destroyed, visibly by artillery fire.


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This is a cinema; it clearly took a hit from an airplane bomb, a big one, possibly one-ton, given the size of damage. In the bottom photo, the whole Minutka roundabout was transformed into a giant checkpoint. So I had to sneak these pictures because it was forbidden to photograph checkpoints. The buildings, the five-story buildings in the background, are still standing, and the rubble in front of the five-story building is one of the dynamited nine-story buildings.


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Then we skip to late November. For the first time we slept overnight in Chechnya. We went for four days because we were going so far in the mountains it was impossible to do a day trip. So we followed that road up to Shatoy, and up to Itum-Kale; we slept in Shatoy for two nights and then we went down another valley, the valley that goes east from Shatoy. We went up the other river, which is the Sharo-Argun, all the way into really remote territory. We went there to see if there were any villages, if people were living there, if it was worth having distributions up there. I’m always very curious, I wanted to see what it looked like, but that was the professional reason: an assessment trip.

Basically Chechnya is divided into districts, and the way the UN coordination worked, each NGO that was doing food was responsible for a set of districts. The plan was to distribute food in the entire district, not just the main towns, and so we wanted to do as thorough an assessment as possible to see how many people were living there, what the access conditions were, whether we could trucks get there, what cooperation we could expect from local authorities and what kinds of problems we could have at checkpoints. Because it is so close to the border of Russia, it’s actually an area under Border Troops control, which is a completely different branch of the military. You found yourself dealing with either regular Army, or FSB (the Federal Security Service) or MVD (the Ministry of Interior), and obviously each branch didn’t recognize the permissions you got from other branches. You could have an Army permission, and the Pogranichnie Voiska (Border Troops) would say, “Fuck off, we are not Army, so get out.” But we actually didn’t have any major problems on this trip at all, except at the border from Ingushetia when we went through a huge amount of trouble, but that’s another story.

And then the next day we went up to Itum-Kale. There is this village, Ush-Kaloi, which you can see was destroyed by bombing. You see the roof beams are still standing. This vehicle was destroyed by a rocket, probably fired by a helicopter.


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Then we go all the way to Sharoy, which is the last village before the border. It’s really the last village, and then after that there is nothing. In Sharoy, and the villages before, there was a lot of destruction: of the mosque and the bashnyas. It’s is actually very old, it goes back to 1864, when the Tsarist troops, having captured Chechnya in 1859, dynamited the bashnyas, which at the time really served as fortified towers, to prevent the Chechen rebels of the time from holing up in these towers. So there is a cemetery, the old mosque and one intact house.

And this place is interesting because, although it doesn’t show in any of the photos, there is some 1980s prefab housing at the foot of the hill, built under Gorbachev. You know about the Chechen deportation in 1943? They were allowed to come back in 1956 but even then they were not allowed to resettle in the high mountains. They weren’t allowed to resettle past Shatoy because they were felt to be still too unruly and dangerous. So the authorities wanted to keep a no man’s land, a buffer zone up in the higher mountains. And in the 1980s, when there was glasnost and perestroika, they were finally allowed to return there—they had been resettled in the plains up to then, so very few people got there, and the living conditions are incredibly harsh and difficult. And the Soviet authorities built prefab housing for them; the village was just ruins.

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Afterword

Nearly nine years after these photographs were taken, Jonathan Littell returned to Chechnya, as a journalist this time. His report was published in France as a small book entitled Chechnya, Year III.[1] The following excerpt describes Groznyi as it stood in 2009.

Tamir, a Chechen government press attaché, had offered to take us on a tour of the city. From the plane already, flying in over the city’s northern Staropromyslovsky Shosse, I could guess at the extent of the reconstruction: all the buildings lining the long avenue looked new, their green metal roofs and pale yellow sidings providing bright dashes of color in the otherwise drab landscape; below us, the city sprawled out like any other provincial Russian city, and you had to look hard, and know what you were looking for, to notice the scars of old trenches and tank positions along the hilltops. In the center, everything is brand new, absolutely everything: not just the elegant nineteenth century buildings, meticulously restored, lining the main avenue, now re-named Prospekt Putina, but the streets and the sidewalks as well, the grass borders with automatic sprinklers, the little trees, wrapped in garlands of red and blue lights, planted all along the central grassy plot, the signs, the traffic lights, and the pedestrian signals that count down the seconds left for you to cross. […] Further on, at the end of the avenue, surrounded by lawns and fountains, looms the monumental Great Mosque of Groznyi, a copy of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque entirely built in marble and hand-decorated by an army of Turkish artisans; a little lower down, the golden domes of the Orthodox cathedral gleam brightly, completely reconstructed by Ramzan Kadyrov in a spirit of perfect ecumenism even while his men continue to harass or kill the rare Russian civilians who persist in wanting to live in Chechnya. […] As Tamir drove us around, I experienced a strange sensation, that of a phantom reality overlaying another one, the fine spanking new city coming to recover the layout of the old, ruined, ravaged, devastated city without managing to cancel it out, as if the one were the other’s dream. I had once lived in the city for months, and I know the landmarks and the neighborhoods well, but now my internal compass was completely thrown off, I could recognize the directions of the main avenues but nothing alongside them, I identified the buildings by their location rather than their appearance: I knew that here, at such a place, must be Hospital No. 9, but when it did in fact appear, I recognized nothing, nothing at all. The city, of course, has not been rebuilt as it was, the complex of nine-story buildings surrounding the Minutka roundabout, demolished by the Federals in March 2000 out of fear of snipers, still hadn’t been rebuilt; but already new constructions are beginning to rise there, buildings that will grow to twenty or twenty-five stories; and further on, near the river, where once rose the ruins of Groznyi’s tallest skyscraper, a sixteen-story building, Kadyrov, together with Chechen and Turkish investors, is now erecting a forty-five-story tower, the foundations of which have already been laid. In what is called the ‘private sector’, a residential area of houses hidden by tall gates or rising behind brick walls, you can still see some scars, patched roofs and boarded windows, but even these will soon be gone: as a Chechen businessman who owns several houses in the area explained to me, Ramzan has ordered that all the damaged houses in the city are to be repaired, at their owners’ expense, by years’ end, or they would simply be torn down. “There mustn’t be any trace of the war left,” he told me, quoting Kadyrov, and indeed you have to drive kilometers from the center, out west to the great destroyed factories of the oil refinery complex, to see the kind of hulking, sinister ruins that filled the entire city eight years earlier. You could even say without exaggerating that Paris seems to have kept more traces of the Second World War, on the limestone walls of its ministries and its museums, than Groznyi has of its two wars. It is all often extremely ugly, and it’s hard for me to describe the architectural style of Kadyrov’s show constructions, the “Islamic airport” style perhaps, but it’s functional, and many people live and work there. Alu Alkhanov, Ramzan’s predecessor, did little in his three years in power beyond replastering and repainting; Kadyrov, in the same amount of time, has entirely redone this 400,000-person city, complete with streets, water mains, sewers, gas and electricity. He has built a brand-new city, from scratch. I still haven’t understood where all the rubble has gone.

