One Flat Thing Reproduced by Choreographer William Forsythe (2008) /// Photograph by Michel Cavalca
A few months ago, I presented the work of dancer/philosopher Erin Manning and her book, Relationscape (MIT Press, 2009) through a Bergsonian interpretation of movement. Her most recent book, Always More Than One: Individuation’s Dance (Duke University Press, 2013) indicates twice in its very title its credit to Gilbert Simondon‘s philosophy. This volume continues to construct a philosophy of the dancing body, continuously “taking form” in relation of its environment. Dance is not necessarily on stage and does not necessarily requires music (at least, not music that knows that it is music) in the case of individuation’s dance. “There are techniques for hoeing, for standing at a bus stop, for reading a philosophical text, for taking a seat in a restaurant, for being in line at a grocery store,” says Manning (p33) using the Simondonian terminology.
Interpreting this last passage in terms of normativity would be completely misunderstanding Manning’s dicourse. The techniques she describes do not involve a normalized body on which these techniques would be layered: they are proper to each body’s specificity. In fact, what Simondon brings to the concept of body according to her consists in the refusal of thinking a predetermined form for the body, which brings us back to the first episode of this week in critique of the hylomorphic scheme:
March for the third month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street on November 17, 2011 /// Photograph by Léopold Lambert
The two last episodes of this “Simondon week” has been familiarizing us with the main concept of Gilbert Simondon‘s work: individuation. In a few words, we can redefine it as the operation in which some pre-individual embraces its becoming and supply a “solution to a problem” to form an individual. An individual is always incomplete and find itself (whatever it might be) always involved in new processes of individuation until its death/obsolescence. Simondon nevertheless does not stop at this concept of individuation developed in L’individu et sa genèse physico-biologique, he later invents the concept of transindividual in his book, L’individuation psychique et collective (Psychical and Collective Individuation, Aubier 1989). Transindividuation constitutes the operation in which a certain amount of individuals (born from successive operations of individuation) construct a relation between themselves that ultimately form a consistent aggregate that Simondon calls transindividual. It is important to understand this concept, not only in social terms as this text will attempt to do, but also in a less anthropocentric manner as I tried to do in a past article entitled “The Body Is not One, It Is Legion.” The idea behind this biblical reference was to insist on the composite characteristics of a body (human/animal or not) that is itself the continuous result of successive operations of transindividuation.
The fifth episode of the “Simondon week” is rather special as it is also the forty-fourth Funambulist Papers that friend Sarah Choukah was kind enough to write for us. Sarah shares her time between being a brilliant scholar and a bio-hacker (as well as a mycologist cook!) that she investigates in the following text in relation to the work of Gilbert Simondon. Her essay is thus an attempt to invent an applied simondonianism to the relatively recent political practice of bio-hacking, a Do It Yourself resistance against the laboratorian/pharmaceutical industries that are deeply entangled within capitalist logic. The fourth episode ended on this notion of associated milieus developed by Simondon; this is where Sarah starts her text.
The Funambulist Papers 44:
Of Associated Milieus
by Sarah Choukah
Recently as I was strolling through my neighborhood in Montreal, I came across a toy I saw kids play into in the eighties: the Cozy Coupe car with a bright yellow body and a red foot-powered chassis, a popular toy around that time. I remembered how the car’s cockpit allowed interfacing with familiar surroundings while giving a first sense of leg-powered, seated motility outside the house.
berries after an ice storm: materialization of the supercooling phenomena
Let us continue to think of the concept of life for Gilbert Simondon after Spinoza. In my knowledge, Spinoza never gives a clear definition of life in his Ethics. What we can draw from his philosophy to define life would be related to an intensity of movement of the substance concentrated within a body. Spinoza never seem to think in term of history of the world, and it would be an anachronism to attribute to him a first sketch of the evolution as thought by Charles Darwin two centuries after him; however, his ethics allows to think Darwin’s interpretation of the world since Spinoza thinks of the infinite substance that is the world as continuously in movement and transforming the bodies formed in it. Both of these narratives respect the antic principle according to which “natura non facit saltus” (nature does not make jump); in other words, life emerges gradually and not in thresholds. Simondon who is a thinker of the 20th-century, uses the scientific knowledge of his time in biophysics, electronics and thermodynamic to think of a new definition of life.
