Class of 2021
Beyond the Grid: The Economics of the Golden Apple Snail
The Golden Apple Snail has been named one of the worlds worst invasive species, wreaking havoc in established ecosystems across the globe. In each case however, the catalyst for their intrusion is human interference. In Taiwan, the snails were deliberately relocated from their native home in South America to be farmed for food. On the southern coast of Spain, they were cultivated to be sold as pets for aquariums. In both cases, these micro-economies burst at the seams; vast populations of snails spread throughout the countryside and the worlds of economy and ecology become intertwined.The word Golden was added to the Apple Snails name because of the good fortune it was expected to bring to countries in South East Asia. Instead, the relocation of these snails have actually had the opposite effect on numerous economies around the world. I argue that because of the mechanisms that brought the snails to distant lands and the influence they have on local understandings of value and worth it is impossible to separate them from global economic systems.
Digital Hearing – Detainee Testimony Through Videolink
The majority of immigration bail hearings in the UK are now conducted through the use of videolink technology. This is where a detainee remains in the space of detention and is digitally transported to the space of their hearing through videolink. The digital becomes the connector and translator between the space of the detention centre and the space of the courtroom, the pivot between hearing and deportation. My research seeks to examine how the use of videolink and digital image transmission potentially expediates the UK system of deportation. Through the lens of the screen, I examine the layers of structural violence that exist within the UK judicial system in an immigration context. These layers that revolve around the screen and are amplified and made visible by it.
Interrogating the screen opens up an interrogation of the layers of mediation and subjectivity that exist within the judicial apparatus. My interrogation starts from transcripts and drawings that I compile and create through going to court and observing immigration bail hearings. These drawings and transcripts are created in the analogue form of pen and paper, as a means to ‘capture’ the space of digital interaction. This opens up a critique of the role of image production, where the banning of recording exists in the courtroom whilst image transmission is used to facilitate the process of detention and deportation.
I aim to develop these transcripts of the individual hearings into wider case studies by weaving together different narratives and subjectivities of the same event through interviews with the various agents involved in the hearing, using them to interrogate my own subjective recordings of the event. This method of weaving parallel perspectives and different modes of witnessing together will generate a wider understanding of the multiplicity of ways in which the videolink becomes an active agent on the scene to effect modes of testimony, the experiential violence and the layers of structural violence within the immigration system. To push this further I aim to use the operative tool of rehearsal and performance as a way to investigate my research questions. I am just at the beginning of exploring these methods.
Isabel (Kiki) Mager
The Battle for the Den: unravelling the Real Estate State in South Bermondsey
In October 2019, after a 3 year-long legal battle, situated within a wider conflict spanning 16 years, Lewisham Council voted to expunge a Compulsory Purchase Order which would have seen land leased to Millwall Football Club sold to developer Renewal. This didn’t mark the end of this ongoing conflict, however, as the processes underlying this imperative for development still exist, and are rapidly gathering pace in Renewal’s New Bermondsey scheme. This project aims on the one hand to expose and analyse those processes through a thorough investigation of the Real Estate State – the individuals, bodies, organisations, and legal entities which are committed to fixing capital in various spatial forms through their so-called regeneration; but also to offer a vision of how the space which is subject to this redevelopment can be utilised in the interests of those people whose culture is most at risk of erasure, spanning from democratic grassroots arts spaces in the area, to the fans of the football club which was central to The Battle for the Den.
Natalia Orendain del Castillo
On Sounding a Granular Terraforming
In September 2019, the Marine Management Organisation granted a permit to allow the Dover Harbour Board to dredge 2.000.000 tons of marine aggregate out of the Goodwin Sands, for their land reclamation project Dover Western Docks Revival. The Goodwin Sands, is a 10 mile long bank of shifting sands off the coast of Kent, on the English Channel. Recently designated a Marine Conservation Zone, it contains within its sands thousands of shipwrecks, as well as being the home of benthic communities, resting place for seals and birds, apart from other significant geological features. Claiming that the environmental impact of the dredging will not have a considerable effect on the site, the principle of proportionality applied by the MMO, within its permit granting logic, becomes somewhat ambiguous. The “benefits to the public” presented by the developers of DHB, outweighs the probable damage to the environment, becoming in general an issue of “unobservability”. My claim is that due to its submerged and dynamic nature, the constitution and equilibrium of the Sands are illegible and in need of translation. Within these conditions, there is a need to find alternative aesthetic forms to address the dredging effects, appealing to the larger ecosystem that the sands support. And instead of representing the sands through isolated surveys data, talk about them through localised testimonies, embodied experiences, acoustic registers, more-than- human reactions, and other planetary conditions which produce them.
