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Cover Design & Racism

It is my great pleasure to announce the release of the fifth issue of The Funambulist Magazine (May-June 2016) as well as its formal launch event in New York on May 4th. It is dedicated to a tremendously important topic that had been an underlying theme of many articles in the four first issues, but embraces here its entire primacy: the relationship between design and racism. Design tends to crystallize and reinforce the normative relationships between bodies in a given society, often to the point of materializing racist political programs. The issue is composed of articles, interview and projects describing the active contribution of design to structural racism in Palestine, the United States, France, South Africa, and Europe. The contributors are Eze Imade Eribo, Rasheedah Phillips, Nick Estes, Miriam Ticktin, Lwandile Fikeni, Nicola Perugini, Neve Gordon, Nacira Guénif-Souilamas, Alicia Olushola Ajayi, Whitney Hansley, Claire Lubell, and Melisa Betts, as well as Sinthujan Varatharajah and Yaşar Adnan Adanalı who both wrote guest columns that precede the main dossier.

The formal launch event will occur in New York on May 4th, 7PM at 61 Local (61 Bergen street, Brooklyn, NY). It will first consist in a presentation of the issue by editor-in-chief Léopold Lambert accompanied by contributor Alicia Olushola Ajayi, followed by a roundtable about the topic with Christina Heatherton, Hadeel Khalil Assali, and Minh-Ha T. Pham. The issue will be available for purchase.

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Léopold Lambert - Topie Impitoyable - Illustrations by Loredana Micu

3 of the 13 drawings for Topie Impitoyable by Loredana Micu

Topie Impitoyable: The Corporeal Politics of the Cloth, the Wall, and the Street published by punctum books, 2016.

As announced a few days ago, I have a second book being published almost simultaneously with the first one, La politique du bulldozer (B2, 2016). Written (exceptionally) in French in 2014, this volume attempts to articulate a certain amount of ideas gathered under Michel Foucault’s phrase, “Mon corps, topie impitoyable” (“My body, merciless landscape” — topie impitoyable was kept as such for its alliterative qualities, pronounce it out loud to hear it!). It was then illustrated by friend Loredana Micu and translated into English by Anna Klosowska, and it is now published in its bilingual version by punctum books with which The Funambulist has been repeatedly collaborating these three last years.

Topie Impitoyable: The Corporeal Politics of the Cloth, the Wall, and the Street is more invested in raising the question of what a body is than in offering a definitive answer. Instead, it questions some stereotypes concerning structures located at various degrees of proximity to the body’s material assemblage, allowing a better integration of the surrounding objects, atmosphere and other bodies and proposing a political reading of their relationship to the body, whether deliberate or accidental. From the hoodie that Trayvon Martin wore when he was killed, to the streets of New York City during Occupy Wall Street and the apartheid wall in Palestine, this book moves through a series of episodes that illustrate how bodies and objects of all sizes are enmeshed in deeply entangled political relationships.

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Grande Synthe - Calais - Two camps - Photos by Léopold Lambert

Important Note: As usual when it comes to such topics, I decided to reserve all rights when it comes to the photographs presented in this article (other pictures that I publish on this blog are licensed under creative commons), as I’m wary that their use could be instrumentalized for political ideologies with which I fundamentally disagree. If you would like to use them, feel free to send me an email to ask for authorization (info.funambulistATgmailDOTcom).

I drove back to Grande Synthe and Calais yesterday, in company of friend Merve Bedir (listen to our conversation for Archipelago) in order to document the new refugee camp of Grande Synthe (see below), as well as the massive demolitions that reduced Calais’ so-called “Jungle” of half its size a few weeks ago. Merve and I have agreed to both establish a report for The Funambulist insisting on our subjective vision of this visit during which we saw the same things but, necessarily, from two different points of view — the photographs we took bring an additional layer of subjectivity to the texts. This article is therefore specifically dedicated to the comparison of the two official camps that have been built in Calais and Grande Synthe. The reason for this is that both materialize into architecture a governmental (whether national or local) political program in which migrant and refugee bodies and lives are the object. Although this article will be constructed in a comparative, and therefore negotiative, mode between both camps, one should not forget the fundamental common point of both sites: the fact that they are and remain camps and, as such, an extremely problematic architecture/urbanistic typology, as we will see in the conclusion.

