There’s an excellent account by Michael Hodges of Eyal Weizman‘s Forensic Architecture project (he now calls it a research agency) over at Wired UK. Unlike some media versions, this is fully – and appropriately – embodied and materialised, following Eyal through East Jerusalem and into the West Bank in August 2015. He explains:
“The idea is to use forensic architecture as a method that extends deep into the facts and looks at them and maps them out to see the materialisation of political forces. Forensic Architecture assumes that every bit of material reality is the product of a complex force field that extends in space and time. So you can take an inanimate object and see into it, almost like a crystal ball.”
That’s as good a summary of the project as you’ll find, but en route you also understand the ‘situatedness’ of the project – that’s an inadequate formulation, I increasingly think, since it’s also about extending deep into what, for want of a batter word, we might call the field: it’s about the rootedness of Forensic Architecture in the lives of the uprooted.
In consequence, what also comes into view during the report is the passionate commitment of its investigators to the witnesses whose experiences they recover:
“We understand the relationship between memory, architecture and violence,” Weizman says. “Take the woman who survived the drone strike in Waziristan [above; see also the video here: scroll down to case 2]. She was very traumatised; she lost relatives in there. We returned her digitally to the site of the attack and built it together with her, reconstructed her family house that had been hit by the drone [above]. During the modelling process she was meticulous about every window, every object we placed in there, every person. But she was very obsessed with a fan. In the beginning she said it was on the ceiling. Then she said no, it was a standing fan. She asked us to move it to the left and then to the right and then back again, until we were wondering, what is it about the fan? But when we made her walk through the space she recollected exactly where it had been, and that after the strike had killed her family she had found bits of human flesh on the blades of the fan. You see, the fan acted as an anchor for her memory and in the end we reassembled that memory in a digital space.”
And as you follow Eyal through occupied Palestine, you also realise that there is something vitally defiant in so thoroughly challenging Israel’s rhetorical claim to the ‘facts on the ground’.