The aim is to take into account all these forms of evidence as a conjunctive interdependent system, not as isolated data. Through this methodology, I acknowledge that the Goodwin sands are but a singular event within a very complex combination of rhythms, flows and conditions. My intention is to address the violence of dredging, as it ripples through the stability of such a multi-scalar system, as well as critically analyse the language that reproduces this form of extraction through the logic of “reclaiming” land from the sea.
Overt Obfuscation: The ‘alt-right’ Language of Ambiguity
The term ‘alt-right’ is itself indistinct. Attempts to define its array of incommensurable beliefs under any coherent ideological definition remain inadequate. There are areas of density in their multiplicity of opinions such as their rejection of modern conservatism, their advocation of white rights and their racist, xenophobic and anti-semitic hatred; however, a comprehensive ideology remains unattainable as it is a network of beliefs constantly becoming. It can be said that the term better describes a negative identification, those bound not by what they believe in but what they object to: political correctness and progressive politics. Some scholars define the ‘alt-right’ by their use of the internet to congregate and converse. I would like to push this notion further, suggesting that the ‘alt-right’ is best defined as a mode of communication. Just as an allegory delivers its message by way of concealing it, the ‘alt-right’ communicate and recruit through overt obfuscation. Ambiguity, irony and the in-joke are strategically employed for their dual functions: security, in their negation of accountability, and seduction, in the affirmation of belonging they produce in those in-on-the-joke. In the online sphere, many communicate anonymously or pseudonymously under an ambiguous identity, shielding themselves from any accountability for their explicit hatred. When this rhetoric moves offline into the physical world where there is an inherent unity to the self, ambiguity of identity is swapped for ambiguity of meaning. Covert signifiers in the form of symbols, words, gestures, clothing and in-jokes proliferate; the subject capitalising on their ambiguous significations. On one side of the cultural border an image can be deeply flexed with meaning and on the other completely devoid.
The ‘alt-right’ allegory is composed of ambiguous significations, expressing fears and envies in semiotic form. A Lacanian psychoanalytic approach would suggest an indissoluble link between the subject and such narratives; the unconscious revealing itself through metonymy and metaphor. An attempt to psychoanalyse the ‘alt-right’ allegory may uncover its desire, breaking apart its metonymical objects and rendering it entirely unambiguous. This Lacanian approach is one of an assemblage of counter-ambiguous strategies I am seeking to establish that confront the mode of communication that is the ‘alt-right’. Devising diagrammatic and linguistic methodologies from an array of disciplines, I will attempt to counter the reductivism of discriminatory rhetoric with strategies of inclusive complexity; posing the question of how to confront ‘alt-right’ semiotics, whilst also generating creative but potentially applicable means of opposition.
The sound wave is a vibration that passes through all material compositions. From the molecular to the global, sound is necessary for communication, and information to be disseminated across ecological constellations. As signals are both registered and is translated by the species, materials and technologies they require what geographer Anja Kanngeiser suggests a politics that insists upon communication and agency, across living and non-living entities. This research probes multi-species assemblages and examines them through an acoustic paradigm. Using the operative concept of hearding I explore how collectives hear and are heard; how sound computes as a material and communicative instrument between species, as well as a site of registration, categorisation and governance. This requires attuning to the relations that bind them together and the plurality of their sonic expressions. It also draws attention to recognising how a collective is registered, or alternatively silenced; how ontological frameworks and technologies operate over their emissions, translations and receptions.
