Middle East Studies

Eyal Weizman ─ Atmospheric Violence

Thursday, September 15, 2022

4:30pm – 6:00pm

True North Classroom, Stephen Robert '62 Hall, 280 Brook Street

This event is part of the conference: Rethinking Binational Cities: Israel/Palestine and Beyond

Reception to follow.

Eyal Weizman will speak about cities, warfare, neo-colonization, and apartheid, not by focusing on built structures but on the air that moves through cities.  Airborne toxins, like the colored smoke in a wind tunnel, highlight the dynamics of power and control that we must pay more attention to. Tear gas is deployed to disperse bodies gathering in democratic protest, white phosphorus, and chlorine gas to spread terror in cities, aerial herbicides to destroy arable land and ruin livelihoods, and the smoke rising from large-scale arson to eradicate forests for industrial plantations. Toxic clouds colonize the air we breathe across different scales and durations, from urban squares to continents, unique incidents to epochal latencies.

This violence is not momentary and kinetic like a gunshot or explosion, where ‘every contact leaves a trace. In analyzing airborne violence, causality is hard to demonstrate; the ‘contact’ and the ‘trace’ drift apart, carried away by winds or ocean currents. When clouds shift from the physical to the epistemological, toxic fogs also breeds lethal doubt. When those in power deny the neo-colonial realities, those forced to inhabit the clouds must find new forms of resistance.

These ideas will be developed through the presentation of a number of investigations Forensic Architecture has undertaken in places from Palestine through Chile to Indonesia. Weizman will also discuss the reception this work has had and what he thinks we can learn from the controversies it has generated.

Nadia L. Abu El-Haj, Professor, Barnard College will give a response and moderate.

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Eyal Weizman is the founder and director of Forensic Architecture and professor of Spatial and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London, where in 2005 the founded the Centre for Research Architecture. In 2007 he set up, with Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, the architectural collective DAAR in Beit Sahour/Palestine. He is the author of many books, including Hollow Land, The Least of all Possible Evils, Investigative Aesthetics, The Roundabout Revolutions, The Conflict Shoreline, and Forensic Architecture. Eyal held positions in many universities worldwide including Princeton, ETH Zurich, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He is a member of the Technology Advisory Board of the International Criminal Court and of the Centre for Investigative Journalism. In 2019 he was elected a life fellow of the British Academy. In 2020 he received an MBE for ‘services to architecture and in 2021 the London Design Award. Forensic Architecture is the recipient of a Peabody Award for interactive media and the European Cultural Foundation Award for Culture.