Download the map in high resolution (14 MB) and its close-up (2.1MB) (license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0)

This article is the third dedicated to Palestine in the form of a cartographic, photographic and textual account of my recent trip there. This particular one can be complemented with one of the five “fragments of the Apartheid landscape” discussed on Archipelago with Alex Shams. The question of the largest city of the West Bank, Hebron (563,000 inhabitants in its extended area), has been already brilliantly addressed by Raja Shehadeh for the thirteenth Funambulist Paper in October 2011. This present article will therefore not repeat Raja’s words, but rather complement the map presented above and the keyed photographs included below.

Hebron is the only city in the West Bank whose center is not fully under the control of the Palestinian Authority (Area A). A provision in the 1993 Oslo Accords divided the city in two parts, adding to the surrounding Area C another zone under full Israeli control in the very center of the old city. This area is called H2, in opposition to H1 that covers the Western part of the city and that is under the Palestinian Authority control. The reason for such a urban partition is that about 850 Israeli settlers are effectively living in the old city, sometimes directly above Palestinian houses. The city is sacred both for Islam and Judaism, since Abraham and his wife Sarah are believed to be buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs, under the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque where, in 1994, an American settler, Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinians in prayer and wounded 125 others. The mosque is only accessible through checkpoints for Palestinians (see close-up map and photograph 11) as part of a urban complex where settlers can freely navigate and where most areas are strictly prohibited to Palestinians.

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The Two Faces of Ramallah - Map by Léopold Lambert for The Funambulist (2015)

“The Two Faces of Ramallah” / Download the map in high resolution (7.8 MB) (license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0)

I stayed in Ramallah a few weeks ago and was thus able to observe the amount of buildings that have been or are being built since my last two visits in Palestine (2008 and 2010). The argument that I would like to make throughout this text is that these recent developments are symptomatic of a chasm between, on the one hand, the Palestinian authority and the emergence of a bourgeoisie within the Palestinian society and, on the other hand, the rest of the Palestinian population and the refugees in particular. This chasm is particularly visible when experiencing the urbanism of Ramallah and a division we can generalize in defining it as separating the Northern-Western hilly part of the city from the Southern-Eastern one that will be the topic of the following article.

As the map intends to show, the Southern-Eastern part of the city is directly confronted to the occupation. Qalandiya checkpoint is the military passage that Palestinians with permits use the most to go to Jerusalem. The Area A corridor along which the most Southern part of the city is built — this includes the refugee camp of Qalandiya — and that extends to the checkpoint is also the only route to the Southern cities of the West Bank (Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho). The regular traffic jams along this road reminds us of the impossibility for the city to be relieved from this congestion between the apartheid wall and the limits of Area C, where the Israeli army exercises full control. Furthermore, when using this unique axis of communication, one cannot ignore the view to the Israeli settlements of Psagot (see photograph 14) and Kochav Ya’Akov (see photograph 15). Similarly in the North-East, Area C in general and the Israeli settlement of Beit El and its military basis in particular, constitute a solid barrier preventing the city to develop. These parts of the city, like every other Palestinian cities have no choice but to be visually and empirically confronted to the occupation on a daily basis.

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Israeli Settlements - Map by Leopold Lambert

Map of the Israeli settlements cluster between Bethlehem and Hebron / Download it here in high resolution (8.4 MB) (license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0)

I came back yesterday from three weeks spent in the Levant (Beirut, Palestine, and Amman) and Egypt (Cairo) both for the purpose of Archipelago and to deepen/complexity my vision of militarized cities/architecture. It should thus result in a series of articles that begins today. This first article allows me both to release one new map, as well as to associate my writings to the conversation I had with Dror Etkes, founder of the organization Kerem Navot, which monitors the Israeli settlements’ activity in the West Bank.

The reference to the biblical character Navot (aka Naboth) in the name of Dror’s NGO is far from innocent. As he explains himself in the podcast, in the Book of Kings, Navot is the owner of a vineyard situated near the Royal Palace of King Ach’av (aka Ahab). The later coverts this land and offers Navot to buy it from him. Navot refuses as he inherited the vineyard from his ancestors. When Queen Jezebel sees the King so upset not to be able to acquire the land, she promises her husband to take the matter in her hands. She then organizes a mock trial where Navot is accused to have cursed God and the King, which result in his execution. The ownership of executed men’s land returning to the King, the latter thus acquire the desired vineyard.