Through a series of case studies the project examines the multispecies assemblages of Chalk Downland ecosystem in North Dorset, England and sonic herding relations; Bat ecologies and their conservation measures; and the biotic life that inhabits the Mesopelagic zone of the oceans. I use these nodes as departure points to investigate how sonic and social morphologies have spatial affect, and how they shape ontologies. The entire acoustic realm for instance is coded and organised anthropocentrically around the perceptual capacities of the human ear. In light of this I am interested in understanding how Ecological Breakdown and Neoliberal Capitalist hegemony implements it own acoustic territories, through both noise and silencing, that shape and govern the interactions between species, as well as the spaces they inhabit.I aim to expand and problematise ocular-centric, and anthropocentric ontologies. In light of this I am developing a sonic practice as part of this research. By making what I am calling Thick Recordings that register multiple positionalities and registrations of sound, these draw attention to, and complicate some of the reductive frameworks that constitute the practice of Acoustic Ecology. The recordings seek to capture and archive a holistic and embodied perspective, and expose forms of slow violence across ecological and economic orders. As a methodology it acknowledges that sound is inherently part of our commons, assumes all listening is an active process, and that all actions and gestures are heard and have affect upon surrounding ecologies.
Syria’s Urbicides: Urban Materialities Of Demographic Engineering
Using a combination of remote sensing, GIS mapping, and open-source investigative tools, my research aims to identify urban technologies employed in the collective (un)making of political subjects by looking at the material and spatial transformations that took place in sites of political opposition in the Syrian city of Homs and the suburbs of Damascus during two key moments of violence: military offensive and so-called ‘post-conflict reconstruction’. I locate these moments as different phases of a wider state project of sovereignty and necropower (as defined in Mbembe’s Necropolitics (2011).
For that reason, my research builds upon the work of Salwa Ismail (2018) and Lisa Wedeen (1999), which I use to contextualise these moments in a continuum of state violence which, for the purpose of this research, can be narrowed down to three overlapping spatiotemporal phases: 1) state-building and the establishment of a “civil war regime” through the polarisation of the social body, 2) its corporealisation into conflict and excision of dissident populations from the social body through siege, and 3) further state-building through post-conflict reconstruction. By building upon existing research on state-building and state use of biopower in Syria, my research focuses on the transition between the last two phases. This is done by highlighting a specific feature they share: the attempt to destroy the material fabric and social heterogeneity of the built environment of areas with dissident sympathies. By exploring the spatial strategies of demographic engineering, I argue that urbicide, the deliberate destruction of the urban fabric of areas, can be understood as a spatial technology of state-building and demographic engineering that works through the destruction of alternative systems of significance, subsistence, and support. This is done, I argue, in order to achieve a demographic aim with two possible outcomes: the rehabilitation of the undesired dissident population into the social body, or further marginalisation, expulsion, and social death. That aim is achieved in the climax of the second phase, in the act of collective surrender of besieged communities with a twofold outcome. It is then upheld and further extended through policies of selective access and redevelopment. The methodologies used to conduct this research reflect two critical elements of my research, the different scales of the dynamics I am looking into and lack of physical access.