(translated by Charlotte Mandell)

A Cartography of Risk

A cartography of risk

Risk analysis describes destruction that has not yet taken place. The destruction of buildings that are otherwise still standing intact is a complex reality fabricated by algorithms, fears, hopes, conflicting philosophies and historical experience. But these potential ruins are also “messages from the future”, and shape the economical and urban realities in their present environment through their effect on the prices of property and insurance. The work visualises the abstract nature of risk calculation across Lebanon, alongside another type of “message from the future”, the visual strategies employed by the local construction industry as it seeks to entice foreign investment by depicting a modern image of a future.

Researcher

Helene Kazan

Mapping Risk

This map is produced by extracting information from three reports assessing and projecting the potential of different risks in Lebanon’s future. The three reports are:
1: a Disaster Risk Assessment Report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) produced in 2010,
2: the forecast of ‘The Next Israel Hizbullah War’ written in 2010,
3: and a 2014 Syria Regional Response Plan for Lebanon, completed by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Illustrated map drawn by Blake Fisher

Illustrated map drawn by Blake Fisher

The Beirut real estate market

The real estate market in Lebanon has consistently been regarded as its most dynamic area of investment. Even in the current geopolitical climate, the market is experiencing rapid growth, mostly, as a result of foreign interest and investment in the country. This has resulted in a proliferation of luxury apartment and redevelopment projects, which litter Beirut’s urban landscape. The city, attempts to disassociate parts of itself from latent violence (compounded by the civil war in Syrian) in an effort to create in Beirut, demographic enclaves complacent with the global economy. The images are examples of a visual approach adopted by the Lebanese construction industry which litters the urban public space with an idealized image of a future domestic life.

old as 'A true gateway to Modern Life', this project named B-Central on Bliss Street in Beirut is an image of the future as projected by A&H Construction & Development. The image shows the billboards and architectural visualisations which wrap the construction site, this photograph was taken in December 2013.

Sold as ‘A true gateway to Modern Life’, this project named B-Central on Bliss Street in Beirut is an image of the future as projected by A&H Construction & Development. The image shows the billboards and architectural visualisations which wrap the construction site, this photograph was taken in December 2013.

Dream Ramlet el Biadar Residence 1550 and Star Residence, Star Ramlet 1550 are two large construction projects, one next to the other, situated near the ocean front Corniche, in Beirut. Both use architectural visualisation to wrap the apparently non-active construction sites, the image shows one of the visualisations onsite, with the un-finished building in the background.

Dream Ramlet el Biadar Residence 1550 and Star Residence, Star Ramlet 1550 are two large construction projects, one next to the other, situated near the ocean front Corniche, in Beirut. Both use architectural visualisation to wrap the apparently non-active construction sites, the image shows one of the visualisations onsite, with the un-finished building in the background.

 

Down to Earth

Down to Earth

What is our time? How do we measure it?

From the utopian Soviet project to live rationally with nature, to contemporary earth observation: human efforts to plan their environment rely on different forms and technologies of measurement, that negotiate increasingly complex relations with the dynamics of the earth.

The planetary strata are here measured along a trajectory that links remote sensing satellites, a vast geological repository, and a probe reaching the deepest point on the planet at 12 262 meters. Each measurement shapes new territorial assemblages of science and politics. The Kola Superdeep Borehole in the Russian Arctic was a mission to increase geophysical knowledge. It is here shown with contemporary inquiries into the core samples of the British Geological Survey, revealing the connections of human activities to the material traces of the recent history of the earth, searching for the new stratigraphic evidence of the Anthropocene.

Research Team

Anthropocene Observatory:

  • Armin Linke
  • Territorial Agency (John Palmesino, Ann-Sofi Rönnskog)
  • Anselm Franke

Team "Down to Earth"

  • Giulia Bruno
  • Saverio Cantoni
  • Tom Fox
  • Anselm Franke
  • Armin Linke
  • John Palmesino
  • Flavio Pescatori
  • Sarah Poppel
  • Renato Rinaldi
  • Ann-Sofi Rönnskog

 

#3 Down to Earth (single screen online version)

The Kola Peninsula

The Kola Superdeep Borehole is a vertical probe into the Baltic Shield, the largest area of the oldest rocks in Europe, eroded by the harsh climate. At its highest latitudes, well beyond the Arctic Circle, the Baltic Shield meets the Barents Shield, forming the Kola Peninsula, one of the richest areas of the planet in terms of mineral resources.

Exploitation of the vast mineral resources of the peninsula is the basis through which the Soviet Union developed their industrialisation project. It was through tight connections of development of scientific knowledge of geophysics of the region, and technology to develop industry, that the Soviets shaped their territorial architectures.

Dr David M. Guberman, the leader of the Kola Superdeep Borehole experiment, standing on the site of the future Kola SG-3 well. Courtesy Ivanovic Vladimir Khmelinsky, private archive.

Dr David M. Guberman, the leader of the Kola Superdeep Borehole experiment, standing on the site of the future Kola SG-3 well. Courtesy Ivanovic Vladimir Khmelinsky, private archive.

Noosphere

Driven by the large Soviet experiment to live rationally with nature, the territories of the Kola Peninsula have been invested by a large-scale plan to populate the Arctic and to establish the scientific base for the industrial exploitation of its resources.

The Kola Peninsula was one of the sites of a new experiment for a scientific sovereignty, one that reshaped connections between human actions and natural processes. The links between the biosphere, the atmosphere and the geosphere are here extended to the noosphere; the space of human thought conceptualised in the 1920s by Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky. Vernadsky was the leader of KEPS – the commission for the study of natural productive forces of Russia.