Beyond the essence of the land takeover this story introduces (and that draws a parallel to the situation Dror describes through his work), we have to insist on the legal process engaged by Jezebel to obtain the land. The King does not merely slaughter Navot to steal his vineyard, a legal narrative has to be invented to claim a legitimacy to this takeover. Such a weaponization of law has been continuously at work in the West Bank since its occupation by the Israeli army in 1967, as Ra’anan Alexandrowicz’s film, The Law in these Parts (2012) particularly illustrates (see past article about it). For instance, we can evoke the Ottoman Mawat (waste) law that returns the ownership of a given land to the Sultan — in contemporary cases, the Israeli army — when the latter has not been cultivated for three years in areas sufficiently far from a village not to be able to hear its roosters. The reactivation of this law by the Israeli army allowed to expropriate a tremendous amount of hectares from their Palestinian owners, especially because, often, the agriculture of a land is prevented by the means of occupation themselves.

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11-Cinema (full cover)

The eleventh volume of The Funambulist Pamphlets that gathers and edits past articles of the blog about cinema 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 constitute an appendix to the book Weaponized Architecture. Click here to see the other volumes of The Funambulist Pamphlets.

Thank you to Eileen Joy, Anna Kłosowska, Ed Keller, Gastón Gordillo, Philippe Theophanidis,  Felicia Yong, and Hiroko Nakatani

Official page of The Funambulist Pamphlets Volume 11: CINEMA on Punctum Books’ website.

Index of the Book:

Introduction: The Cinema Papers
01/ La Haine: Banlieue and Police
02/ Paris Is Burning: Gender, Sexuality and Race’s Performativity
03/ Coriolanus: State of Exception
04/ World War Z: The Zombie Is a Human You Have the Right to Kill
05/ The Act of Killing: What Constitutes the Act of Killing?
06/ Hunger: The Body at War
07/ The Diary of an Unknown Soldier & The Forgotten Faces: Two Films by Peter Watkins
08/ La Commune (Paris, 1871): Democratic Cinematographic Construction
09/ Sleep Dealer: Separating the Body and its Labor Production
10/ Even the Rain: What Kind of Leftist Do We Want to Be?
11/ Dogtooth: Emancipation from a Sadian Patriarchal World
12/ The Exterminating Angel: We Must Become Claustrophobic Architects
13/ Un Chien Andalou: Dream as True Horror
14/ The Trial: The Kafkaian Immanent Labyrinth as Postmortem Dream
15/ Enter the Void: Post-Mortem Wandering
16/ Holy Motors: Phenomenological Introspection
17/ The Turin Horse: Entropy of Mind and Matter
18/ Red Desert: Corrupted Materials
19/ Gravity: An Ode to Gravity
20/ Pina: The Weight of the Body Dancing
21/ Wings of Desire: Der Erzähler (the Storyteller)
22/ Akira Kurosawa: Applied Spinozism
23/ Spike Lee: The Dolly Shot as Inexorability of Immanence


Inside the Mediterranean boat “Blue Sky M” (December 2014) / Source: Mediapart

As we currently receive the most tragic news from off shore Lampedusa, with the probable death of over 300 migrants whose boats sank in the agitated Mediterranean waters (some others died of the cold), all we seem to experience on the comfortable shore, is a disarming sense of familiarity. Once again, the Mediterranean Abyss swallowed dozens of bodies during their attempted crossing to reach the European shores.  As I did in the past, I use the term of abyss as a resonance of Édouard Glissant’s concept of abyss (gouffre) to describe the historical genocide of the slave ships, whose crossing of the Atlantic Ocean killed hundreds of thousands of African bodies that were then thrown overboard into the depths of the sea. Nothing can historically compare to the slave trade and its degree of extreme persistent violence; however the Mediterranean abyss and its deadly overpopulated boats remind us of a time that we naively defined as over. Through their spatial configuration (and therefore their design), the slave ships reached a degree of overpopulation in an arrangement of bodies that compared to the storage of a non-human cargo. This degree of cruelty does not need to be equaled in order to reach the status of overpopulated space, and the smuggling Mediterranean boats most certainly reach it. In this regard, I would like to question to what correspond the notion of overpopulation in design, and what are its politics.