Class of 2020
This research is conceived as a public monitoring and comparative analysis of Bahrain’s formal and informal labour accommodation. It primarily investigates recurrent fire incidents and structural collapses in historic buildings-cum-labour accommodation in Manama Souk, and vehicle-pedestrian collisions on the islands’ main logistical distribution channel, where purpose-built labour camps have recently proliferated, as representatives of slow violence against migrants. The project will focus on case study incident IN09-10-18, in which an explosion of a gas cylinder in an informal labour camp in Manama that housed over a hundred migrants, led to a structural collapse that killed four and injured tens of its inhabitants. It will aim to engage with and slow down the minute moment of explosion, with a proposition that it encapsulates within it the broader politics of the Bahrain’s contemporary and specific spatial organization of labour. Informed by Rob Nixon’s thesis on slow violence, the objective is to engage with this kinetic, spectacular event as a retroactive opportunity for inquiry into a set of preceding and succeeding temporalities that hinge on the moment of ignition, otherwise of a transient perceptibility, so they may be rendered intelligible. The gas cylinder, a recurring element within a pattern of events, is adopted as a conceptual tool, and a provocation for inquiring into the unequal distribution of risk amongst places and bodies, and its gradual aggregation through time. Of interest are modes of rapid urbanisation and expansion, infrastructural and land use planning, national legislation, urban and municipal investment and governance, including in bureaucratic capacities and through the enforcement of building regulations, and adjudication. The gas cylinder will be thoroughly studied as a quasi-autonomous object – on one hand, as an off-grid energy system illustrating the precarious status of its users (including through their engagement with Bahrain’s free-visa and flexi-permit system) and the informality with which the buildings were readapted, and on the other, with the understanding of architecture as an extension of the volumetric space of the cylinder, itself tied to logistical and infrastructural apparatus of design, production, distribution, installation, maintenance, degradation and waste. Off-Grid Architectures will also trace, on one hand, the gradual decommissioning of the Manama Port and the transformation of the adjacent souk into a quasi-labour camp complex; and on the other, the development of purpose-built labour camps, concentrated in the city’s industrial hinterland, developed as ancillary to the country’s main logistical distribution channel which links the archipelago’s five main points of port operations along its three largest islands, overlooking Khawr al Qulay'ah. In the process, the project will attempt to: delineate the colonial history of the Khawr; trace the historic sources that paved the way for this contemporary and specific spatial organization of labour; and connect the contemporary conditions of labour’s spatial organization to its antecedent forms. The objective is, by creating links across distance, temporality, registers and difference, to uncover and bring together an expanded force-field of perpetrators that asymmetrically collaborate out of friction – a field in which even the state, far from monolithic, is in conflict with itself.
Forming the Coalitional Debtor
Household debt has skyrocketed in the past few decades. In the United States and the United Kingdom, this can be tied to wage stagnation, a shrunken welfare state, and widely available cheap credit. Furthermore, these debts become financialized - part of the speculative economy, sold and traded, while continually increasing wealth for the creditors. Increasingly, activists, scholars, and economists have sounded the alarm on the growing debt bubble, citing previous economic recessions as warnings of increased precarity. This paper begins to explore the current state of household debt in capitalist societies (namely the United States), explains how debt accrues, and proposes a new solution that’s built on alliances among dispossessed peoples. Developing a coalitional infrastructure holds the greatest promise for reducing illegitimate debt and generating shared agency amongst debtors. Illegitimate debt is when the terms or conditions of repayment are unfair, unreasonable, unconscionable, or otherwise objectionable. While my project at large draws relationships between various forms of debt, this paper will focus on household/ consumer debt; i.e. student, auto, medical, mortgage, credit cards, etc. People don’t typically discuss personal finance but to realize the possibilities of debt erasure on a large scale, personal finance must be socialized. In other words, conversations need to be had to reduce shame and build trust that can give rise to political action. Through this action, debtors can generate personal networks of mutual aid and become a community of care, that includes financial well-being.
Covid-19, has rendered visible the systemic failures of globalized financialization and the concurrent economic crisis is moving rapidly. There are multiple advocacy groups calling for an abolishment of all household debts (across several countries) and public debts in the global south. I’m proposing a model that includes the creation of the coalitional debtor subject through consciousness-raising. Thus far my methodology has consisted of background research and creating connections with those working around dispossession and debt refusal. I am looking at interdisciplinary approaches to studying debt and relationality in the realms of activism, economics, sociology, political science, and philosophy. In the next phase of my work, I plan to further ground my research through grassroots organizing alongside debtors. Ultimately, charting a method for the creation of the coalitional debtor.