Vernadsky and his colleague Aleksandr Evgenievich Fersman, who established the Kola Science Center – were the founders of the Russian school of geochemistry. Fersman was responsible for the programme to survey 20 million km2 of Soviet territory for mineral resources.

Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky, originator of the noosphere concept (left) with Alexander Yevgenyevich Fersman, founder of Kola Science Centre (right). Courtesy Kola Science Centre.

Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky, originator of the noosphere concept (left) with Alexander Yevgenyevich Fersman, founder of Kola Science Centre (right). Courtesy Kola Science Centre.

La Biosphère, 1929 by Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky

La Biosphère, 1929 by Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky

The Deepest Point on the Planet

The Norilsk Nickel mine in Zapolyarny, Murmansk Oblast, Kola Peninsula, Russia, at 69°23’47.27” N, 30°36’35.53” E, in the European Arctic, is the site of the Kola Superdeep Borehole. It was a major scientific experiment carried out by the Soviet Union, with the aim of drilling as far as possible into the Earth’s crust.

Drilling started on May 24, 1970 from the Uralmash-4E drilling rig, and continued until 1989, when the SG-3 borehole operating from the newer Uralmash-15000 rig reached the deepest point on Earth at 12,262 metres, deeper than the 10,915 metres of the Mariana Trench.

Aim of the mission was to investigate the Mohorovičić discontinuity, the boundary between the Earth’s crust and the mantle. During the mission, which spanned two decades, major scientific advancements in the understanding of the physics of the Earth were accomplished, leading to a substantial revision of geophysics.

Geophysical Service at Kola SG-3, 1980s. Courtesy Murmansk Regional Museum.

Geophysical Service at Kola SG-3, 1980s. Courtesy Murmansk Regional Museum.

Mineralized breccia phyllites, siltstones and sandstones from the depth of 1,675.5m.Courtesy Ivanovic Vladimir Khmelinsky, private archive.

Mineralized breccia phyllites, siltstones and sandstones from the depth of 1,675.5m. Courtesy Ivanovic Vladimir Khmelinsky, private archive.

Core sample extracted from Kola SG-3, 1980s. Courtesy Ivanovic Vladimir Khmelinsky, private archive.

Core sample extracted from Kola SG-3, 1980s. Courtesy Ivanovic Vladimir Khmelinsky, private archive.

Core sample lifting and extracting at Kola SG-3, 1980s. Courtesy Ivanovic Vladimir Khmelinsky, private archive.

Core sample lifting and extracting at Kola SG-3, 1980s. Courtesy Ivanovic Vladimir Khmelinsky, private archive.

Digital Elevation Model

This black and white image is formed through data derived by spaceborne synthetic aperture radar: SAR. This geodetic method is used to generate models of surface deformation or digital elevation.

The interferometric SAR method uses complex algorithms to produce a very narrow effective beam. The information on minute topographic variations can be produced only by moving sensors – as the satellites – and is a form of active remote sensing. The satellites’ antennas transmit radar radiations which are then reflected back by the surface of the Earth and detected by sophisticated sensors.

InSAR Synthetic Aperture Radar interferometric map of terrain variation, Kola Peninsula. Elevation data is processed from raw C-band radar signals spaced at intervals of 1 arc-second (approximately 30 metres) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL. Black lines refer to area of void or missing data, areas where initial algorithmic processing did not meet quality standards.USGS and NASA data, elaborated by Territorial Agency.

InSAR Synthetic Aperture Radar interferometric map of terrain variation, Kola Peninsula. Elevation data is processed from raw C-band radar signals spaced at intervals of 1 arc-second (approximately 30 metres) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL. Black lines refer to area of void or missing data, areas where initial algorithmic processing did not meet quality standards.USGS and NASA data, elaborated by Territorial Agency.

Landsat

The Landsat programme is the largest repository of Earth Observation data in history. Launched in 1972, its several satellites have recorded the radiations of the planet to document, survey and measure global environmental change.

Multiple sensors detect the physical and chemical qualities of the atmosphere and surface of the planet. The resulting data can be analysed and presented as an image. Detected through multispectral sensors, the images are the result of algo- rithmic operations on data. They can be approximations of the colours perceived by humans, or analytical images of multiple passes of the satellites, highlighting specific aspects of environmental change.

Satellite image of the Kola Superdeep Borehole site. Landsat 8 data acquired on 11 October 2013, shown in natural col- ours using the Operational Land Imager OLI spectral bands 4, 3 and 2. USGS data, elaborated by Territorial Agency.

Satellite image of the Kola Superdeep Borehole site. Landsat 8 data acquired on 11 October 2013, shown in natural col- ours using the Operational Land Imager OLI spectral bands 4, 3 and 2. USGS data, elaborated by Territorial Agency.

A multi-year analysis reveals vast changes in the impervious sur- faces of the terrain, largely coinciding with mining activities, mili- tary equipment and infrastructure, and urban settlements. Multispectral analysis of USGS data, elaborated by Territorial Agency.

A multi-year analysis reveals vast changes in the impervious sur- faces of the terrain, largely coinciding with mining activities, mili- tary equipment and infrastructure, and urban settlements. Multispectral analysis of USGS data, elaborated by Territorial Agency.

Space Race

The vast experiments undertaken to observe the geological workings of the Earth were mirrored in the Space Race: Americans and Soviets were simultaneously trying to reach the minerals of the Moon and the deepest points on Earth. While it was the USA that first touched ground on the Moon, the Kola Superdeep Borehole outpaced the American attempts to reach deep down into the Earth’s crust and the high-technology involved allowed for a striking series of scientific accomplishments.

The north-eastern extension of the Baltic Shield – the Kola Peninsula was the Cold War border, the point where the Iron Curtain and the Early Warning System for intercontinental ballistic missiles scanning the Arctic met. It was a territory marked by escalation strategies and second-strike retaliation analysis.

A border divided in military, economic and political terms, yet linked by a common rationale based on calculus, simulation and the closed system of scientific technological development.

Control room, Kola SG-3, 1980s. Courtesy Ivanovic Vladimir Khmelinsky, private archive.

Control room, Kola SG-3, 1980s. Courtesy Ivanovic Vladimir Khmelinsky, private archive.