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La Politique du Bulldozer - Léopold Lambert 2016

It has been a little while since I knew that two new books I wrote would be published around the same time. While the second one will exist in bilingual French/English version (more about it in the coming days), this first one, La politique du bulldozer: La ruine palestinienne comme projet israélien (Bulldozer Politics: The Palestinian Ruin as an Israeli Architectural Project) was just published in French by B2 Editions. Here is a translation of the index:

  • Introduction
  • July 22, 2014 in GAZA: The Ruins of the Continuous Siege
  • July 1, 2014 in IDHNA: Punitive Demolition of Homes
  • Interlude: Caterpillar D9 Bulldozer
  • April 10, 2002 in JENIN: The Bulldozer Used as a Weapon of War
  • July 1971 in RAFAH: The So-called “Pacification” of Gaza by Ariel Sharon
  • July 18, 1948 in LUBYA: The Palestinian Ruin and its Absence
  • Conclusion

Since there is no English version planned out, and that I used the arguments and some of the case studies in a paper presented at SOAS for the symposium “The Gaza Strip: History, Future and New Directions for Research” (October 2015) I propose to publish this shorter text here for non-francophone readers. In addition of the research specifically made for the redaction of the book, it draws on a few articles and maps written and drawn here for the last two years.

The book can be found in French bookstores that have an architectural theory section, as well as on B2’s website.

The Palestinian Ruin as an Israeli Architectural Project ///

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Molenbeek (photo by Leopold Lambert 2014)2

One of the most recurrent questions asked by French main media in their current campaign against — the animosity they manifest allows this term to be used here — any form of manifestation of Islamic public signs consists in asking “How many Molenbeeks is there in France?” to which the usual televisual “experts” answer without blinking that France has been doing a better work than Belgium when it comes to constraining “Salafists” — a word that they evidently just learned — to the Republic’s order. Beyond the traditional French condescension towards the northern neighbors (jokes about Belgium people is an entire genre of humor in France), there is this dubious labelization of one of Brussels’ 19 municipalities (Sint Jans Molenbeek) into a synonym of crawling “jihadism” neighborhood; a labelization never questioned by any of these “experts.” This article will attempt to shortly introduce the process that such a stigmatization of a neighborhood inevitably triggers. Whether this process is understood and deliberated engaged by its concerned actors is irrelevant here. My arguments won’t be that news anchor, politicians, police officers and developers are meeting every Tuesday night to discuss about how they will engage the strategy described here, but that these four actors all play a crucial role in this process according to a specific chronology.

Molenbeek is a West-Brussels neighborhood where 94,000 people live, many of which are persons and families of Moroccan Rif descent. Among these residents, 10 were part of a group of 20 people responsible for the coordinated attacks that killed 130 people in Paris on November 13, 2015 and 32 people in Brussels on March 22, 2016. What allows the media and politicians to demagogically ignore the proportion that 10 people out of 94,000 represents, is the fact that Molenbeek is a piece of urbanity that Arab residents, a certain amount of whom carries signs of their faith, have appropriated, in the same way than any population residing in towns where the notion of public space actually means something. Even reasonable journalists seem to believe that they would not be writing a credible article if they were not acknowledging the visible manifestation of political forms of Islam in Molenbeek, as well as a supposed high rate of delinquency and criminality in the neighborhood (usually described through hearsay). However, when one looks at the actual statistic of reported illegal acts, one can only notice that the ones accounted for Molenbeek are significantly lower (often twice less) than the ones for the municipality of Brussels or other municipalities of the capital. We could expect serious journalists to find a way to generate the following graphs but that is apparently too much to ask for:

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Satirical Map brussels

Introductory note: In July-August 2014, the war launched by the Israeli army on Gaza killed 2,251 Palestinians, among which at least 1,463 were civilians. When confronted to these figures, the Israeli army legal corps justified this drastic proportion by invoking legal fictions supposed to legitimize them. Many of these fictions have already been exposed here (see here, here and here), but one in particular stroke us for its extreme demagogy: Palestinian civilians were killed by the Israeli bombs because they are used by Hamas as so-called “human shields” (see past article). In a forthcoming article for The Funambulist Magazine’s fifth issue (May-June 2016), Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon deconstruct the racist dimension of this legal narrative manufactured in order to legitimize the killing of thousands of Palestinians.

I was in Brussels all day yesterday, which allowed me to experience the heavy deployment of military and para-military (masked police officers with assault or sniper riffles, etc.) forces in some (strategic) parts of the city. “My thoughts and prayer [do not] go to the family of the victims” as the formatted sentence normally says. I suppose that, in their immense pain, they could not care less about this; instead, I hope that my anger represents them well. If we follow the dubious logic of the Israeli army’s spokespersons, their loved ones, and us all, ‘normal’ citizens using the public transportation systems of our metropoles are nothing else than the so-called “human shields” of our governments. In the wake of the November 13, 2015 attacks, the powerful slogan “Your Wars, Our Deads” (Vos guerres, nos morts) quickly emerged, although it did not reach the circulation of a consensual “Pray for Paris” — the French extremists of secularism still managed to find it problematic! — or the significantly more cleaving “Je suis Charlie” created after the assassinations of journalists in January 2015. Although the absolute conceptual separation of citizens and their governments is problematic in the deresponsabilization that it would imply, there is indeed a clear separation between them when it comes to the experiencing the consequences of the last 200 years of violence deployed by Western governments both internally and externally — a similar argument could be applied to the Turkish state-violence in Kurdistan or the islamophobic policies of the Indian local and national governments for instance.