Data Aggregate, Dry Powder, and Liquid Housing: The Materialization of ‘Coded Inequity’ in the US Residential Real Estate Industry
Over the last several years the residential real estate market in the United States has been incorporating machine learning technology to automate and accelerate their valuation and purchasing processes through the development of Automated Valuation Models (AVMs).These proprietary AVMs are built through the extraction and consumption of “conventional” and “unconventional”, “exotic”, or “hyperlocal” public and private data sets. By drawing connections between hundreds of decontextualized data sets, such as neighborhood municipality complaint records and tree censuses, new insights are presented as positivist conclusions and untapped investment opportunities. With the support of AVMs, commercial real estate investment managers identify “mismanaged'' off-market multi-family investments for their clients to purchase, while new Instant Buyers (iBuyers) promise virtual appraisal services and cash offers to single family homeowners within 48 hours. Through these offers iBuyers are transforming residential real estate holdings into more liquid assets. In both scenarios, the use of automation enables companies with “dry powder” capital, or cash reserves, to deploy it more efficiently, and sellers to quickly convert their assets into cash. What emerges through this data driven automation and acceleration of the real estate transaction, is not ‘bias minimization’ or the democratisation of liquidity, but rather a system of ‘coded inequity’, as Ruha Benjamin conceptualizes in her book Race After Technology, and selective liquidity. This project aims to develop tools for accountability and oversight for this rapidly evolving and opaque system that algorithmically delineates spaces of opportunity, speculation, and investment along class and racial lines. It draws from Heather Krause’s method of ‘data biographies’ to recontextualize the histories and labor practices of data sets extracted for various residential AVMs, and begins to consider them in relation to 20th century appraisal practices. It also utilizes spatial mapping techniques to investigate the geographies of housing liquidity and the role of the iBuyer within the city of Houston, TX.
Sergio Beltrán García
Fracturing Memory: Memorial Construction as State Violence
This dissertation will describe how the attempt to build the 19S Memorial in the afermath of the deadly September 2017 earthquakes in Mexico City reveals memorial-building as a political and aesthetic practice of the State to repeat past violence under the guise of a deployment of the Human Rights and transitional justice tenets of truth, justice, memory, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition. To sustain this argument, I will place in conversation a genealogy of contemporary State-sponsored memorial-construction with material evidence present in the AO286 building which collapsed in the earthquake of the 19th of September in 2017. Through the lens of key literature, I trace the origins of the politics of memory and memorial construction to contemporary Human Rights discourse, and argue how memorials reify a culture which compulsively breaks away from events of “past evil” , voiding any vows to “never again” allow its repetition by continuously framing future violence as an exceptional event . Aestheticisation of politics through memorials distances the commemorated past from current claims for transformative justice and breaks the historical continuity between pervasive structural injustice and its effects. This is exemplified by contradictions in the officialising rhetoric of the Mexico City Government present in the 19S Memorial’s project and the juridical and institutional responses of the State as it simulates processes of justice-making advertised to amend tectonic vulnerability. My claim acquires material support when the AO286 building is read as a seismograph which registered spatial and temporal forces of the State during its construction, modification, collapse and clearing for memorialisation. The evidence of colonial, environmental, institutional, and legal violence decoded from the AO286 building reveals the would-be memorialising State in its active role as a facilitator of earthquake destruction—not as its protector.
Through this dissertation I aim to render visible how memorials preemptively promise the repetition of past violence, first by monopolizing states’ control over the narrative and political imaginary of how its constituents remember past violence and how memory is thus commodified by power; next by obfuscating critical historical linkages of commemorated violence with its current expressions, thus embroiling the activation of resistance and resolution to contemporary potential violence before it becomes kinetic; and finally, in how the very action of memorial-construction in its material and architectural procedures is a form of evidence erasure which forecloses avenues to truth elucidation, juridical accountability and the creation of guarantees of non-repetition. I will conclude by calling for a reappropriation of memorials as a productive site for jurisgenesis , suggesting a number of theoretical and methodological frameworks which may diffuse State control of our mnemonic practices, such as calling for debate and dialogue over monologue, participation and dissidence over contemplation and conformity, collectivity and connectivity over individuality and exceptionality, horizontality over verticality, context over event, impermanence over permanence, and irrestorability over stability.
