Posts tagged with "Forensic Architecture":

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Forensic Architecture and seven other artists withdraw from Whitney Biennial

Update: As of July 26, Warren B. Kanders has resigned from the board of the Whitney Museum, according to the NYT. It's unclear now whether the eight artists and collectives that withdrew from the Biennial late last week will move forward in removing their artwork on August 2, as was scheduled. Meanwhile, six other artists have announced their intention to remain in the showcase. Over the weekend, eight artists whose work is showcased in this year’s Whitney Biennial have called for their pieces to be removed from the museum, citing one board member's ties to supplying tear gas and live ammunition to countries currently in political crises, including the U.S.  According to Artforum, even after months of protests from artists and other scholars, the Whitney Museum has yet to force the resignation of Warren B. Kanders, vice-chair of the board and CEO of global weapons manufacturer Safariland. His products have been used to squelch protests in at least 13 countries, leading the major art event to earn the nickname, “The Tear Gas Biennial.” In an open letter to the biennial’s curators first published on Artforum, the first group of four artists shared their reasons for withdrawing their work:
“We care deeply about the Whitney. Over the years, many shows at the Museum have inspired and informed our art. We were angry when we learned of Kanders’s role as CEO of Safariland, a company that manufactures tear gas and other weapons of repression. At the time, we had already accepted your invitation to participate in the Whitney Biennial and were all well into fabrication of major pieces for this show. We found ourselves in a difficult position: withdraw in protest or stay and abide a conflicted conscience. We decided to participate.” “But the Museum’s continued failure to respond in any meaningful way to growing pressure from artists and activists has made our participation untenable. The Museum’s inertia has turned the screw, and we refuse further complicity with Kanders and his technologies of violence.”
Among the eight artists to denounce the Biennale was the University of London-based research group Forensic Architecture, which uses architectural spatial analysis and forensic techniques to study human rights violations around the world. Hyperallergic reported that the studio and its partner Praxis Filmes has asked the Whitney to replace its 10-minute video Triple-Chaser, which traces the spread of tear gas and bullets through companies like Safariland, with a new film that shows incriminating evidence that Kanders is directly linked to a bullet company that’s been selling products to the Israeli Military Industry. The New York Times dually noted that Kanders’ supply of tear-gas grenades have been allegedly used during protests at not only the Israeli-Palestinian border in Gaza, but also at United States-Mexico border, in Ferguson, Missouri, and at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which straddles both North and South Dakota. Forensic Architecture and its founder Eyal Weizman have not commented on the news yet, but Whitney director Adam D. Weinberg, released a statement on Friday saying the museum will follow through with the artists’ requests, according to the New York Times “The Whitney respects the opinions of all the artists it exhibits and stands by their right to express themselves freely. While the Whitney is saddened by this decision, we will of course comply with the artists’ request.”  It’s unclear exactly when the pieces will be removed from the exhibition, but it will likely happen quickly as the Biennale is set to close in two months. So far, work from the remaining 67 exhibitors will stay on view in the showcase through September 22.  After this article was published Forensic Architecture released an official statement on its withdrawal writing: "As a result of our findings, and in solidarity with Palestinian resistance, Forensic Architecture and Praxis Films together believe our position within the Biennial is no longer tenable. We continue to demand that Kanders is removed from his position on the Whitney’s board of trustees."
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Forensic Architecture sets a high bar at the Whitney Biennial