If we take a step back and examine coldly to what the adjective “overpopulated” refer, regardless of whether we are talking about an enthusiastic rock concert or one of these deadly Mediterranean boats, we find ourselves with the obvious: a space is overpopulated when it does not provide the conditions necessary to host a certain amount of bodies. If we continue with the obvious, bodies are material, which means that they cannot spatially overlap each other, as we often experience in a crowded subway! In strict physical terms, a space cannot be overpopulated, it can simply be populated to the maximum of its capacity. Bodily surfaces and their surrounding architecture (whatever it is) are thus in continuous contact. However, bodies (humans and non-humans) are living entities and they spatially end beyond the commonly definition of their limits (the skin for instance), insofar that they require an atmosphere of breathability in order to maintain their vital functions. We should not think of this atmosphere as fundamentally other to bodies, and this is how we can speak of an overpopulated space: it consists in a space where the vitality of bodies (the bios) has been disregarded in order to only attach importance to their physical occupancy. Body atmospheres can then shrink to their minimum, which concludes in the death of these bodies.

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Joyous Machines Michael Landy and Jean Tinguely

Joyous Machines by Michael Landy and Jean Tinguely (1963)

I am currently traveling for the purpose of Archipelago and did not find the appropriate time to write so far, so before some fresh texts here is a small editorial I wrote for the Italian journal Tourette:


The machine is a vessel of our fantasies. When we think about it, an entire mechanical imaginary is invoked and, with it, the manifestation of our fascination and fear. The image we have of the machine is so rich and ambiguous, that we would probably gain from going back to what it really is, beyond the mechanical aesthetics to which we associate it.

A machine is essentially an apparatus that allows the production of an output through a successive series of steps, each one triggered by the previous one. This is why a machine is always conceived in the inverse order of its function. In other words, in order to conceive a machine, we start from the final product and retrospectively create the steps that lead to it.

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9-Les Halles de Baltard et le Paris perdu

Les Halles de Baltard et le Paris perdu. Jour by François Schuiten, 2012 © Schuiten / Casterman


Written for DAMN Magazine 48 (January 2015)

Originally a palimpsest was a parchment scraped numerous times to allow new layers of scriptures to be inscribed into its surface. The erasure was however never total, and archeologists consider such a document for its multiple layers of history gathered into one object. This notion of palimpsest can be perceived at the core of the vision proposed by François Schuiten and Benoit Peeters in their exhibition “Revoir Paris” at the Paris Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine (November 20, 2014 – March 9, 2015). In it, the two graphic novelists mix speculative projects for Paris from the mid-19th century to our era, with their own literary work that proposes visions of an imaginary Paris.

One could think of a classic categorization of these visions from the past of the 19th century to the future of science fiction. The entire exhibition is however conjugated to the future anterior (future antérieur) tense, in other words, visions of the future coming from the past. This is how we can admire many 19thcentury etchings and newspaper articles depicting a delirious future where zeppelins would land on top of medieval buildings such as Notre Dame or the Saint Jacques Tower, where metropolitain trains would circulate on three-story bridges across the city, where entire boulevards would be covered by gigantic cast-iron roof structures, etc. The exhibition also features projects that were, in fact, built, such as the great Hausmannian transformations of the city, as well as the successive World Expos (1855, 1878, 1889, 1900) that took place in it. These projects, ‘despite’ their actualization, can be also considered as speculative in the radicalism they embodied for the time in which they were implemented.

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Map Drones North East

Fragment of a US map showing no-fly zones for drones by Map Box

In the recent days, two similar incidents were reported around the presidential residencies of France and the United States. On January 16, a small drone has been seen flying above the Élysée (French presidential palace), revealing a breach in the security of the complex, only two months after photographs of President Hollande inside the gardens were published, leaving the presidential staff clueless about whether these photos had been taken by a drone or not (the magazine denied using one). Two days ago, a similar incident occurred this time in the vicinity of the White House in Washington DC, when a 2×2-foot commercial drone crashed in its gardens. The spectacle of the American news channels exacerbated this almost non-event (it was candidly piloted by a drunk government worker) to the point that CNN anchor Wolf Pritzker suggested to set up the equivalent of the Israeli automatic rocket launcher so-called “Iron Dome” in the White House Complex! However, what these two incidents reveal, beyond the irony of the ‘droner-became-droned,’ is the banalization of drones in the civil realm leading to new legislation regulating their use.

