#rp18 speaker Egal Weizmann; Photo credit: Paul Stuart for New Scientist
We’re very much looking forward to Israeli author and architect Eyal Weizman, director of the London-based interdisciplinary research agency “Forensic Architecture”. At rp#18, he will be discussing how technology and data analysis can help to reconstruct historic and current injustice, while developing standards for “certified truths”—an important objective in the Fake News era!
Images can be weapons: IS propaganda videos are just one example. On the other hand, images and data can be important tools for gathering intelligence. Demonstrating the full scope of their power has been the objective of London-based Forensic Architecture agency at Goldsmiths College for the last several years,
Weizman and his team are able to extract an unthinkable amount of information from images and videos—especially from troubled regions—supplying human rights organizations and environmental activists with valuable ammunition in their fight against states, governments, and corporations.
By analyzing images and videos collected by civilians and activists, the London-based team is able to examine current and historic conflicts: From violence perpetrated along Pakistani borders to the South American rainforest and the Israel-Palestine conflict. A glimpse at their cases paints a stark, yet impressive picture: “Saydnaya” offers an acoustic tour of a torturous Syrian prison. “Black Friday” depicts the bombardment of apartment buildings during the last Gaza war. One reconstruction shows a boat full of refugees drifting off into the Mediterranean, while another documents secret Cameroonian torture camps erected in the name of the “War on Terror.” To create these reconstructions, the agency utilizes publicly accessible information, as well as materials sourced from local affiliates.
In Germany, they participated in reconstructing the NSU murder of shopkeeper Halit Yozgat, which succeeded in raising substantive doubts about a police informer’s testimony. The impressive results were presented at Documenta 14 in Kassel. The team was also able to aid German sea rescue team “Jugend Rettet” in reconstructing the illegal confiscation of their boat, Iuventa, by Italian coast guards.
With investigative research network Bellingcat’s re:publica visit in 2016, along with this year’s talk by Adam Harvey and the Syrian Archive, Weizman and Forensic Architecture’s impressive work rounds off the conference’s technology and human rights focus.
What motivates Weizman? “We have the International Court of Justice in Den Haag, but it is incredibly slow, highly bureaucratic, and only takes on very few cases, most of them from Africa,” he says. The real power players remain unaffected. “We have to get creative about where and how we present our work. How can we gain leverage and turn powerlessness into power?”
Weizman and his team are making an invaluable contribution to solving concrete cases, while aiding victims and their families, strengthening human rights, and fighting against the indiscriminate exercise of governmental authority. The NSU case in Kassel confirms: It can happen to any of us.