Gilbert Simondon is often approached through his writings about technical objects, in particular, through his 1958 book On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects (translated in English by friends Nandita Biswas Mellamphy, Dan Mellamphy and Ninian Mellamphy). As we will see this week, the technical objects are only one aspect of his work, but I am interested to introduce it here as it can be read as the elaboration of a societal ethics that highly contrasts the capitalist one. Although Simondon has a different vision for this ethics than the Marxist one as we will see further, he regularly refers explicitly or not to Karl Marx when he evokes the alienation of the industrial workers. In this regard, the following passage from Capital is fundamental to understand the Marxian definition of capitalism in the separation of the laborer, the means of production and the commodity itself:
It is often said that words hurt but what does that mean at the societal level? What are the locutions that, once enunciated, envelop the bodies and trap them as subjects? In “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” (1970), Louis Althusser presents the essence of ideology through the notion of interpellation (hailing). That is trough the locution “Hey, you there!” that a policeman transforms an individual into a subject when the latter turns around to face him:
I shall then suggest that ideology ‘acts’ or ‘functions’ in such a way that it ‘recruits’ subjects among the individuals (it recruits them all), or ‘transforms’ the individuals into subjects (it transforms them all) by that very precise operation which I have called interpellation or hailing, and which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police (or other) hailing: ‘Hey, you there!’
The sixth volume of The Funambulist Pamphlets that gathers and edits past articles (as well as additional photographs) of the blog about Palestine, is now officially published by Punctum Books in collaboration with the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons The New School. You can either download the book as a PDF for free or order it online for the price of $7.00 or €6.00. Next volume to be published will be dedicated to Cruel Designs. Click here to see the other volumes of The Funambulist Pamphlets.
Thank you to Eileen Joy, Anna Kłosowska, Ed Keller, Raja Shehadeh, Nora Akawi, Eyal Weizman, Regine Debatty, Ahmad Barcklay, Dena Qaddumi, Dror Etkes, Franchaska Katz & Amir Terkel.
Official page of The Funambulist Pamphlets Volume 06: PALESTINE on Punctum Books’ website.
Index of the Book
Introduction: Cartography of a Colonial Politics of Space
01/ The Palestinian Archipelago: A Metaphorical Cartography of the Occupied Territories
02/ For a More Embodied Vision of the Occupation: The Israeli Settlements in the West Bank Through Palestinian eyes
03/ Architectural Stockholm Syndrome
04/ The Route 443, a Symptomatic Example of the Apartheid Apparatus in the West Bank
05/ Road Link between Gaza and the West Bank: A Sovereignty Contained in a Line
06/ The Ordinary Violence of the Colonial Apparatuses in the West Bank
07/ The Right to the Ruin: Civilization Absence in the Post-Nakba Landscapes
08/ Sympathy with the Obstacle in the Gaza Strip
09/ War in the Manhattan Strip
10/ Political Geography of the Gaza Strip: A Territory of Experiments for the State of Israel
11/ Representation of Otherness for a Gaza Kid
12/ The Policies of the “Lesser Evil”
13/ Palestine: What the International Legislation Says
14/ Law as a Colonial Weapon
15/ The Reasons for Disobeying a Law
16/ The Palestinian Legal Right of Return
17/ Manual of Return
18/ 2037 by Raja Shehadeh
19/ Running as Political Resistance
20/ Idealism & Imagination
21/ Are we Questioning the Essence of Problems?