Power, Space, Computation: Surveillance and Statecraft in Xinjiang
Since 2017 it is estimated over one million ethnic minorities in Xinjiang have been detained 're-education’ and forced labour camps as part of a governmental campaign against extremism and separatism. These camps operate outside of the legal system with citizens often being detained without just cause and without any access to legal representation or a fair trial. To sustain the constant surveillance of populations a vast network of state and private institutions have developed a complex dragnet of technological surveillance systems to constantly track and monitor the population. The governance architecture that has been deployed in Xinjiang contains not only technological products and systems but also a covert substructure of policy, operations guidelines and scientific knowledge production produced within universities, research centres and governmental institutions. In parallel to the development of a proto-surveillance state Xinjiang has been a strategic geography for the delivery of the Belt and Road Initiative, acting as a gateway to Eurasia and Pakistan for many new infrastructural projects. This thesis will examine the layers of the surveillance and internment system in Xinjiang as a cohesive model, serving as an entry point into the wider geopolitical framework of economic development and securitisation. The aims of the research are threefold; to map and analyse the systems of power which institute the surveillance state. Secondly, to examine their relationship to economic development and finally to understand the political, social and cultural effects generated by the complex of surveillance and internment.
Using a critical methodological approach the project will draw from a range of data mapping and investigative techniques and expert interviews combined with eyewitness testimony from Xinjiang diaspora in order to map and document the actors, institutions and technologies which comprise the assemblage of surveillance architecture. In the second phase of the research will utilise participatory action research to create a forum which brings together diaspora to examine methods for civic intervention and accountability. It is hoped that the research will offer a contribution towards constructing a platform for transparency and thus opportunities for further intervention and advocacy, offering an initial sketch of practice based methods for analysing state power and articulating potential sites of action.
Slow Burn: Peat Fires and The Sinking and Spilling Of Toxins
Peatlands are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store ("carbon sink"), covering only about three percent of earth but storing more carbon than all other vegetation combined. When peatlands, which are up to 95 percent water, are drained, organic carbon is exposed to oxygen and peat becomes vulnerable to fire, turning into one of the most flammable naturally occurring substances. Being subterranean, peat fires are notoriously difficult to identify and extinguish. Moreover, they engender public health crises and are responsible for almost six percent of the world’s human-made carbon dioxide emissions each year. Peat profiles contain an archive of changes to paleoenvironments, evidencing environments in flux, and particularly, the anthropogenic impacts on biogeochemical cycles of trace metals. These metals accumulate by deposition over time and are then mobilised by peat fires, among other phenomena such as erosion and runoff. Accumulation rates and concentrations point to broad historical events and movements as well as local industrial activities. In this way, peat fires create conditions for toxins generated through industrial activity in years past to spill—into bodies and other sinks, and into the future. The boundary of the bog can be seen as a site of embodiment of wastes, transcorporeal connectivity.
This dissertation seeks to challenge the fetishizing of the polluting molecule as the locus of toxicity, pointing instead to wider structures of extraction and degradation. It is interested in the transfer and translations of matter from smoldering peat to other material and disciplinary realms. It regards molecules mobilised by peat fires in the context of Jennifer Gabrys' theory of sinks, which paints sinks not as sites of metabolic closure and balance but rather exchange and transformation, natural-cultural assemblages. Finally, it considers relations of care with respect to peatlands (Santiago Rivas’ "sink ecologies") and fires, especially in light of the fact that bogs and their inhabitants can in fact be accommodated to fire. It adopts northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia (United States) as a place of focus, where peat is found in coastal, swampy pocosins. I consider the smoky and ontological convergence of two fires that began within a week and 40 miles of each other in June 2008. By all accounts, the fires ignited due to a lightning strike and the operation of machinery after a storm. This research probes the evidence to more expansively grasp the legacies of settler colonialism and sink spillage, bringing attention to a politics of sinking.
In the 1990s, rising gun crime in Menlo Park, California led to a collaboration between a seismologist named John C. Lahr and the police departments. Lahr realized, like locating an earthquake, a gunshot’s location could be determined using audio triangulation. By setting up multiple microphones, he was able to pinpoint the location of the shot based on the sound’s distance from each microphone. Fast forward to 2020, gunfire detection systems are present in over 100 cities across the US, with a company called ShotSpotter at the top. ShotSpotter sensors are not difficult to spot, they are typically placed on traffic lights, lamp posts, or roof tops, elevated above the aforementioned infrastructure by a metal long pole. The sensors detect impulsive noises (“pops, booms and bangs”) and filters out unneeded sounds. What exactly these unneeded sounds are clarified in interviews with the CEO, Ralph Clark, who believes “ambient noise is our enemy. Not our friend.” While ambient noise is enemy, so are false alarms, such as backfiring cars or popping balloons. However, ShotSpotters two step verification process includes an acoustic expert in the final review of the sound, so that the police aren’t alerted about these instances.