“While my company and the museum have distinct missions, both are important contributors to our society,” said Whitney Museum of American Art vice chairman Warren B. Kanders. This statement, salvaged from a letter leaked by ARTnews in December, sets the tone as the opening visual for Forensic Architecture’s installation at the Whitney Biennial—a 15-minute video delivering the collective's most recent foray into artificial intelligence, titled Triple Chaser. The London-based architecture and science research group chose to respond to the Kanders tear gas and munitions scandal not with a withdrawal from the biennial, but with the creation of a work of art-as-social justice tool, a submission that infiltrates the subject of derision’s own institution. Their video, created in collaboration with director Laura Poitras and Praxis Films, is narrated by David Byrne cooly explaining how FA approached the training of a computer program to track and recognize images of “Triple Chaser” tear gas canisters and subsequently reduce the amount of human labor needed to do so. The program is trained to recognize the canisters, so named for the way they break into three distinct pieces after being fired, and not become used to identifying just the degraded landscapes they usually occur in. Forensic Architecture’s website, as well as the video, comments that “Whereas the export of military equipment from the US is a matter of public record, the sale and export of tear gas is not.” The analyzed images act as proof of their use, and therefore sale, to over 14 countries including US border states -- and these canisters are just one of the many munitions manufactured by Defense Technology, a subsidiary of the Safariland Group -- Kanders is the founder, chairman, and chief executive. Byrne’s narration clearly and objectively describes the group’s methods in creating a piece of artificial intelligence, accompanied by visuals and music that are at once pragmatic as well as sensually arresting. Viewers are prompted before one section of the video with a seizure warning, as a series of bold geometric backgrounds used to train the program appear, the compositions flashing at rapid speed on screen, a kaleidoscope of color and stimulation. The tear gas cans are highlighted and boxed in bright pinks, yellows and blues that act as sharp contrasts against the dusty, barren landscapes of the war zones they are scattered in. Whole sections of the video are also set to the symphonic music of Richard Strauss, Kander’s personal choice for the Aspen Music Festival section named for him after a multi-million dollar donation. The haunting strings and dramatic woodwind crescendos are fitting for the eerie images they amplify. This video is an overtly collaborative work, and FA reached out to other artists and activists working in zones of political unrest, where the canisters are common, to fill out their image banks. The video shows one video submission of a rusted canister from an artists colony in Israel, one that Byrne introduces as “one of the most heavily gassed artist's colonies in the world.” In FA’s data-driven way, their video encompasses why a cultural institution like the Whitney cannot have, in the opinion of many, a man like Kanders on a board that should be protecting, not attacking, artists and their voices. Forensic Architecture as a firm, a lab, a collective, is inherently interdisciplinary, regularly overstepping traditional boundaries between professions and genres. Their “artwork” is serving a similar focus as well. Is this video just as much “art” as the Arroyo paintings in the same gallery? Politics have always been a subject of art, artists and creative output, but the contemporary climate seems to be showing artists as not only creating political works, but exposing politics and its maneuvering as art inherent in its existence -- politics create culture, and other elements of culture are responding to what politicians and votes are “creating.” But is “Triple Chaser” a work of art, or a work of journalism, or of anthropological research? A reorganization and alt-method of displaying data, the inclusion of Forensic Architecture at the Whitney Biennial sets a possible precedent for contemporary art, one that may be hyper-specific to current events, relevant due to an Internet-age concept of timeliness.
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Forensic Architecture joins the 2019 Whitney Biennial as controversy grows

The Whitney Museum is ramping up for its 2019 Biennial and has revealed its list of 75 contributing artists. The Biennial has, since 1932, been a prestige showcase of the contemporary art landscape in the United States. While this year’s show won't open until May 17, it has already courted controversy. This year’s exhibition, curated by Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley, will also include the London-based arts-architecture-and-science research collective Forensic Architecture, which is hot off of its nomination for a Turner Prize last year. The run-up to the exhibition has been fraught. After Hyperallergic revealed in November of last year that Warren Kanders, a Whitney vice chairman, was the owner and CEO of Safariland—a weapons company responsible for manufacturing tear gas used at the border and the Standing Rock protests—a number of artists have spoken out in protest. Artist Michael Rakowitz has already withdrawn from the show as several other contributors, including Forensic Architecture, have indicated that their contributions will directly address the Safariland issue. With the Whitney refusing to remove Kanders from his position, the activist group Decolonize This Place has pledged to hold nine weeks of “art and action” before the Biennial’s start. In a statement released on Twitter, the group has also promised that it will work with the Biennial’s artists to pressure the museum into removing Kanders, as well as hold supplemental events that spotlight the voices of indigenous and marginalized peoples. Decolonize This Place has emphasized its belief that the museum should not be able to profit through “state-sponsored violence” and has iterated its support for any artists who choose to drop out from the Biennial in the coming months. When reached for comment, Forensic Architecture directed AN to the following statement released on Twitter earlier today. “In light of recent reporting by @hyperallergic & protests by @decolonize_this & others, our invitation to the 2019 #WhitneyBiennial has become a challenge which unites the political & cultural dimensions of our practice. We will respond through our contribution.”
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Here are our top 2018 summer architecture reads