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gsapp race and modern architecture

As I am currently working on the next issue of The Funambulist Magazine dedicated to Design and Racism, I was particularly interested to listen to the video of the recent round table organized by Mabel O. Wilson at Columbia GSAPP about “Critical Dialogues on Race and Modern Architecture” (see below). This enriching conversation between the guest speakers, Adrienne BrownMark CrinsonDianne HarrisSaidiya Hartman, and the two discussants, Irene Cheng and Charles Davis is self-explanatory and I simply encourage readers to take the time to listen to it — I particularly/personally recommend Hartman’s intervention, as well as the discussants’ inspiring formulation of additional questions. What triggers my need to write an article about this conversation is therefore much less the vain idea that I would have anything to add to these works, than the shock of seeing the amount of empty seats during the conversation in Columbia’s school of architecture’s main auditorium. Of course, there are always circumstantial reasons that can explain such a low attendance: the time of the event (lunchtime), the lack of publicity (although I did hear about it while living almost 6,000 kilometers away), or the various deadlines that students and professors may encounter at various times of the semester. However, hiding behind this contingency would be ignoring the reality of things: not only do architects rarely address the relationship between their discipline and racism, they seem to ignore it when the topic is finally raised in this kind of occasional events. The small audience gathered around this topic in a school that has the ambition to present a vision of architecture’s future is painfully symptomatic of this problem.

At the base of this problem, there is this eloquent figure of 91.3% of American architects being White, as Wilson recalls in her introduction — figures in most European countries are likely to be even more overwhelming. Just like when it comes to statistics of gender inequality, it is easy to understand that challenges to patriarchy and white supremacy, although not necessary actively prevented — they often are but this is beyond the point here — are mostly ignored in a profession that is mostly composed by bodies benefiting from such systems of inequality. The more this disproportion in the composition of who is architect will tend to disappear (as it is likely to happen, in particular when it comes to gender), the more we can expect anti-racism and feminism to be addressed by the profession. However, considering the problem only through this angle as it is often done (focusing on who can be considered as Black and/or female successful architects, for instance) is not enough (although, again, crucial too) and would ignore the essential function of architecture.

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Cover Carceral Environments

Dear readers,

I am happy to announce the release of the fourth issue of The Funambulist Magazine. After examining the politics of space/design and bodies of militarized cities, suburbs, and clothing, this is now the turn of Carceral Environments to be investigated by the talented contributors to the magazine. This issue examines various forms of incarceration spaces in relation to the bodies they imprison. Architecture’s violence is never greater than through its carceral typology, and a bit of this typology lies in all architecture. The issue explore political prisons in Ireland (Fiona McCann), migrant detention centers in the United Kingdom (Tings Chak & Sarah Turnbull), Indigenous boarding schools in Canada (Desirée Valadares), the carceral history of Guantanamo Bay (A. Naomi Paik), labor camps in California (Sabrina Puddu), and prison abolitionism (Nasrin Himada) in additions to the usual photographic and student sections, as well as the opinion columns and blog article re-edition.

Although the issue is already available, it will be formally launched at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal on Sunday 6th March at 3PM through a presentation of its contents and an introduction to prison abolitionism by Nasrin Himada, contributor to the issue. See the CCA website for more information. There will also be a presentation of this issue in Berlin on March 29 (more information about this event soon).

As usual, the issue is available for purchase in four different offers:
Printed Version
Digital Version
Printed + Digital Combo
Issues 03 Clothing Politics & 04 Carceral Environments Combo (printed)

You can also subscribe to the magazine and thus support The Funambulist in a longer span of time while benefiting of better prices:
– Printed Subscription per month
Digital Subscription per month
Printed + Digital Annual Subscription

The Funambulist relies on these sales to exist financially, and your support is therefore both appreciated and necessary. However, I apologize to the readers for whom the prices of these offers remain too high. I am thinking of ways to make the magazine more accessible for all in a fair way (cheaper prices in local bookstores for instance), and I never refuse to send the digital version to a reduced price or for free should it be your case and ask for it by email (info.funambulistATgmail.com).