Preparation of equipment for inclinometer (measurement of bore- hole inclination/deviation), 1980s. Courtesy Murmansk Regional Museum.

Preparation of equipment for inclinometer (measurement of bore- hole inclination/deviation), 1980s. Courtesy Murmansk Regional Museum.

Geophysical Laboratory at Kola SG-3, 1980s. Courtesy Murmansk Regional Museum.

Geophysical Laboratory at Kola SG-3, 1980s. Courtesy Murmansk Regional Museum.

Earth Observation

Add Content hereThe coevolution of the Space Race and the quest to reach the deepest point of the planet traces a vertical space of measurement, sensing and modelling. It is a space operated through a ‘vast machine’ of sensors and computers of climate change science and integrated system analysis.

Remote sensing satellites orbit the planet and record the intensity of radiation reflected by the atmosphere and the surface of land, ice, and oceans, measuring stations are scattered on the waters of the oceans, seismic surveying stations are deployed across the globe. Information about physical, chemical and biological systems is measured by remote sensors and collected, stored, distributed and analysed.

Earth Observation systems form a vast global archive of data used to assess, monitor and intervene into the dynamics and transformation of the planet. The Earth System, they contribute to analyse, is shaped by the algorithmic procedures of modelling as much as by the technological frameworks of measurement and surveying.

Chief Geologist M.G. Rusanov (sitting) at the Geological Depart- ment, Kola SG-3, 1980s. Courtesy Murmansk Regional Museum.

Chief Geologist M.G. Rusanov (sitting) at the Geological Depart- ment, Kola SG-3, 1980s. Courtesy Murmansk Regional Museum.

Stratigraphic Evidence

The National Geological Repository at Keyworth in England operates one of the largest scientific resources on geology. Part of the British Geological Survey, it forms one of the largest collections of borehole cores, cuttings, samples, specimens and subsurface information from the landmass and the continental shelf of the UK.

It originates in the Museum of Economic Geology, and its follower the Museum of Practical Geology, enterprises set up to link the rising industrial revolution in Britain with the development of scientific knowledge and new forms of government and imperial sovereignty.

Today, many members of the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Stratigraphic Commission, operating at the repository, inquire into the material forms and traces of human actions. They investigate the afterlives, the unequal durations, ages and rhythms of the industrial attempts to form direct connections between scientific knowledge and an intensified nature.

Museum of Practical Geology, London in 1851. Courtesy British Geological Survey Archives.

Museum of Practical Geology, London in 1851. Courtesy British Geological Survey Archives.

Mengele’s Skull

MENGELE’S SKULL

In 1985, the body of Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele, who had drowned in Brazil in 1979, was exhumed in a suburb of São Paulo. The ensuing process of identification became a legal and technological turning point.

Whereas the Jerusalem trial of Adolf Eichmann introduced the victims as legal and historical agents, and gave birth to what has been called the “era of the witness,” the process by which Mengele’s remains were identified inaugurated a new forensic sensibility in which it was not the human subject but rather objects (in this case, bodily remains) that took center stage.

The Mengele investigation helped consolidate the process for the identification of missing people, a set of techniques and operations that has since identified thousands of bodies in South America and beyond.

Researchers

  • Thomas Keenan
  • Eyal Weizman

Related Publication


"Mengele's Skull" – Video

Assistant coroner José António de Mello displays a skull to press photographers at the exhumation site in the Nossa Senhora do Rosário Cemetery, Embu das Artes, Brazil, June 6, 1985. Romeu Tuma, the chief of the federal police in São Paulo, shown standing over the site of the grave as the skull and bones were exhibited to the cameras, told the assembled reporters that Mengele “was well and truly dead.” But this statement was immediately contested, for not everyone was convinced that the bones were Mengele’s.

Forensic experts assemble around the bones exhumed in Embu das Artes, Medico-Legal Institute labs, São Paulo, Brazil, June 1985. Photo: Eric Stover. The body of Mengele, himself a phrenologist, faced not a juridical but a scientific forum, a forensic analysis undertaken by the world’s leading pathologists. It was not to pronounce a verdict of guilt or innocence but rather to arrive at a positive identification.

Forensic experts assemble around the bones exhumed in Embu das Artes, Medico-Legal Institute labs, São Paulo, Brazil, June 1985.  Photo: Eric Stover.
The body of Mengele, himself a phrenologist, faced not a juridical but a scientific forum, a forensic analysis undertaken by the world’s leading pathologists. It was not to pronounce a verdict of guilt or innocence but rather to arrive at a positive identification.

German forensic scientist Richard Helmer prepares the skull suspected to be that of Mengele, Medico-Legal Institute labs, São Paulo, Brazil, June 1985. Photo: Eric Stover.

German forensic scientist Richard Helmer prepares the skull suspected to be that of Mengele, Medico-Legal Institute labs, São Paulo, Brazil, June 1985. Photo: Eric Stover.

Helmer prepares the skull. Photo: Eric Stover.

Helmer prepares the skull. Photo: Eric Stover.

Brazilian forensic expert Daniel Romero Muñoz displays the skull of Josef Mengele at a press conference, São Paulo, Brazil, June 21, 1985. It seemed as if the skull itself was giving the press conference. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Liaison.

Brazilian forensic expert Daniel Romero Muñoz displays the skull of Josef Mengele at a press conference, São Paulo, Brazil, June 21, 1985. It seemed as if the skull itself was giving the press conference. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Liaison.

Images produced using photographs of Mengele and images of his skull in Richard Helmer’s face–skull superimposition demonstration, Medico-Legal Institute labs, São Paulo, Brazil, June 1985. Courtesy of Maja Helmer.

The match was perfect. The video image of the photograph was imposed precisely over the video image of the skull. It was a face wrapped over a skull, subject over object, an image of life over an image of death. While the images helped to push the probability calculation further in the direction of a definitive identification, they did more than that, for it was the appearance of a previously unseen image that produced the potential for conviction.

Forensic experts assemble around the bones exhumed in Embu das Artes, Medico-Legal Institute labs, São Paulo, Brazil, June 1985. Photo: Eric Stover.

Forensic experts (from left to right) Clyde Snow, John Fitzpatrick, Daniel Romero Muñoz, and Leslie Lukash examine bones, Medico-Legal Institute labs, São Paulo, Brazil, June 1985. Photo: Eric Stover.