As we turn the corner into summer, it’s time to kick back and dive into a book, whether you’re at the beach, drink in hand, or stuck inside an air-conditioned office. A suite of books about architecture, planning, and urbanism are slated to drop in the coming months, and AN has compiled a list of our favorite page-turners. They range from behind-the-scenes looks into how Disneyland was planned and built, to essays on urbanism, and mellow photo collections of a modernist California. What Goes Up: The Right and Wrongs to the City Michael Sorkin Verso $24.72 In this collection of essays, architecture writer (and AN contributor) Michael Sorkin tracks the conversion of New York City into a playground for starchitects, starting with Bloomberg and moving into the present day. But if What Goes Up has an antagonist, it’s most likely embodied in now-President Trump, who Sorkin views as a product of everything wrong with development in New York. The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids Alexandra Lange Bloomsbury Publishing $22.77 – June 12, 2018 release How does design shape our formative years? What did Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller play with when they were growing up? What distinguishes a “good” toy from a “bad” toy, and who decides which is which? Through equal parts history and case studies, Lange deftly explains how children went from playing with blocks to Minecraft, and how the play environment shapes a child’s formative years. Modernism's Visible Hand: Architecture and Regulation in America Michael Osman University of Minnesota Press $30.00 When did the modern age begin? The advent of refrigeration and climate control allowed for the mass distribution of food, the rise of tall buildings, and new advances in occupancy comfort. With so many more options for controlling the interior environment, architects took on a much more important role; and as Osman argues, played a major part in introducing the regulations that would standardize the centuries to come. Landscape of Faith: Interventions Along the Mexican Pilgrimage Route Tatiana Bilbao, photos by Iwan Baan Lars Müller Publishers $32.25 Two million pilgrims annually travel the treacherous mountain path through Jalisco, Mexico to reach a shrine to the Virgin of Talpa. Can a path, typically considered a liminal space, have its own vernacular, culture, and history? In Landscape of Faith, Bilbao and Baan explore the temporary and permanent structures, institutions, and landscapes that pilgrims must pass on their 110-mile journey. Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability Eyal Weizman MIT Press $35.95 With Forensic Architecture’s shortlisting for the prestigious Turner Prize, the research group/activists/art collective has gotten more media attention than ever. In this recently released monograph, founder Eyal Weizman details how group uses a mixture of architecture, forensic science, and crowdsourced information to reconstruct crimes scenes and obfuscated timelines. Forensic Architecture includes a mix of case studies as well as step-by-step details into how the group conducts an investigation. Walt Disney's Disneyland Chris Nichols TASCHEN $50.00 –September 12, 2018 release Disneyland represents a dream-like ideal for many, but how was the city-within-a-city actually designed and constructed? Nichols pulls back the curtain on Walt Disney’s little-seen inspirations, sketches, original documentation and more from the park’s conception. The design and buildout, opening, and the continued life of the park ever since are presented in context alongside a California that was changing around it. California Captured: Mid-Century Modern Architecture, Marvin Rand Pierluigi Serraino, Emily Bills, Sam Lubell Phaidon Press $40.19 Keep the California vibes going with California Captured, an index of photographer Marvin Rand’s mid-century work. Rand captured photos of the modernist masters at their peak (including buildings by Craig Ellwood, Louis Kahn, and Frank Lloyd Wright) and exported the “Mid-Century California” aesthetic all over the world. The Architecture of Closed Worlds: Or, What Is the Power of Shit? Lydia Kallipoliti Lars Müller Publishers and Storefront for Art and Architecture $32.20 - August 28, 2018 release Closed systems, whether they be a submarine or an office, are designed as self-sustaining environments. In The Architecture of Closed Worlds, Kallipoliti tracks the evolution of closed environment structures from 1928 to the present through 39 case studies of cutting edge prototypes. The relevance of the enclosed space extends into sustainable design and ecological concerns, as designing a self-sustaining system often forces architects and designers to expand their environmental consciousness. Every book on this list was selected independently by AN‘s team of editors. If you buy something via the embedded links, AN will earn a commission. 
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Forensic Architecture is shortlisted for the Turner Prize