22/ An Epistolary Conversation with R. Debatty
23/ An Epistolary Conversation with A. Barclay and D. Qaddumi
As announced in the previous article about the “thanatopolitics of death penalty,” I will propose a review of the book Les corps vils : Expérimenter sur les êtres humains aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles (Vile Bodies: Experimenting on Human Beings in the 18th and 19th Centuries) written by Grégoire Chamayou (see past article) and published in 2008 (La Découverte). This book has not been translated into English yet and I am happy to propose a clumsy translation of a few excerpts in this article in order to share a little of its content to a broader audience than the francophone one. The original excerpts in French are included at the end of this article.
The subtitle of the book is explicit about the content of the research. In the Foucaldian tradition of drawing philosophical arguments through the precise examination of history, Chamayou investigates the role of medicine in relation to the development of the new mode of sovereignty embodied by biopolitics. This includes as much the new means of punishment as the administration of the colonies. Chamayou bases his book on the Latin locution “experimentum in corpore vili” (experimenting on vile bodies) that justifies the principle of experimentation on human beings at the condition that the considered body could be determined as vile. The first chapter of the book thus looks at the dissection practiced on executed bodies in order to enhance the medical knowledge of the time (my translation):
Since dissection appeared as an infamous treatment, it was therefore applied only to subjects that were already considered as infamous. Dissection was then inscribed within the extension of the sentence they received. It could only be practiced on executed criminal bodies, in a sort of continuity between the gesture of knowledge and the gesture of punishment. (Grégoire Chamayou, Les corps vils : Expérimenter sur les êtres humains aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles, Paris : La Découverte, 2008, 24.)
Electric Chair by Andy Warhol (1964)
There is still an existing political debate about whether of not a given society should adopt (perpetuate) death penalty as its ultimate judicial sentence. It is surprising to often hear people say that they are against death penalty “except for… (place here the most horrifying crime),” not realizing that this “except for” validates by definition their acceptation for this sentence. Beyond the strictly emotional (or even religious) aspects of the arguments given by its opponents, I would like to ask whether we actually fathom what death penalty really means in a given society.
In the context of premodern society that Michel Foucault describes as following a paradigm of sovereignty based on the right of the sovereign to dispose of its subjects’ life (to go to war for example) in exchange of protection against the various antagonisms coming ‘from the outside,’ the act to give death to one of these subjects can be integrated within the logic of such social tacit contract. On the other hand, the modern era is characterized by a biopolitical (quoting Foucault again) administration of society, i.e. an organization of life in its very mechanisms (health, sexuality, reproduction etc.) to optimize the function of society. In order to describe how death penalty integrates within this scheme, I need to briefly explain the idea of thanatopolitics (politics administrating death) that I introduced in a previous article. This notion emerges from the observation that death is “at work” and that there are therefore only two possible ways of dealing with it: acceleration or deceleration of the death process. Biopolitics therefore involves by definition its counterpart (one might say that there are the same), thanatopolitics. The administration of toxicity in the context of food production (an important part of biopolitics) or society’s infrastructure (pollution) or its risk factor (nuclear accidents), is what I include in this thanatopolitics that a given society has to organize to either administrate the acceleration or the deceleration of the death process.
Olive Harvest / Where Law Stands on the Wall – Visualizing Palestine 2013
The collective Visualizing Palestine is finishing a crowdfunding campaign for their operative budget (only five days left!). This gives us a good opportunity to look again at the work produced by this talented team a year and half after I published one of their first visuals on this blog.
The principle of Visualizing Palestine is to create posters expressing in an expressive manner, the conditions in which the occupation of the Palestinian territories unfolds itself on a daily basis. In order to do so, they articulate a metaphoric or diagrammatic visualizing one of the many dimensions of the occupation, with an inventory of sourced facts that informs this data. The two examples above are illustrative for that matter. The powerful imagery of Central Park being “uprooted” allows the information of the massive uprooting of Palestinian trees since the beginning of the occupation in 1967 to be understood both at a rational and at an emotional level. Similarly, the second poster provides a clear information about the various decisions of justice given by the International Court of Justice regarding the separation barrier built by the state of Israel since 2002. This information is crucial when we see that Benjamin Netanyahu now projects to build a new wall in the West Bank (once again on Palestinian ground) along the border with Jordan.