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Line 1 by Niyaz Azadikhah (2010)

This 62nd Funambulist Paper is the last one of the second series dedicated to political and philosophical questions about the body, and the second volume that collects it should be published in March by Punctum Books. The following text, “Gender and the Production of Islamic Urban Space,” is written by the wonderful editor of Ajam Media Collective, Alex Shams. This text is part of a broader research he has been conducting for the last few years about gender politics in Iranian cities both before and after the 1979 revolution. This text finds its audio complement in the conversation Alex and I recently had for Archipelago. The Iranian urban space, like every other public space, inevitably influences the various body politics — whether it has been intentionally designed/built for it or not — that, in turn, influences back the organization of this space. This interesting reciprocity is the object of Alex’s work.

THE FUNAMBULIST PAPERS 62 /// Urban Space and the Production of Gender in Modern Iran

by Alex Shams

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Frontiere Invisible_0006

“You did not understand me Monsieur Nicolas…since yesterday the cartographic center is under the army’s tutelage, something that should have never stopped in the past.” All illustrations from François Schuiten & Benoit Peeters, La frontière invisible, Paris: Casteman, 2004.

The graphic novel The Invisible Frontier by François Schuiten and Benoit Peeters (2004) introduces a narrative, particularly useful in order to understand the militaristic essence of cartography. The main character, De Cremer, is a young cartographer working in a gigantic dome hosting a large-scale model of the country, Sodrovnia. The idea of a world contained within a dome reminds the one depicted in Peter Weir’s Truman Show (1998) and its suggestion of each world’s self-sufficiency — we never really perceived the limits of the dome from inside throughout the book to one exception that will be described below. More importantly however, the cartographic function of this reduced world seems to envision Lewis Carroll‘s concept of a “mile to a mile” map as he describes in Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893):

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The Banlieue Inventory (The Funambulist 2014)

Maps created for the purpose of this article / Download them here in high resolution (11 MB)
(license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0)

In the wake of the recent attacks against journalists and people shopping at a kosher supermarket in Paris, a few people have told me that they expected me to write something here to share my opinion. Given that so many people (in France particularly) have written their own, almost always with great certainty — it is surprising to see so much certainty in a situation symptomatic of so many problems — I decline to give my own account here, and prefer to address things through a less direct and more structural approach. In order to do so, I drew two new maps in the continuity of the ones presented in the 2014 article “The Banlieue Archipelago: Cartographic Inventory of the Cités Around Paris.” The two original maps intended to index 95 cités (large public housing complexes in the suburbs) where 12% of the considered area’s population live in what we could call, a deny of “the right to the city.” The goal of the two new maps consists simultaneously in a complexification of the exclusionary logic at work, as well as the construction of another imaginary in the manner we tend to see Paris. Because of this necessary change of imaginary, I will consistently call “Paris” what is normally considered as the “Parisian region” and specify “the Paris municipality” (what we usually simply call “Paris) when needed.

In the past (see the previous article for instance), I have been repeatedly writing that the “boulevard périphérique” (highway ring) that surrounds Paris constitutes the contemporary equivalent of the city’s fortress walls that used to be situated at the same place. The particularity of Paris is that the Parisian municipality only exists within these walls (see past article for photos), which has for consequences to substantially increase the centralized characteristics of the city in a country already far too centralized. The map introducing a visualization of the wealth disparity in Paris by municipalities helps us to complexities the useful, yet too simplistic vision of Fortress Paris: the map shows clearly that the wealthy municipalities of the West (the wealthiest being named on the map) do not stop at the périphérique, buried for most of it in this area but, instead, have good connection to the wealthiest districts of the Paris municipality (6th, 7th, 8th, and 16th arrondissement). On the contrary, the périphérique marks a strong limit between the poorest municipalities of the North (again, the most extreme ones are named on the map) and the Paris municipality. We can note however that the three poorest districts of the municipality (18th, 19th, and 20th arrondissements), despite their growing gentrification, extend this territory of precariousness. We might therefore want to associate them to a vision of the precarious Paris.