The London-based Forensic Architecture, a research agency that uses architectural thinking and modeling skills to investigate crimes and disasters, has been shortlisted for one of the art world’s most prestigious prizes. Forensic Architecture joins artists Naeem Mohaiemen, Charlotte Prodger, and Luke Willis Thompson in the running for the Tate Britain’s 2018 Turner Prize. Started in 1984, the Turner Prize is open to any British artist, whether that artist (or group) is living abroad or is simply working in the country. While the tradition of nominating artists under 50 was amended last year to allow those over that number, all of this year’s shortlisted entrants happen to be younger than 50. The Turner Prize is designed to stimulate the creation and discussion of new art by emerging artists, and past winners have often gone on to successful careers in the art world, including Damien Hurst (1995), director Steve McQueen (1999), and Anish Kapoor (1991). Winners also receive approximately $35,000 in prize money, while the runners-up are given approximately $7,000. Forensic Architecture, founded in 2010 and based out of southeast London’s Goldsmiths, University of London, includes a multidisciplinary team of scientists, journalists, architects, software developers and artists. Blurring the line between architecture, investigative reporting and art, the group has uncovered evidence of human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings all over the world. Using social media and eyewitness accounts, the group is recreating the Grenfell Tower fire timeline; has contradicted the official account given by a German undercover officer who claimed to have not witnessed a nearby murder in an internet café; and uncovered the U.S. bombing of an active mosque in Syria. These investigations have been turned into exhibitions shown all over the world, and the Turner Prize nomination is for their recent shows in London, Mexico City, and Barcelona. Nominee Naeem Mohaiemen’s varied, research-led work examines the transitionary period for left politics following World War II, and has been shown in solo exhibitions around the world, including MoMA PS1. His nomination follows his participation in the currently ongoing Documenta 14. Charlotte Prodger, a video and mixed-media artist, has been nominated for her solo show examining the autobiographical intermingling between humans and technology at the Bergen Kunsthall in Bergen, Norway. At 30 years old, Luke Willis Thompson is the youngest of this year’s nominees. His work examines the histories and traumas of class, race and social injustice. This year’s jury includes Oliver Basciano, critic and International Editor at ArtReview; Elena Filipovic, Director of the Kunsthalle Basel; Lisa LeFeuvre, Head of Sculpture Studies at the Henry Moore Institute; and Tom McCarthy, novelist and writer. The winner of this year’s Turner Prize will be announced in December 2018.
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Forensic Architecture solicits home videos for Grenfell Tower fire investigation

An architectural research agency devoted to the innovative investigations of catastrophes and violence has just launched an inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, a June 2017 blaze that engulfed a West London social housing complex and killed 71 people and injured 70 more. Forensic Architecture put out a call on Twitter today, asking witnesses to send in videos of the conflagration to kick off a "a long-term and open-ended" inquiry into the incident. Experts contend that the fire was hastened by the facade's cladding and highly flammable polystyrene insulation. Forensic Architecture, directed by architect Eyal Weizman, is a collaboration between architects, computer specialists, journalists, filmmakers, scientists, and others, is based at Goldsmiths, University of London. Far from a mere video content farm, the group uses its resources to illuminate the inner workings of conflict situations, often taking amateur footage as a basis for their analysis. Its findings are deployed in courts and human rights reports, among other fora. Forensic Architecture took to Twitter to encourage witnesses to send in their movies of the event: Grenfell Tower, a 24-story Brutalist building in North Kensington, was designed by Clifford Wearden and Associates and completed in the 1970s. Forensic Architecture is compiling the videos, determining the orientation of the (usually) smartphone-wielding videographer, and projecting them onto a 3-D model of the building. Would-be contributors can submit their footage, anonymously or not, here. The news comes on the heels of an announcement that London's Adjaye Associates, along with five other firms, have been selected to share ideas for the future of Lancaster West Estate, the municipal housing complex that hosted Grenfell Tower. If an architect is selected and everything goes according to plan, work on the project is slated to begin in 2019.