Following is four more visuals (more on VP’s website) created in this last year: Continue reading
Still from the film Naked Lunch by David Cronenberg (1991)
I am now at the end of my European trip for Archipelago and a few talks and will soon go back to my desk to write articles more regularly. I am now at the University of Sussex near Brighton where I recorded a podcast this morning with friend Lucy Finchett-Maddock (it will be released in January) that articulated a few of the idea that we had explored together in the past in the context of our epistolary exchange about architecture and the law, her contribution to the Funambulist Papers, as well as her contribution to the Disobedience workshop at Birbeck school of law (London) in 2011 that I published here in the past. The latter was about the notion of naughtiness in the literary work of William Burroughs and that is the object of this not-so-synthetic synthesis of our conversation here.
In the epistolary conversation to which I was referring above, Lucy and I had spoken about the collusion in Indian cities of eminent domain that reclaims an important amount of land to accommodate the conditions of life of the new Indian bourgeoisie, and what we then called “immanent” domain in the presence of the numerous informal settlements that claim land for the bare urban survival of the lowest social classes of the country. While the eminent domain constitutes a strategical modification of the legal system in a spirit that we could define as reminiscence of the colonial spirit, the immanent domain unfolds itself through the practice of the city and within an ambiguous interpretation of property within the legal framework. This immanent domain is what brought us back to Burroughs, and through him, the description of the Interzone that he does in Naked Lunch (1959) and Interzone (1989). The Interzone, as we discussed with Lucy, is both an international zone and a zone in which the law has been suspended. It was inspired to Burroughs by his life as a fugitive in Tangiers, as well as his consumption of heroin that has been one of the objects of his literary work. Burroughs’s descriptions of the Interzone reach a visual richness that even David Cronenberg was not fully able to introduce in his cinematographic adaptation of Naked Lunch in 1991 (longer excerpt at the end of this article):
Funambulism, Utopias, Backyards, Open Stacks, Architectures of In/security, Sonic Landscapes, Apian Semantics, Meta-Virtual Solipsism, Transcendent Delusions, Fibrous Assemblages, Circuses, Old Media, Pet Architecture, Persian Folds, DIY Biopolitics, and MORE (Eileen Joy describing The Funambulist Papers)
The Funambulist Papers Volume 1 that gathers thirty four essays of the first series of guest writer essays (plus an essay by Bryan Finoki) is now published, like for the Funambulist Pamphlets, by Punctum Books in association with the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons The New School for Design. I would like to insist on the variety of approaches and background of these authors whether we speak about their disciplines (architecture, law, cinema theory, art, history etc.) or their origins (23 nationalities) in order for this series to bring a fresh discourse in the middle of my articles that can be sometimes (often ?!) redundant. As for the Pamphlets, Punctum Books and I are keen to think of our work as part of an open access strategy and the book can be therefore downloaded for free as pdf. It is also available in its printed version on Punctum Book’s website for $15 (€13.00/£11.00). The book is also part of the “perks” of the crowdfunding campaign for Archipelago!
Thank you to Eileen Joy, Anna Kłosowska, Ed Keller, Peter Hudson, Petal Samuel, Liduam Pong, Mina Rafiee, and to Seher Shah for accepting that I use her painting “City Unknown” for the cover. Thank you very much to all the contributors as well for accepting to write pieces specifically for The Funambulist. This series will continue in the future and there should be a second volume at some point.
