Working notes from the Scandinavian Institute for Computational Vandalism

Forensic Architecture

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Dump of notes taken during the presentation of Eyal Weizman at the the seminar Culture@Work

What is an evidence? How to socialize it?

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The presentation begins with a discussion of the David Irving’s court case (see David Irving v Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt). Irving contests the very possibility of testimony. In negationism, materiality is played against memory. Robert Faurisson “No holes, no holocaust”. Even if the argument is obviously flawed, see and a forensic report on the existence of the holes.

Problems of forensic analysis of the aerial pictures of the death camps. The prisoner head is below the threshold of detectability. Problematic relationship between two materialities: the prisoner’s head and the particle of light sensitive crystals of the photographic emulsion. Matter plays against memory.

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In drone wars, the impact of the drone in the ceiling of a building creates a small hole. The explosion takes place inside the building, specific floors are targeted not the whole building. To detect the use of a drone, one needs to assert the existence of this hole. In photo satellite imagery, the resolution of publicly available images is limited. To preserve privacy and for security reasons, humans are kept below the threshold of detectability. So are drone holes.

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Eugène Thibault, first photos of war, figures are erased because the exposure time of early photography was too long. First couple of people captured in an image by Daguerre, a man having his boots shined waited long enough to have their silhouettes captured.

US (in Irak?), neither affirm or deny: politics of adding zero information to the system.

Using videos to reconstruct an attack.
– extract all frames
– compose a panorama from frames
– compare patterns with satellite imagery
– build 3d model of the location

A wall is like a light sensitive paper and the blast is like the light. The surfaces of the wall which do not contain shrapnels give the positions of the bodies.

Video testimonies of attacks are uploaded in real time on Arabic social medias.

To bring architecture as a document to be read.

Building surveyors understand buildings are dynamic. Only architects think they are static.

A building is a complex sensor that needs to be interpreted.

Hannibal directive of the Israeli army: the killing of a soldier is a lesser evil than his capture. A form of euthanasia.

Synchronizing data: no (or wrong) metadata on professional photographers cameras. To synchronize, look at physical clocks in images. The plume of an explosion is not a random shape. It is made by the contents of the building and the bodies that were in it. A plume is a building in a gas form. As the plume evolves through time, it becomes a physical clock. Images containing the plume can therefore be synched. The fact the plume morphs is what makes it a sensor. It integrates its surroundings in its form.

US Remote Sensing Act: resolution is lower for Israel imagery. The new French satellite Pléiades doesn’t do an exception for Israel, the resolution is 1px=0.5m everywhere.

Satellites have “agricultural” sensors measuring carbon levels. The plants record the activities that have affected the soil. Organic archives.

Testimonies are caught between the politics of compassion and a rigid materialism that deny their very possibility.
Matter is not outside of language, forensics is an expansion of testimony.

Militancy is a condition for research.

Read more about the Forensic Architecture project.

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