Photographic comparison between known images of Josef Mengele and images of “Wolfgang Gerhard” found in the Brazilian home of people thought to have sheltered him. These were annotated to find twenty-four matching physical traits. Photos: “Behördengutachten i.S. von § 256 StPO, Lichtbildgutachten MENGELE, Josef, geb. 16.03.11 in Günzburg,” Bundeskriminalamt, Wiesbaden, June 14, 1985. Courtesy of Maja Helmer.
Richard Helmer (right) with Ali Hameli (left) and the skull of Josef Mengele, as prepared for the demonstration of face–skull superimposition, Medico-Legal Institute labs, São Paulo, Brazil, June 1985. Courtesy of Maja Helmer.

Richard Helmer (right) with Ali Hameli (left) and the skull of Josef Mengele, as prepared for the demonstration of face–skull superimposition, Medico-Legal Institute labs, São Paulo, Brazil, June 1985. Courtesy of Maja Helmer.

Final page of Richard Helmer’s report, “In dem Ermittlungsverfahren gegen den ehemaligen Lagerarzt des Konzentrationslagers Auschwitz Josef Mengele, geb. am 16.3.1911 wegen vielfachen Mordes,” dated Kiel, July 5, 1985. Courtesy of Maja Helmer.

Final page of Richard Helmer’s report, “In dem Ermittlungsverfahren gegen den ehemaligen Lagerarzt des Konzentrationslagers Auschwitz Josef Mengele, geb. am 16.3.1911 wegen vielfachen Mordes,” dated Kiel, July 5, 1985. Courtesy of Maja Helmer.

The front pages of Brazilian daily newspapers announced the results of the Mengele forensic investigation with photographs from Helmer’s face–skull superimposition test, June 22, 1985. Courtesy of Maja Helmer.

The front pages of Brazilian daily newspapers announced the results of the Mengele forensic investigation with photographs from Helmer’s face–skull superimposition test, June 22, 1985. Courtesy of Maja Helmer.

Brazilian daily newspapers announced the results of the Mengele forensic investigation, June 22, 1985. Courtesy of Maja Helmer.

Brazilian daily newspapers announced the results of the Mengele forensic investigation, June 22, 1985. Courtesy of Maja Helmer.

 

Material Witness

MATERIAL WITNESS

Material Witness is an experimental documentary that examines a series of media artifacts which have emerged out of situations of contemporary conflict and historical violence.

Consisting of five episodes (two of which are presented here), the video tracks these media materials through the various public and legal forums in which they participate as corroborative or disputed forms of “evidence” such as the ICTY, the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and COP 15 (the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference, in Copenhagen).

Rather than focusing entirely upon the content of such media, as might be expected, the project also explores the ways in which crisis is registered as a “material violation” itself; in other words, how histories are encoded by media and by which means the complex political realities they are embedded in are rendered visible. In short, it is an inquiry into how objects become agents of contestation between different stake-holders and truth claims.

Researcher

Susan Schuppli


Atacama

ATACAMA

The case is located at the Atacama Desert in Chile in which the relation between nature and politics is reconfigured by resource extraction. Working together with local NGOs, the project has provided material and spatial evidence in support of indigenous communities of the Loa basin whose means of subsistence has been destroyed by copper mining. Dispossessed of water and suffering from increasing environmental contamination, these communities are slowly disappearing in the wake of ever-expanding mineral extraction. As a close study of Chuquicamata—the largest open pit copper mine in the world and a symbol of deposed president Salvador Allende’s nationalization project—the project attempts to demonstrate how resource extraction is key to understanding the long history of violence to which local peoples have been exposed. Utilizing a range of remote sensing technologies has turned the surface of the desert into a register of past and present forms of violence. The project registered the way in which the quest to exploit underground resources has led to the destruction of both environments and people.

Researcher

Godofredo Pereira

In partnership with

Alonso Barros (Lawyer)

Copper

The history of the Atacama has been characterized by different cycles of mineral extraction, particularly nitrate and copper. The control of nitrate, exploited from the nineteenth century onwards, was one of the reasons for the Pacific War of 1879–83 in which Chile occupied the Atacama Desert, annexing the territory from Bolivia and Peru. It also led to the civil war that in 1891 saw President Balmaceda committing suicide after failing to nationalize the nation’s resources. The nationalization of copper mines was the economic basis for Salvador Allende’s plans to make Chile economically independent. It was therefore one of the reasons for the coup that would topple his democratically elected government in 1973 and lead to his own suicide. In contrast to the image of a perpetual El Dorado, the race for resources in the Atacama, from guano to nitrate, from copper to lithium, resulted in environmental contamination and in the dispossession of indigenous peoples.

“Chile Uses Nitrate to ‘Buy American.’” 1946 color print advertisement for the National City Bank of New York.

“Chile Uses Nitrate to ‘Buy American.’” 1946 color print advertisement for the National City Bank of New York.

Photo of Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro visiting Chuquicamata copper mine. He would later compare the mine to the pyramids in Egypt. November 14, 1971.

Photo of Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro visiting Chuquicamata copper mine. He would later compare the mine to the pyramids in Egypt. November 14, 1971.

Footage of Chuquicamata copper mine and the indigenous villages of San Francisco de Chiu Chiu and Quillagua, which have been affected by water shortages, vegetation decrease, and environmental contamination due to mining operations.
Extracts from the Political Constitution of the Republic of Chile, 1971. Approved in the first year of Salvador Allende’s presidency, this constitutional reform allowed for the nationalization of Chile’s copper resources.

Extracts from the Political Constitution of the Republic of Chile, 1971. Approved in the first year of Salvador Allende’s presidency, this constitutional reform allowed for the nationalization of Chile’s copper resources.

The urbanization of the Atacama Desert by mining. Image: Godofredo Pereira.

The urbanization of the Atacama Desert by mining.
Image: Godofredo Pereira.