The book is organized in two parts, “The Power of the Line,” and “Architectural Narratives” as follows:
Posted in Architectural Theories, Books, Cinema, Essays, Fine Arts, History, Law, Literature, Philosophy, Politics, The Funambulist Papers
In Antic Rome, no General had the right to bring his army in the city, beyond the Rubicon that Julius Caesar dared crossing in 49 B.C. against the Roman legislation. In his new book La barricade: Histoire d’un objet révolutionnaire (Autrement, 2013), Eric Hazan, director of the publisher La Fabrique about which I wrote many times, establishes the first generalized construction of barricades to May 1588 in Paris. What triggered the insurrection led by the Duc de Guise and the Catholic League against King Henri III back then was the entrance of the King with his army (composed for half of it by Swiss guards) inside Paris.
Even nowadays, it is understood that an important amount of soldiers within a city involves if not a state of war, at least a state of emergency (sometimes a mix of both). The order of a city is supposed to be kept by the various forces of the police that have evolved during history (in Japan during the Meiji Era for example) with various degrees of bureaucracy for instance. However, one clear tendency that can be observed in Western countries, and more specifically in the United States, consists in the militarization of the city police, transforming the latter in something that look and act more and more like a regular army.
In November 2011, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg declared to the Press that he was proud to count on the seventh army in the world in the presence of the New York Police Department (NYPD). It has been proven that this figure is actually inaccurate and does not correspond to anything in terms of budget or equipment; nevertheless, the fact that a mayor of a major world city is able to make such a claim — even if the NYPD is the thirtieth army in the world, it is still something — is highly illustrative of this evolution of the police of the world. The NYPD owns indeed an impressive set of equipment, some of which is designed for its own specificity like the mobile observation towers (see past article) that one can see in various neighborhoods of New York. This equipment also counts various armored vehicles as well as six small submarine drones. This does not include by definition what is kept secret in the defense against terrorism but that often escape from Bloomberg’s and Ray Kelly’s (the New York Police Commissioner) satisfied speeches.
David Hammons, “Fresh Hell” (1993) via threadbared
The recent series about fashion design and politics continues today in the form of a synthesis of the conversation I had with Mimi Thi Nguyen, co-editor of Threadbared and associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. This conversation is one of the two sample podcasts available on The Funambulist’s podcast platform Archipelago that will veritably begin in January 2014. As you can see, this project will also fuel the written feed of The Funambulist in what I believe is an interesting dialogue between two mediums (conversations+written synthesis). In this present case, I will introduce this text in two parts as they occurred more or less deliberately in our conversation (Oct. 10, 2013).
Part 1: The Clothe as an Object Crystallizing the Power of the Norm(s)
I often write that no architecture can possibly be politically neutral; Mimi is convinced of the same thing as far as clothing is concerned. We started our conversation by evoking an article she wrote four years ago when she first started to teach. Untitled “Brief Notes on the Unreliable Stories Clothes Tell,” this text simply introduces a question that many of us are familiar with: what to wear, to say what, to whom? In this regard, one of the first assignment that Mimi asks her students to do is to write a text about why they decided to wear what they are wearing this given day. The politics of appearance of the public body are indeed complex as they involve many levels of individual and cultural weight within a piece of fabric (or any other material for that matter). When I decide to wear a piece of clothe (or not to wear one), I act on the following levels:
- The relationship that I want for me vis-a-vis the norm.
- The expectation that the norm establishes vis-a-vis this piece of clothe.
- The degree of ‘misunderstanding’ relatively to these expectations (for example, Mimi and I talked about students who wear sweatpants in class, and how there is something much more complex than the simple conclusion that they are “lazy”).
- The uncompleteness of my own understanding of these mechanisms of norm (this usually increases as my location does not correspond to the milieu to which I belong).
Cover of The Funambulist Papers Volume 1. (Artwork by Seher Shah)
I apologize for the sporadic frequency of my last articles, but as you will partially understand in the coming days (be ready!), there are several projects that are coming together at the same time, leaving me only little time to write on the blog.