Environmental Tuning aims to ask questions of what sounds are deemed necessary. In the current moment, with protests happening in all 50 states, how are these additional sounds handled? What happens to the sounds of rubber bullets, tear gas canisters hitting the ground, and flash bang grenades used by police forces? Are they filtered out? And, if they are filtered out, was it by the machine or the acoustic expert? How long are they kept for? These are just some of the questions I aim to unpack in my project. While these questions are relevant across the US, I’ve narrowed my focus to Chicago. By mapping ShotSpotter’s sensors through Google Street View, I hope to better understand not only the conditions for the placements, but the present and historical events left unheard. My map can then sync up with those documenting instances of police violence and use of weapons during the protests, with the sensors capturing more evidence of these actions.
Troubled Data, Troubled Land
Image caption: Film still - Geoscience Australia data capturing visualisation, Youtube.
From Earth to Sky * از زمین تا آسمان: The Helmand River Basin as Conflict Infrastructure
Since the late 1970s, the Helmand river basin in central southwest Afghanistan has become a focal point of violence and conflict. Infrastructural projects (often USAID funded) such as the Kajaki dam, Afghanistan’s largest dam, and other canalization projects since the late 1940s have replaced existing methods of water distribution systems such as the Karez (qanat) and Juy (Jub), radically re-shaping the settlement organization and size of the local populations around the river and contributing to the world’s largest poppy production industry. This hydrological history of foreign intervention is closely intertwined with the longer history of military conflicts and (neo-)colonial invasions that has rendered Afghanistan as a ‘non-governable state’ since the definition of its borders at the edges for the British empire in the 19th century. In this context, the fragile ecologies of the Helmand river have come to play a pivotal role in the strategies of counterinsurgencies that have come to define US military (and NATO) presence in the area after the 2001 invasion.
This project seeks to problematize development-based military invasion by focusing on how, through the creation of the USAID -funded Helmand Food Zone and aerial strike operations targeting opium producing compounds, the UK and US governments have sought to eradicate poppy fields of the Helmand province, endangering populations’ livelihoods and causing many civilian deaths resulting in de facto multiplications of conflict. The main result of these tactics have been an increase of poppy fields farther away from the Helmand, south-east to the Sangin Valley, into desert areas which have required the creation of solar tube deep wells along with water reservoirs that have severely impacted water levels in the wider watershed with unprecedented speed. By engaging critically with the visuality and spatiality of conflict (how cartographic practices and aerial surveillance have made Afghanistan simultaneously hyper-visible and obfuscated), my research will follow patterns of water usage, such as deep wells, and explore how this relates to the spatial configuration of agricultural lands and increase of the poppy cultivation amid the construction of military bases and heavy counterinsurgency operations. I will also explore how the shift from indigenous knowledges of irrigation has spatially transformed the area and reconfigured it around the Western exploitation of rivers transforming into severe environmental violence. This research is an investigation around the ecological transformations tied to the history of colonialism and military invasion around the Helmand. The forms of violence under endless military development and counterinsurgency operations multiply through time and space. On the spectrum of violence in Afghanistan’s context, the water infrastructures and agriculture take form of conflict through the ecologies of the river.
*از زمین تا آسمان (az zamin tā āsemān) is a Persian/Farsi expression that refers to the extreme amount of difference between things by depicting the vast distance of the earth from the sky or heavens that are multiple in layers and spherical in shape in Islamic and Zoroastrian cosmology.