Bones

With close to zero humidity, the Atacama is one of the most arid places in the world, where human remains can be preserved for thousands of years. But despite its vast archeological findings from the pre-Hispanic era, the presence of bones in the Atacama is also the result of a more recent history of violence. After the 1973 coup d’état, a military group commanded by Arellano Stark was ordered by General Pinochet to embark on a tour around the country “expediting” judicial processes. The result of this “caravan of death” was multiple mass graves, many of them in the Atacama, filled with the bodies of political detainees. Their discovery is made all the more difficult by military operations in the area where these remains were exhumed, meaning that bodies had been blown up, scattered around the desert, or thrown into the sea. Forensic sciences have been able to identify some of the victims based on small bone fragments, but most of the disappeared are still uncounted for.

Coup d’état, September, 11, 1973. From: Ciencia, Justicia, Verdad, Memoria, a publication by Agrupación de Familiares de Los Detenidos Ejecutados y Desaparecidos de La Moneda and Museo de La Memoria y Los Derechos Humanos. August 2012.

Coup d’état, September, 11, 1973. From: Ciencia, Justicia, Verdad, Memoria, a publication by Agrupación de Familiares de Los Detenidos Ejecutados y Desaparecidos de La Moneda and Museo de La Memoria y Los Derechos Humanos. August 2012.

Declassified memorandum Genesis of Project FUBELT, September 16, 1970. Also known as Track II, FUBELT consisted of US funding and support to prevent Salvador Allende from being elected president of Chile and was later used to aid the coup on September 11, 1971 by military forces under the command of Pinochet.

Declassified memorandum Genesis of Project FUBELT, September 16, 1970. Also known as Track II, FUBELT consisted of US funding and support to prevent Salvador Allende from being elected president of Chile and was later used to aid the coup on September 11, 1971 by military forces under the command of Pinochet.

Report by the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation. Established after the return to democracy in 1991, this commission focused on human rights violations during the years of Pinochet’s military regime. Translation by United States Institute of Peace.

Report by the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation. Established after the return to democracy in 1991, this commission focused on human rights violations during the years of Pinochet’s military regime.
Translation by United States Institute of Peace.

Interview with Dr. Patricio Bustos, director of Chile’s medico-legal service (SML), on the exhumation of President Salvador Allende and the search for disappeared detainees. March 2013.
Multispectral image from 2013 focusing on an area 5 km south of Calama where marks resemble a 2 km-long curved dagger, the infamous corvo characteristically used by the Chilean military to slit the throat of foreign enemies. © 2013 DigitalGlobe, Inc. All Rights Reserved. False color composite: Godofredo Pereira.

Multispectral image from 2013 focusing on an area 5 km south of Calama where marks resemble a 2 km-long curved dagger, the infamous corvo characteristically used by the Chilean military to slit the throat of foreign enemies.
© 2013 DigitalGlobe, Inc. All Rights Reserved. False color composite: Godofredo Pereira.

Declassified cable on Operation Condor, FBI, September 28, 1976. Operation Condor consisted of a joint intelligence operation between the South American military dictatorships of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolívia, Paraguay, and Uruguay and was supported by US intelligence.

Declassified cable on Operation Condor, FBI, September 28, 1976. Operation Condor consisted of a joint intelligence operation between the South American military dictatorships of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolívia, Paraguay, and Uruguay and was supported by US intelligence.

Microsoft Word - Chile90-Report.doc

Report by the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation. Translation by United States Institute of Peace.

Arsenic

As a transversal agent of contamination, arsenic foregrounds both the potentials and the perils inherent to exploiting the Earth’s resources. As a by-product of copper mining, arsenic reflects the immense wealth that lies beneath the ground in the Atacama. But the urbanization of the desert by mining has brought entire populations into a volcanic environment whose waters are naturally contaminated. Moreover, its continuous release into the air, water, and soils has affected not only those in the vicinity of Chuquicamata copper mine but also populations affected by emissions from smelter operations throughout Chile.

Map of environmental contamination sources in the area of Chuquicamata and San Francisco de Chiu Chiu.  Godofredo Pereira, 2013.

Map of environmental contamination sources in the area of Chuquicamata and San Francisco de Chiu Chiu.
Godofredo Pereira, 2013.

Extracts from the report on the expansion of the Talabre tailings pond by Alonso Barros and Godofredo Pereira, Atacama Desert Project, Forensic Architecture, September 2013. Presented by the community of San Francisco de Chiu Chiu during the process of indigenous consultation on the Chilean national copper corporation Codelco’s mining expansion project RT Sulfuros.

Extracts from the report on the expansion of the Talabre tailings pond by Alonso Barros and Godofredo Pereira, Atacama Desert Project, Forensic Architecture, September 2013. Presented by the community of San Francisco de Chiu Chiu during the process of indigenous consultation on the Chilean national copper corporation Codelco’s mining expansion project RT Sulfuros.

Expansion of the Talabre tailings pond (measuring sixty-five square kilometers), where liquid waste resulting from the processing of Chuquicamata’s copper is deposited. Photo: Godofredo Pereira, September 2013.

Expansion of the Talabre tailings pond (measuring sixty-five square kilometers), where liquid waste resulting from the processing of Chuquicamata’s copper is deposited.
Photo: Godofredo Pereira, September 2013.

Expansion of the Talabre tailings pond (measuring sixty-five square kilometers), where liquid waste resulting from the processing of Chuquicamata’s copper is deposited. Photo: Godofredo Pereira, September 2013.

Expansion of the Talabre tailings pond. Photo: Godofredo Pereira, September 2013.

Extracts from the report on the expansion of the Talabre tailings pond by Alonso Barros and Godofredo Pereira, Atacama Desert Project, Forensic Architecture, September 2013. Presented by the community of San Francisco de Chiu Chiu during the process of indigenous consultation on the Chilean national copper corporation Codelco’s mining expansion project RT Sulfuros.

Extracts from the report on the expansion of the Talabre tailings pond by Alonso Barros and Godofredo Pereira, Atacama Desert Project, Forensic Architecture, September 2013. Presented by the community of San Francisco de Chiu Chiu during the process of indigenous consultation on the Chilean national copper corporation Codelco’s mining expansion project RT Sulfuros.

Water

Mining operations require water for mineral processing, dust suppression, and drinking. Implemented during the military dictatorship, the 1981 Water Code separated the ownership of water from the ownership of land, allowing it to be freely bought and sold with little regard for the adverse effects upon the surrounding environment. The use of water for mining purposes enhanced its scarcity, making the lives of indigenous communities unsustainable and resulting in a drastic population decrease in proximity to the mines. As a vital resource for indigenous communities and mining operations, in the Atacama region water has become simultaneously a central object of conflict and the very means by which conflict takes place.