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Canyon Cities (Leopold Lambert for The Funambulist 2015)

Canyon Cities (Detroit, Oakland, Paris) by Léopold Lambert (2015) / Download them here in high resolution (license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0)

In a recent article entitled “Power Is Logistic: Let’s Shut Down Everything“, I was evoking The Invisible Committee‘s argument according to which sovereign power was now exercised through infrastructure. We were then evoking the various fluxes of bodies, goods and capitals as the vital fluid of a political-economic sovereignty; what we did not examine back then, nevertheless, was the ability for infrastructure, while facilitating some means of communications, to greatly prevents movement in the ‘perpendicularity’ of its axes. Urban highways are thus exemplary of how the infrastructural means of maximizing a movement between the city and its suburbs, simultaneously minimize the movement internal to the same city. Urban populations, in particular the lowest social classes that do not necessarily own a car, find themselves deprived from their “right to the city,” trapped by these axes of segregation cutting the urban fabric like canyons. Whether the municipal intentions were (and still are) to actually segregate these populations through this infrastructure or not, is irrelevant, since the latter’s effects are well-known, and the absence of decision to this matter make mayors and their teams politically responsible for them.

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If you enjoy as much as me reading papers by Mimi Thi Nguyen (see our two conversations for Archipelago in 2013 and 2014), this 61st Funambulist Paper (and penultimate of the second series) will be my new year’s gift to you! Entitled “Profiling Surfaces,” this essay uses ideas she developed on Threadbared (co-edited with Minh-Ha Pham) for base and constructs from there an argument about why racism cannot be examined through the bareness of bodies. As Mimi argues, clothing (and, we might add, the designed environment in general), is not a mere ornamental surface that would hide a ‘true body': it is a layering of “epidermic surfaces” (see past article), subjected to the essentializing gaze of the norm, together with the other aspects of the public body’s incarnation. Her forthcoming essay “The Hoodie as Sign, Screen, Expectation, and Force,” in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society (Spring 2015) will expand this argument.

THE FUNAMBULIST PAPERS 61 /// Profiling Surfaces

By Mimi Thi Nguyen

In June 2010, the New York Times published a feature provocatively titled, “The War is Fake, the Clothing Real,” about David Tabbert, a fashion-conscious costumer for a company that clothes play-acting Afghan or Iraqi insurgents and civilians in war games staged for the United States armed forces.[1] “Though Mr. Tabbert, 28, personally prefers G-star denim and concert tees, he was on the hunt for 150 dishdashas, the ankle-length garments worn by men in Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world. In July, actors will wear them in a simulated Iraqi village, posing as townspeople, clerics and insurgents at a National Guard training ground in the Midwest.” Of his initial hesitation to accept the job, Tabbert notes that while he was not pro-war, “I looked at what we were doing as a positive way to train the soldiers, in light of the fact that they are being deployed anyway.” In educating his eye to create usable profiles, Tabbert studies images on the Internet — “to determine, for example, the exact embroidery on the epaulet of an opposition leader’s military uniform” — and trains others to do the same, thereby teaching soldiers to distinguish between “bad” and “good” Afghans or Iraqis (or et cetera) by their cover.

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Vicissitudes by Jason deCaires Taylor in Grenada (2013)

Discovering the underwater sculptures of Guyanese English artist Jason deCaires Taylor, in particular, Vicissitudes (2013) in the Caribbean Sea, made me want to write an extension to the two articles “The Slave Ship Is Architecture” (March 23, 2014), and “The Mediterranean Abyss” (July 1, 2014), about the notion of abyss in regards to the slave trade. Although deCaires Taylor himself does not explicitly claim the imaginary of the Atlantic cross by slave ships in his work, it seems impossible not to think about the two-million African bodies that died in the Atlantic Ocean during the three centuries of the slave trade, when we experience the expressive power of his underwater sculptures, in particular when they are situated in the Caribbean.

In the previous article about the slave ship, I had already quoted passages describing the ships’ atrocious hold by C.L.R. James in The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (Random House, 1989), as well as the abyss (gouffre) of the ocean by Édouard Glissant and Patrick Chamoiseau in L’intraitable beauté du monde (The Unassailable Beauty of the World, Galaade, 2009). Glissant links these two dimensions together by considering the slave ship’s hold as the first abyss (le premier gouffre) in The Poetic of Relation‘s (University of Michigan Press, 1997) first chapter “The Open Boat” (La barque ouverte):

What is terrifying partakes of the abyss, three times linked to the unknown. First, the time you fell into the belly of the boat. For, in your poetic vision, a boat has no belly; a boat does not swallow up, does not devour; a boat is steered by open skies. Yet, the belly of this boat dissolves you, precipitates you into a nonworld from which you cry out. This boat is a womb, a womb abyss. It generates the clamor of your protests; it also produces all the coming unanimity. Although you are not alone in this suffering, you share in the unknown with others whom you have yet to know. This boat is you womb, a matrix, and yet it expels you. This boat: pregnant with as many dead as living under sentence of death. (Édouard Glissant, Poetics of the Relation, trans. Betsy Wing, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997, 6.)