Don’t forget that you can also help this endeavor by requesting your library to subscribe (form for institutional subscriptions) and/or by convincing your favorite bookstore to carry the magazine. The map of libraries and bookstores, where you can find The Funambulist is available here. The next issue (May-June 2016) is dedicated to Design & Racism. If you know of architecture/design/art student projects that address this issue, you may send them to info.funambulistATgmail.com for consideration. Thank you very much, I hope that you enjoy this issue, I certainly did working on it.

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Slovenian border fence - Photo by Léopold Lambert for The Funambulist (2018)

Fence recently set up and awaiting barbed wire on its top to materialize the border between Slovenia (i.e. Schengen space) and Croatia / Photo by Léopold Lambert (February 2016)

After documenting the particular Eastern gateway between “Fortress Schengen” and “Fortress U.K.” that Calais embodies, a few weeks ago (see past article), I undertook to document a part of another border of the Schengen space, which was recently materialized through barbed wire and fences: the border between Slovenia and Croatia (member of the European Union, but not of the Schengen space). The photographs associated to this article attempts to give a sense of these apparatuses of control deployed against migrant bodies, but it seemed important to associate this text to them in order to account of a small discrepancy between what I thought I would see, and what I actually saw. Part of the barbed wire ‘rolls’ set up on Slovenian land by the Miro Cerar administration at the end of 2015 had to be recently withdrawn because of them being flood by the river Kupa that separates the two countries close from the town of Metlika. Barbed wires are therefore currently replaced by fences whose Y-shaped posts await to be complemented by additional barbed wires (see photos above and below).This transitional aspect of things has therefore to be kept in mind when reading the following paragraphs. Similarly, it should be kept in mind that my research documents only 80 of the 670 kilometers of the border, including the main access between the two capital cities, Ljubljana and Zagreb.

These two provisions being stated, what surprised me during this research was the discontinuity of the militarized border. At some points, the fence creates an entrance to give access to the river (in such optical manner that it is hidden from the other side), on another, the barbed wire rolls stop in the middle of a forest, a few hundreds meters away from a custom station, some other times, the river remains the blurry and inconsequential boundary between two countries that celebrate their 25th independence anniversary this year. The militarized aspect of the border would thus ‘only’ be a spectacle, allowed by the vocabulary of continuity that the standardized components of the fence and the thread of the barbed wire constitute? This is an aspect of walls that I usually do not really address, favoring the effective immediate violence on bodies that they constitute. Yet, in this case, the spectacle of the walls, its rumor, organizes bodies in the territorial space and therefore finds a place in the editorial approach of this broader research.

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About Calais - Photos by Leopold Lambert for The Funambulist

TWO IMPORTANT POINTS:
1. 
Although the photographs presented here are meant to contribute to a larger imaginary about the Calais’s “Jungle,” they represent only a fragment of it and, as such, can be misleading, the reason being that I did not want to take pictures of people. Is missing, among other things, the Jungle’s ‘main streets’ with its Afghani and Kurdish restaurants, its small shops and its religious buildings (three of which were demolished two days ago). The audacious inventiveness deployed to build these buildings and urbanity is therefore invisible on the photographs presented here.
2. In the same way than I did for a past article, I exceptionally decided to reserve all rights when it comes to these photographs (other pictures that I publish on this blog are licensed under creative commons), as I’m wary that their use could be instrumentalized for political ideologies with which I fundamentally disagree. If you would like to use them, feel free to send me an email to ask for authorization (info.funambulistATgmailDOTcom).

This article can be read in the continuity of the one entitled “Mud, Water & Steel: Migrant Bodies, Policed Environment and Humanitarian Architecture in Calais,” published on January 14, 2016. It constitutes an attempt to organize a few thought after a visit to Calais and Dunkirk yesterday. These thoughts do not address the individual and collective experiences of duress of the refugees who currently live in Calais’s so-called “Jungle” and Dunkirk’s Grande Synthe encampment but, rather, the massive deliberate means undertaken by the national and local authorities to write a new chapter of hardship for them. This rejoins an intuition that I have been able to express here in the past: when it comes to refugees, a radical politics that the European Union could adopt is…doing nothing. By this provocative statement, I mean that a significant part of hardship that refugee individuals and families currently experience is due to the various means deployed against them by the European Union (borders, walls, police harassment, and racism) and that the dismantlement of these means would drastically transform their daily lives and endeavors. This is not to say that their flee from various forms of individual and collective persecution should be met with indifference, but simply that the efforts that are currently put in antagonizing migrants and refugees are much greater than the ones necessary to provide adequate welcoming conditions to their temporary or permanent resettling. 

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