Abandoned village in Quebrada de Mani, downstream from Quebrada Blanca copper mine, Pozo Almonte. Photo: Gonzalo Pimentel, 2013.

Abandoned village in Quebrada de Mani, downstream from Quebrada Blanca copper mine, Pozo Almonte.
Photo: Gonzalo Pimentel, 2013.

Abandoned village in Quebrada de Mani, downstream from Quebrada Blanca copper mine, Pozo Almonte. Photo: Gonzalo Pimentel, 2013.

Abandoned village in Quebrada de Mani, downstream from Quebrada Blanca copper mine, Pozo Almonte.
Photo: Gonzalo Pimentel, 2013.

NDVI analysis by Jim Norton (GISCorps) indicating a clear decrease in vegetation over the last forty years. Atacama Desert Project, July 2013.

NDVI analysis by Jim Norton (GISCorps) indicating a clear decrease in vegetation over the last forty years.
Atacama Desert Project, July 2013.

Abandoned village in Quebrada de Mani, downstream from Quebrada Blanca copper mine, Pozo Almonte. Photo: Gonzalo Pimentel, 2013.

Abandoned village in Quebrada de Mani, downstream from Quebrada Blanca copper mine, Pozo Almonte.
Photo: Gonzalo Pimentel, 2013.

Abandoned village in Quebrada de Mani, downstream from Quebrada Blanca copper mine, Pozo Almonte. Photo: Gonzalo Pimentel, 2013.

Abandoned village in Quebrada de Mani, downstream from Quebrada Blanca copper mine, Pozo Almonte.
Photo: Gonzalo Pimentel, 2013.

Kivalina

KIVALINA

Kivalina is an Iñupiaq village of 400 people situated on a barrier island in the Arctic, on the northwest coast of Alaska. In recent years global warming has been postponing the formation of sea ice, exposing the shore to autumnal sea storms and thus placing the existence of Kivalina increasingly under threat. The lack of basic infrastructure, compounded by erosion and flooding, have pushed the village to seek relocation.

In 2006 Kivalina sued the twenty-four largest oil and gas corporations, maintaining that they should be held accountable for the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore contribute to relocation costs. Following the failure of the legal forum to address Kivalina’s claims and the standstill of governmental relocation attempts, the Modelling Kivalina group traveled to Alaska to conduct a series of interviews with village residents, scientists, and political representatives.

Researchers

Modelling Kivalina:

  • Andrea Bagnato
  • Daniel Fernández Pascual
  • Helene Kazan
  • Hannah Meszaros Martin
  • Alon Schwabe

Collaborating Organisation

"Kivalina, "the Coming Storm" - Video documentary

Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corporation et al. Opinion by Judge Sidney R. Thomas, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in which Kivalina’s appeal is rejected.

Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corporation et al.
Opinion by Judge Sidney R. Thomas, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in which Kivalina’s appeal is rejected.

Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corporation et al. Opinion by Judge Sidney R. Thomas.

Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corporation et al.
Opinion by Judge Sidney R. Thomas.

Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corporation et al. Opinion by Judge Sidney R. Thomas.

Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corporation et al.
Opinion by Judge Sidney R. Thomas.

Oral argument at the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit San Francisco, November 28, 2011
Excerpts:

[1:18] “This case presents the question of whether a federally recognized Native American tribe and Alaskan municipality may proceed past the pleading stage with their damages lawsuit—a lawsuit seeking damages from defendants for their significant emissions of greenhouse gases and for the conspiratorial actions of some of those same defendants whom we allege engaged in agreement to continue their tortious conduct. There is a fundamental principle of public nuisance law that underlies this case, and it is essential to resolving the questions of displacement—a political question—and that principle is that when you sue in public nuisance for a damages case, particularly one seeking damages for severe harm, you don’t need to engage in a balancing of the utility of the defendants’ conduct against the harm to the plaintiff.” Matt Pawa, plaintiff attorney for the native village of Kivalina.

[12:10] “State Courts […] that have been hearing cases of severe harm, like the Wisconsin Court hearing the Jost case or Emerald Mines in the North Carolina case, have found that when you have a plaintiff whose property is being severely harmed by the defendant, the pollution and the conduct is not a license to harm even though under balancing test you might let it continue. But it is unreasonable not to compensate the plaintiff and the plaintiff here is being completely wiped out, and under that law it is very clear that the plaintiff need not demonstrate that the value of Kivalina is greater than the value of fossil fuels. I mean, I think it is clear it’s not.” Matt Pawa, plaintiff attorney for the native village of Kivalina.

[35:30] “The problem here is not that they pleaded too little but they pleaded too much. I mean, their allegations are quite candid as to what it is that they are doing here. They don’t say that they can in fact do any kind of retraceability, they say it all gets filtered through a globally mediated system that mixes everything together and eliminates traceability, and then injuries pop out on the other side. So when you’ve made that kind of an allegation, everything else that we’ve argued legally flows from that, and it’s not so much an issue that they didn’t plead enough facts. And that’s why a leave to amend would have been futile in this case.” Daniel Collins (Munger, Tolles, & Olson), defendants’ attorney.

NATO as Architectural Critic

NATO AS ARCHITECTURAL CRITIC

“NATO as Architectural Critic” is a videotaped conversation about the NATO bombings of Belgrade in the spring of 1999 and its forensic dimensions vis-à-vis architecture and urbanism. Four particular targets, all in Belgrade, are addressed in this video: the Yugoslav Army headquarters; the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party; the headquarters of Radio Television Serbia (RTS); and the Chinese Embassy.

The records used in this video conversation include news articles, legal documents, video clips, architectural drawings, websites, texts, and visual simulations. The objective in this visual investigation is to examine the role of a perpetrator as a cultural critic of the aesthetics of the space of the perpetrated in the process of choosing the targets. It points to the methods used by perpetrators such as the “proportionality principle,” which calculates the legitimate collateral damage committed in strikes. The aesthetics in this video are perceived as a fluid, malleable, susceptible, and yet persistent process illustrating an elastic relationship with international law.