I am happy to announce that The Funambulist Papers Volume 1, which gathers thirty four essays (+ a surprise one!) of the first series of the guest writers essays written for The Funambulist since June 2011, is about to be published by Punctum Books. In the meantime, I propose to release today the introduction that I wrote for it:
It might not been well known internationally but France still counts four regions in the Caribbeans under its sovereignty. Saint-Martin Island and Saint-Barthélemy island both have a certain autonomy, but the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique are still considered as overseas departments just like three other territories in the world (French Guyana, Reunion Island and Mayotte). In 17th-century, the islands’ native population was massacred and approximately at the same time slavery started to develop under the French rule. Following the French revolution and local revolts in parallel of the glorious one lead by Toussaint L’Ouverture in San Domingo (now Haiti), slavery is abolished in 1794. In 1802, Napoleon (then Consul, not yet Emperor) re-establish slavery that will have to wait 1848 to be absolutely abolished on French territory.
Napoleon’s wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais, grew up in Martinique. She was the daughter of a renowned ‘local’ plantation owner that owned [sic] three hundreds slave. She married Napoleon in 1796 (and therefore became Empress in 1804) and she is said to have been the one that influenced her husband in the re-establishment of slavery. In 1856, a statue of her was setup in Fort-de-France, the capital city of Martinique that carries a clear reference to its colonized status in its very name. Aimé Césaire, magnificent poet of Martinique, known internationally as a main actor of the decolonization, was mayor of Fort-de-France between 1945 to 2001. He did not change the names of the streets that had a colon name nor did he withdraw the statue of Empress Joséphine, as he wanted to insist on the metis history of Martinique that should consider the vicissitudes of the past as part of the island’s identity. In 1991 however, a group of people succeeded to ‘behead’ the statue of Joséphine in a symbolic execution like the one the guillotine would have provided for her when she was almost sentenced to death with her first husband in 1794. Since 1991, and despite various debates, the statue remains headless.
Still from The Law in these Parts by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz (2012)
I recently watched Israeli director Ra’anan Alexandrowicz‘s fim, The Law in these Parts (merci Philippe) that unfolds the legal mechanisms of the occupation of the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since their take over by the Israeli Defense Forces in 1967. Alexandrowicz alternates archival footage and interviews with six members of the Israeli military legal corps who had a significant action on the legal colonial framework. I have written a lot about how architecture was used as a colonial weapon in the Palestinian territories; it is important to observe also how this architecture is the embodiment of a series of legal strategies that were implemented in order to organize Palestinian daily life according to military occupation logic, to allow the civilian colonization of these territories, as well as to registers each actions in regard to the international legislation to determine a position that never reaches a ‘breaking point.’
This colonial law is a well-thought strategy, not a set of quickly decided tactics. In this regard, the first thing that the film tells us, is that the brochures informing the Palestinians that they were now under the Israeli military legislation — a necessary measure in the international law — were designed and printed by dozens of thousands long before 1967 and the actual occupation of the Palestinian territories by the I.D.F.. The content of this colonial legislation was then regularly updated as issues were raised, involving groups of military law-makers to continue constructing the legal means by which the Palestinian population’s life would be organized by the Israeli army. Alexandrowicz asks the question about whether it would have not been more simple to enforce the Israeli legislation on the Palestinians. He is answered that such logic had to be avoided absolutely as it would have been considering the occupied population as citizens of Israel de facto. The films also points out the ambiguous legal obligation on the Israeli civil population — there are currently 500,000 Israeli civil settlers in the West Bank — who live in the occupied territories. Unsurprisingly this population’s criminal activity is not judged by military courts as for the occupied population, but rather by the civil Israeli courts that has been consistently lenient with their action.