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English Bees

Today, I publish the 60th Funambulist Paper (23rd of the second series that will be published in the Second Volume by Punctum Books), written by Renisa Mawani (listen on Archipelago: “The Archive: Fragments and Forces of Indigeneity“). In “Bee Workers and the Expanding Edges of Capitalism,” she reminds us that questions of corporeal politics extend the human realm. Capitalist logic are also at work on the bees’ bodies and through their economic and military labor. Precariousness is very much part of the exploitative scheme here, the gradient extinction of bees species having tremendous consequences on entire ecosystems. Renisa proposes a Marxian reading of the bee labor, thus offering a new reading of the Capital for non-human considerations.

THE FUNAMBULIST PAPERS 60 /// Bee Workers and the Expanding Edges of Capitalism

By Renisa Mawani

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body and slope01

Still of Only the Bad Sleep Well by Akira Kurosawa (1960)

HOMAGE TO GRAVITY: Architecture and the Body ///
An exhibition proposal for the 2013 Young Curator Program at the Canadian Center for Architecture (translated from original French)

My proposal is based on an axiom in the form of a definition of architecture. My intuition is that the latter is the discipline that organizes bodies in space. The various diagrams that we create as architects are as many compositions of lines of power that architecture’s materiality in its intrinsic violence on bodies enforces. The politician architect traces a line on a map, which result in the separation of a nation into two groups. The politician architect traces forming a closed square and a body finds itself prisoner of walls. The politician architect traces the lines of luxurious residential building and bodies are expelled from a territory on which they lived their entire life, while other bodies, corresponding to the societal dominant schemes are taking their place and unfold their mode of existence on the concerned territory.

Contemporary architecture, through the quasi-unanimity of its representatives, seems to ignore the relation it develops with the bodies. Modernism thought that it could “cure” them but by considering standardized bodies, it only contributed to substantially reinforce their normative characteristics. Strengthen by a post-modern cynicism, architecture now refuses to consider bodies in their multiple and complex anatomy and biology, in order to dedicate its effort to its cost and appearance.

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Assistant state attorneys John Guy, left, and Bernie de la Rionda, right, display the hooded sweatshirt worn by Trayvon Martin the night he was shot by George Zimmerman. (Credit: AP)

The Speech of Things ///

Originally written for The New Inquiry (published on Nov. 25, 2014)

Ceci n’est pas une preuve. René Magritte’s painting of a pipe was not a pipe; similarly, the documents and objects used as court exhibits are not proofs as such, they necessitate taking part within an organized, consistent narrative in order to legally acquire the status of proof. The excellent book/exhibition Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth (Sternberg Press, 2014) proposes this double-step process: determine and examine court exhibits, and construct a detailed narrative that can turn them into proofs.

Started in 2011, the research council Forensic Architecture, which finds its name and predicates in previous research by its director, Eyal Weizman, has been operating from the Center for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths University in London. Forensis constitutes the first major report of the council’s work through the means of an exhibition at HKW Berlin (March 15 – May 5, 2014), and of a book simultaneously published by Sternberg Press. The cases presented within it are broad; the examination of the use of white phosphorus during the so-called “Operation Cast Lead” by the Israeli army in Gaza (2008-2009), the maritime path of a Libyan migrant boat drifting helplessly in the Mediterranean Sea (2011), different cases of Israeli and U.S. drones’ so-called “targeted assassinations,” in Gaza and in Pakistan (2009-2012), and the represented spatial organization of two concentrations camps in ex-Yugoslavia (1941-1945) are only some of them.

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Arch 2O dec 22

Yesterday, on December 22, 2014, the blog ARCH2O published an outrageous article written by a former employee of Rotterdam/NY-based architecture office OMA. In this article entitled “What I Learned at OMA | 20 Tips for Being a Successful Architect,” one can read, among many comments legitimatizing exploitative work conditions, an apology of rape in the form of what is introduced as a joke: “As far as free time goes, keep this joke in mind: ‘If you know you cannot avoid the rape, relax and enjoy.’ At OMA, there will be ‘rape’ (metaphorically speaking), so relax, forget about free time and enjoy your work.”

