The notion of “legitimate use of violence” by the state, although far from new, still allows an understanding of the way our societies operate, according to a particular societal order. The punctual action of the police is often used to illustrate this notion, but the structures that condition it rarely incorporate architecture as a key actor. This lecture therefore proposes to examine this state violence through the scope of architecture using several examples: the state of emergency and the neo-colonial police stations of the Paris banlieues (suburbs), the foreseeable policed gentrification of Molenbeek in Brussels, the dehumanizing walls and container camp of Calais. Although emerging from significantly different political contexts, these case studies have in common that they implement themselves through architecture, using the latter’s intrinsic violence in order to force a political order on bodies.
A big “thank you” to Aya Nassar, Mara Duer, Antonio Ferraz de Oliveira, Maria Eugenia Giraudo, and Javier Moreno Zacarés for their kind invitation, as well as to Stuart Elden for his introduction.Read more
Image above – Street art by Dip Social Klub at Nuit Debout: “The police violence you are currently experiencing, it exists in the banlieues for more than thirty years.” “Homage to all the victims of police crimes.” “The dance of suffering.”
In an interview with Christina Heatherton and Jordan T. Camp featured in their book, Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter (Verso, 2016, soon on Archipelago), Naomi Murakawa states the following:
The terminology we use betrays the notion that policing at its core is acceptable, that it only becomes a problem when things go awry. But let’s be clear: there is no such thing as racial profiling. To say the police are profiling suggests the possibility that there could be colorblind policing. There never has been, and the social order in which we live means there never could be. “Police brutality” is also a hollow term, in the sense that all police interactions, by definition, occur under the threat of brutality.
This last passage, as well as the rest of the interview and the rest of the book, is extremely helpful to think of the current spectacular violence we are witnessing in France in the interaction between the police and strikers/demonstrators against the project of a legislation project that would regulate labor to the detriment of workers. An important part of the media and politicians have insisted that police officers were the victims of many actions of “casseurs” (literally, “breakers”) organized against them. This discursive stigmatization allowed the French government to order the legal exclusion of nine people from the area where a police demonstration was being held on May 18 to protest against “anti-cop hatred” — the police here lost an opportunity to protest instead against the long extra hours they have been asked to provide since the January 2015 attacks. Although this order was broken in courts — the suspicion against these nine persons to organize actions against the police was fund to be funded on nothing — we can see how the imaginary provided by most press outlets associated to the executive power of the ongoing state of emergency can deploy its arbitrary violence on targeted bodies.Read more
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.Read more
3 of the 13 drawings for Topie Impitoyable by Loredana Micu
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.Read more
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.Read more
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:
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.
Carceral dome for the Zaandam migrant detention center by Customr Willem van der Sluis / Photo by Luuk Kramer
As the latest issue of The Funambulist Magazine is dedicated to Carceral Environments, Daniela Ortiz brought to my attention the (past) existence of these carceral domes designed in 2007 by Dutch designer Customr Willem van der Sluis for a migrant detention center in Zaandam, a town situated a few kilometers north of Amsterdam. This is far from being the first collaboration between designers/architects and the industrial carceral complex in all its forms, and we should never refuse a debate of ideas with non-abolitionist designers providing that the extreme violence of incarceration is acknowledged as an axiom of the conversation. Furthermore, if we trust the successive dated imagery available on Google Earth, we can see that the domes were dismantled in 2013, and as such, they might not be so relevant to address here. However, the way the designer describes his project in two videos (see below), helped by a complaisant media coverage, provides a discourse banalizing the violence of architecture (which is far from exclusive to this particular project) and, as such, it seems important to analyse here.
The Zaandam migrant detention center is one of the three of the kinds in the Netherlands. It is situated on an industrial dock and the cells themselves are located in carceral barges anchored to it. In June 2008, Amnesty International published a report (the cover page is a photo of the Zaandam prison) about the criminalization and incarceration of persons in irregular visa situation in the country. The first paragraph of the report states the following: “Each year some 20,000 irregular migrants and asylum-seekers are detained in the Netherlands, where the use and duration of detention and other restrictive administrative measures is increasing. This report examines how far these measures have led to a deterioration in the human rights situation of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers. It also underlines Amnesty International’s growing concern over the control and security oriented approach by governments worldwide, in an effort to “combat” irregular migration, at the cost of migrants’ human rights” (Amnesty International, “The Netherlands: The Detention of Irregular Migrants and Asylum-Seekers,” 2008.). It is crucial to associate these concerns with the design of the domes examined here, since they fully contribute to the exercise of violence denounced by the report — the counter argument presented by the designer that the domes act as “an inverted panopticon” combines the odd architect obsession for Bentham’s carceral scheme and the eloquence of illusive ideas. Although the domes have been dismantled (perhaps moved to another location), they fully take their place in the inventory of the various inventive efforts provided by designers and architects in the enforcement of the walls of Fortress Schengen (see past articles about Calais and the Slovenian/Croatian border for instance) whether these walls are built on the borders themselves, or internally in the forms of heavily monitored refugee camps and detention centers.Read more
Still from You, the Living by Roy Andersson (2007)
Text originally published as “Shelter’s Political Violence,” in Arjen Oosterman and Nick Axel (eds), Shelter, Volume Magazine 46 (2015)
Shelter is often interpreted as the original typology of architecture, both for its primitiveness and for the simplicity of its function: a shelter is an architecture that protects the bodies it hosts from external conditions, such as the rain, the wind, the snow, etc. However, as often when it comes to the original figure of something, there is a risk of transforming this figure into a ‘pre-political’ myth, which recalls the illusory opposition between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Hobbes seeking to define the natural condition of the object we consider. The question is not whether the pre-political subject is intrinsically good (Rousseau) or bad (Hobbes) but, rather, if this very notion of pre-politics exists and helps us to interpret the world. Our imaginary tends to confirm this pre-political vision: after all, what is more innocent than a simple shelter whose only function is to protect our bodies from the elements? By extension, if we were to prove such innocence, we could draw the conclusion that architecture does not always bear political consequences. To the contrary, this text will attempt to demonstrate that the primitive shelter contains the totality of architectural characteristics that make the organization of space violent, regardless of the intentions that motivated its construction.
Let’s try to consider a shelter, the bodies it hosts and its direct environment, in utter simplicity: whether it consists of simply a roof or a walled enclosure of some sort, there is a separation – either an abrupt or a gradual one – between the sheltered space and the space outside of it. The sheltered space is, by definition, limited, which means that it can only contain a finite amount of matter. Bodies are material assemblages, which means that a shelter can only contain a limited amount of bodies and, by extension, that only a limited amount of bodies will be sheltered.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more