Researcher

Srdjan Jovanović Weiss

"NATO as Architectural Critic" – Video

Newspaper Reporting

During the 1999 NATO bombing of Belgrade, the media⎯ which was under the control of the collapsing socialist state of former Yugoslavia⎯found itself in a real conundrum when faced with the actual threat of bombing: whether to continue media operations and risk the lives of its staff, or simply turn a blind eye. On Monday, April 5, 1999, a daily newspaper from Novi Sad called Dnevnik published an article translating as “Dangerous criminal claws of USA,” with a subtitle “Socialists of Priština warn European public.”

Politika Daily extended its reporting on the bombing on April 26, 1999 with several articles, one of which could be roughly translated as “First time in the history of war since the invention of television: television headquarters deliberately destroyed.” On the same date Politika Daily also ran an article commenting on the strategy for NATO’s “Merciful Angel” operation against Yugoslavia. The editors of Politika Daily were quick to counter the “Merciful Angel” branding of the military operation with a Serbian medieval icon: the “White Angel,” a medieval fresco at the Mileševo monastery. It was the “merciful” against the “white.” The “merciful” angel prevailed.

Spread from Politika Daily, April 5, 1999.

Spread from Politika Daily, April 5, 1999.

Spread from Politika Daily, April 26, 1999, with continuing coverage of NATO bombing of Serbian broadcasting company RTS.

Spread from Politika Daily, April 26, 1999, with continuing coverage of NATO bombing of Serbian broadcasting company RTS.

Financial Forensics

FINANCIAL FORENSICS

The Flash Crash of May 6, 2010 was the biggest one-day market decline in history. It saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunge by about 1,000 points—9 percent of its total value—only to recover these losses within minutes. A forensic investigation of this financial event conducted by the data analyst Nanex revealed that, in contrast to claims by US authorities, which put the blame on human trading, it was in fact trade orders executed automatically by algorithms that caused the crash. Nanex noticed evidence of market activity at fractions of milliseconds by analyzing the Flash Crash at a time resolution far quicker than conventional data records, which usually show one-minute trading intervals. Computer-based high-frequency trading is beyond the capacity of human experience or action. In order to support their claim, Nanex used otherwise secret trading data provided by Waddell & Reed, the mutual fund blamed for the crash. Here the traditional role of the expert witness is replaced by a collaboration between the forensic analyst and the renegade company, which joined forces to provide information in contravention of the industry’s unwritten law of secrecy.

Researcher

Gerald Nestler

 


Countering Capitulation

Countering Capitulation engages with the inquiries following the Flash Crash of May 6, 2010, an event that went down as the biggest one-day market decline in history. Focusing on a remarkable forensic analysis that not only contradicted the official findings of the regulatory authorities but also shed light on the impact of high frequency trading, Nestler argues that in the current legal framework, evidence of financial market events can only be produced by having two individuals share the role of expert witness: the forensic analyst joined by a renegade whistleblower. The video concludes with a call for renegade solidarity between the forensic analyst, the whistleblower, and the general public as the basis for an informed political debate on the effects of algorithmic trading, not just on financial markets but on society at large.

Both charts show E-mini S&P 500 index depth and cumulative Waddell & Reed contracts sold. Nanex’s findings contradict the official report issued by the SEC (the US Securities and Exchange Commission) and the CFTC (the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission) as regards the catalyst of the Flash Crash by showing that the bulk of trades by the mutual fund Waddell & Reed “occurred after the market bottomed and was rocketing higher—a point in time that the SEC report tells us the market was out of liquidity.”  Quoted from: May 6th 2010 Flash Crash Analyses: Continuing Developments: Sell Algo Trades, Nanex, October 8, 2010, http://www.nanex.net/FlashCrashFinal/FlashCrashAnalysis_WR_Update.html. Images: © Nanex, LLC.

Both charts show E-mini S&P 500 index depth and cumulative Waddell & Reed contracts sold. Nanex’s findings contradict the official report issued by the SEC (the US Securities and Exchange Commission) and the CFTC (the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission) as regards the catalyst of the Flash Crash by showing that the bulk of trades by the mutual fund Waddell & Reed “occurred after the market bottomed and was rocketing higher—a point in time that the SEC report tells us the market was out of liquidity.” Quoted from: May 6th 2010 Flash Crash Analyses: Continuing Developments: Sell Algo Trades, Nanex, October 8, 2010, http://www.nanex.net/FlashCrashFinal/FlashCrashAnalysis_WR_Update.html.
Images: © Nanex, LLC.

E-mini S&P 500 index depth and cumulative Waddell & Reed contracts sold. Images: © Nanex, LLC.

E-mini S&P 500 index depth and cumulative Waddell & Reed contracts sold. Images: © Nanex, LLC.

Nanex Flash Crash Summary Report, Nanex, September 27, 2010. This timeline graph distinguishes “the events that caused the crash from those that were effects of the crash. The main chart covers from 14:42:30 to 14:52:00 in 1 second intervals, and the inset covers from 14:42:43 to 14:42:46 in 25ms intervals.” Image © Nanex, LLC.

Nanex Flash Crash Summary Report, Nanex, September 27, 2010. This timeline graph distinguishes “the events that caused the crash from those that were effects of the crash. The main chart covers from 14:42:30 to 14:52:00 in 1 second intervals, and the inset covers from 14:42:43 to 14:42:46 in 25ms intervals.” Image © Nanex, LLC.

These charts by Nanex show the growth of high frequency quoting (left) and high frequency trading (right) 2008–2012. Nanex estimate that algorithmic trading accounts for 70% of trades and 99,9% of quotes. Hence, algorithmic trading constitutes market liquidity. The obvious conclusion: algorithmic trading machines have taken over. Images © Nanex, LLC.

This chart by Nanex shows the growth of high frequency quoting, 2008–2012. Nanex estimates that algorithmic trading accounts for 70% of trades and 99,9% of quotes. Hence, algorithmic trading constitutes market liquidity. The obvious conclusion: algorithmic trading machines have taken over.
Images © Nanex, LLC.

These charts by Nanex show the growth of high frequency quoting (left) and high frequency trading (right) 2008–2012. Nanex estimate that algorithmic trading accounts for 70% of trades and 99,9% of quotes. Hence, algorithmic trading constitutes market liquidity. The obvious conclusion: algorithmic trading machines have taken over. Images © Nanex, LLC.

This chart by Nanex shows the growth of high frequency trading, 2008–2012. Images © Nanex, LLC.