The article has now been pulled out from ARCH2O website but stayed online for about a day. I do not intend to reveal who wrote this article, because I think that the problem is less the identity of the person who wrote it than the fact that this has been written and published online by a large-audience platform and, even more importantly, that this person has evidently never been confronted to conditions – including during the blog’s re-reading of his article – where such a supposed ‘joke’ would have been seen and described for what it is: an incitement to male supremacist violence towards other bodies, in particular (but not only), women.

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mustafa al hajjaj

Artwork by Mustafa al Hallaj (1938-2002)

The 59th Funambulist Paper, “Palestine Made Flesh” is the continuation of a fantastic conversation I had with Sophia Azeb in last April for Archipelago. Back then, we had called it the “No-State Solution,” following Sophia’s manifesto against State-based imaginaries for Palestine (whether one or two states), to favor instead the incarnation of this idea through Palestinian bodies. I had used the influence of such an idea, as well as similar others by Raja Shehadeh (2037), Sabine Réthoré (Mediterranean Without Borders), and Nora Akawi (“we need imaginative solutions“) in order to create a manifesto/map of the region where lines are no longer borders but roads. In the following text, Sophia makes a synthesis of her arguments and references about this “no-state solution.” Such arguments have been always relevant, but they particularly resonate these days when the Palestinian Authority is attempting to obtain the systematic recognition of a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders, which is not a good news, on the contrary of what it might appear (see past article).

THE FUNAMBULIST PAPERS 59 /// Palestine Made Flesh

By Sophia Azeb

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Black Lives Matter shut down highway

The Black Lives Matter movement shutting down a highway (November 2014)

This article is the third and last ‘episode’ around The Invisible Committee‘s new book, To Our Friends (Semiotext(e) & La Fabrique, 2014). The first episode was dedicated to the production of insurrectionist and counter-insurrectionist narratives through the protesting bodies, the second consisted in a critique of what we did wrong with Occupy Wall Street in the Fall 2011; this third one will take for object the infrastructure as the modern paradigm of the exercise of power. The fourth chapter of To Our Friends is named “Power Is Logistic: Let’s Shut Down Everything!” after a graffiti spotted in Turin (2012). This chapter starts with the remark that when the social movements of these last three years entered parliaments in Lybia, Ukraine or Wisconsin, they found these sites empty of the power they were supposed to contain — the way The Invisible Committee uses the term of power as an attribute and not an exercise is admittedly problematic. It then indicates the Euro banknotes as illustrative of where this power had shifted (my translation):

What is on the Euro banknotes? No human figure, no emblem of a personal sovereignty, but bridges, aqueducts, arches — impersonal architectures with an empty core. Each European has a printed manifestation of the true current nature of power in his/her pocket. It can be expressed as such: power lives in the world’s infrastructure. The contemporary power is of architectural and impersonal nature. (The Invisible Committee, A nos amis, Paris: La Fabrique, 2014, 82-83.)

A bit further, TIC quotes French Marshall Hubert Lyautey (1854-1934) according to whom “a construction project is worth a battalion” in the context of the colonial management — himself having been involved in Algeria, Vietnam, Madagascar, and Morocco. To Our Friends does not intend to establish a genealogy of the argument of an infrastructural power, but this is something we can attempt to introduce here: the colonial era seems to embody adequately a first phase of this militarized strategy. Infrastructure in colonies simultaneously allowed to profoundly settle the colonizing population/army, and provided a simulacrum of legitimacy for colonial enterprise through the ‘progressive modernization’ of the concerned country. We could distinguish a second phase in the United States during the Cold War, which saw a modification in depth of the national territory to serve simultaneously military and capitalist interests — not that they could possibly be separated anyway. As I tried to synthesize in the article “From the Highway to the Pill: Counter-History of the American Suburbia” (April 2014), the spreading of the American population and industry on the national territory was as much an attempt to exponentially develop the car industry as a prevision of a Russian (nuclear or not) offensive: the latter was thought to be weaken by a decentralization of the country’s resources, while the highway system had been thought in accordance to military equipment and vehicles that could thus see its movement optimized (this photograph of NATO operation in West Germany is highly evocative of such a strategy). A third phase of evolution of this argument of “power through infrastructure” can be found in the rampant privatization of the latter. No later than this morning, I read a well documented article on Mediapart (in French) about how the French State has lost most of its control over the management of the country’s highway system — admittedly pristine but prohibitive to an entire part of the population by its fare — after the Chirac/Villepin administration sold it to private construction companies (Eiffage, Vinci, Abertis) in 2006.

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