Anti-drone scarf by Adam Harvey (2013)
We can no longer allow others to turn our mucous membranes, our skin, all our sensitive areas into occupied territory—territory controlled and regimented by others, to which we are forbidden access. (Félix Guattari, “To Have Done With the Massacre of the Body,” in Chaosophy: Texts and Interviews 1972-1977, edited by Sylvère Lotringer, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2007)
The way we dress cannot be innocent as soon as we enter the public sphere. Once we do, our body necessarily registers in the domain of appearances, as well as its political, social and cultural implications. Those of us who would like to escape from what their clothing may imply, and who are therefore trying to reach an illusory neutrality in the way they dress know this fact even better than others: nothing of what you may wear (or may not wear for this matter) will bring you to this domain of neutrality that you would like to reach for not being judged by your appearance. We may however embrace strategies of appearance, some of which involving a deliberate camouflage that would have to do in a sort of hyper-normalized apparel. By hyper-normalized I mean that normalization is a process that includes many unconscious apparatuses, whereas a strategy of camouflage would consist in a deliberate mimicry of the outcome of such apparatuses (wearing a Yankees cap in New York is the first example that comes to my mind).
Camouflage is used to hide some aspects of our identity. However, one may choose to reveal these aspects and thus, to embrace the semiotics of a social class, a political or cultural group or a gender. This phenomenon is easy to understand when one sees a group of young punks in any given city for example. One can then see how much care has been put in apparels that need to express a strong feeling of “not caring” that are proper to their political and cultural agenda. As I have been writing in the past in my article “Preemptive Legitimate Defense: When a Movement of Your Body Can Kill You,” the hoodie incarnates an object of expectation from one race to another — although it would probably me more fair to see from one social class to another — that reached its tragic climax in the case of the Trayvon Martin’s murder. Such expectations linked to a piece of cloth are remarkably articulated by Mimi Thi Nguyen in Threadbared (co-edited by Minh-Ha T. Pham), whose editorial line is dedicated to such problems.
Former American Embassy of Karachi by Richard Neutra & Robert Alexander
It happens rather often that architecture offices have to hold on their documents and drawings for a while as the client (often public in this case) does not want them to be spread around at this specific moment. It is rarer that architectural drawings should acquire a status of classified documents by a given government or army. That is what happens nevertheless when the concerned building’s layout and organization has to remain secret to prevent antagonist agents to be familiar with the building.
In May 2007, the Kansas-based architectural firm Berger Devine Yaeger Inc. leaked some documents introducing the design of their new project: the American Embassy compound in Baghdad, veritable fortified city in the center of the Iraqi capital. After having been contacted by the U.S. State Department, the firm managed later to withdraw these documents from the internet. The architectural drawings had become hyper-protected and secretive documents like military coordinates or intelligence agencies’ spied information. These drawings are only representative documents, but the information that they contain allow a holistic understanding of a building: its layout, its functioning scheme both a the human, goods and mechanical level, but also its structure, and thus is weaknesses. Knowing the material and the dimension of a given structure could indeed serve the purpose of an attack against this building in order to make it collapse. Such technique of intelligence gathering architectural information in order to profoundly understand a building is being used in the “design” of attacks by the U.S. and Israeli armies when they want to target one or several specific bodies in a building. These attacks, by its design, in the same way we speak of the design of a building, have for goal to minimize the amount of collateral deaths, since the strategists of these army are being allowed a limited of these civilian deaths as Eyal Weizman reveals in his lecture “Forensic Architecture” (see past article), and his essay “Thanato-tactics” (see past article). At war like at peace, “knowledge is power;” architectural drawings embody this knowledge and therefore this power.
I am aware of the fact that I already wrote a very similar article (same topic, same reference) a bit less than three years ago. Yet, with the forthcoming sixth volume of The Funambulist Pamphlets dedicated to Palestine, it might be a good time to revisit it.
The small group of Palestinians practicing parkour in the Gaza strip has been largely spread around the net (see Joseph Grima’s article in Domus for example with beautiful photographs by Antonio Ottomanelli). However, we should not be overwhelmed by the aesthetics offered by these bodies subverting walls in a region where walls embody the paradigm of the containment from which the people of Gaza suffer. We should nonetheless not refuse the symbolical aspect of such practice as symbols have a strong impact on collective imaginaries. The latter have various degrees of political involvement and one can easily understand that, in the specific case of Gaza, the collective imaginary built by the Palestinians have indeed strong political implications.