On Xenophobia, Homophily and Computational Culture
My research intends to critique and visualise racialised discourse, specifically concerning Chinese communities on Western digital platforms, which has intensified throughout the current pandemic. In praxis, I am both compiling online search results in relation to China and developing a tagging/annotation-based archival tool - which is heavily inspired by pan.do/ra, the online media archive. Presently, my compilation of videos related to China are organised on my youtube account. I have been searching for videos related to China regularly and since I have moved to Europe, at first because of my relationship to my home country and looking up mostly food related videos. However as COVID-19 progressed outside of China’s nation-state borders and into western countries, I observed my youtube content and requested videos changing into xenophobia-induced narratives and imagery. Since April, I have been organising more or less daily my China related searches on youtube under public playlists. Through this process, I am observing and researching how the youtube algorithm pushes for certain content. I am using youtube as a primary platform to source materials for my archive for two main reasons: One being its popularity and familiarity with a wide range of audience, the other being for its various individual account and news outlet accounts. Therefore, seemingly bringing together an array of inputs and agendas on the same platform.
This research is narrated through my digital footprint/online profile, taking into account my complicit relationship with the algorithm and my subject of study. Whilst using my online presence/profile as a case study, I am researching how digital platform algorithms identify and categorise user's activities and, thereby, limit agency by segregation in the form of homophily - or love as love of the same. In fact, segregation in the form of homophily lies at the core of network architecture: users are identified and segregated into neighbourhoods based on their likes and similarities, which can at times accelerate certain discourses and therefore social behaviours. In my research I focus on homophily as an organisational and critical tool for discovering bias and inequality within network architecture. My tagging/annotation-based archival tool, will allow various types of “viewing” and contextualisation of my online searches. The archive will attempt to reorganise various existing and predominant narratives on online platforms in order to visualise the human biases and therefore socio-power structures embedded within these platforms’ technical architecture.
Infrastructures of Exhaustion
In Calais and Dunkirk, in Northern France, hundreds of migrants are sleeping rough on the streets and in so-called ‘informal settlements’. The informal and ‘illegal’ nature of these camps often leaves the residents without access to basic infrastructures and subject to reoccurring evictions. This endless cycle of eviction and rehabitation can be understood as a spatial strategy of a ‘Politics of Exhaustion’ . The exhausted migrant is subject to cycles of appropriation, whereby they are forced to fluctuate between natural and built environments. In this way, time itself becomes circular. Described by Dan Hicks and Sarah Mallet as ‘Temporal Violence’ , this becomes a method of control that keeps the migrant in a state of impermanence, building a life that is ‘forever temporary’ . This project will focus on Grande-Synthe, Dunkirk, where migrants have been sleeping in ‘informal settlements’ ever since the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994. Through studying the Politics of Exhaustion employed by the British and French Governments, it aims to unravel the complex infrastructures behind the ‘decentered borderwork’ 4 that not only turn the material culture, the built environment and the wider landscape, but also time itself, into weapons against the weak. Infrastructures of Exhaustion locates Exhaustion both as a form of border governance and control, and as an embodied state of ‘permanent injury’ 5 of the exhausted migrant. Describing the essence of this regime requires an examination of the different scales of Exhaustion and its underlying web of complex infrastructures: the embodied everyday experience of the migrants themselves, the environmental and geographical dimensions of the makeshift camps, and the ‘Temporal Borders’ 6 of migration management. These Borders are characterized through a multiplication of different temporalities and rhythms of control, from makeshift-decisions at the official border, to protracted bordering practices in border zones.
The project will first seek to define the notion of Exhaustion in the realm of migration management, through a study of qualitative work from key scholars. Further to this, the project will consider how Exhaustion could be developed as a conceptual tool or method of research, what alternative representations could be developed, and how to define the Aesthetics of Exhaustion.
My project investigates the politics of wetness in the Venice Lagoon by looking at the unboundedness of water not only in its hydrologic formations, but also toxic leakages. To do so, rather than engaging with water as simple H2O, I understand it as a leaking archive that allows the circulation and persistence of matter and meaning in seemingly separate bodies, worlds and temporal scales. The degradation undergone by the environmental and social contexts of the Venice Lagoon is paradigmatic of the frictions between capital extractive practices that hold onto the binary land-water, and the transitional nature of the Lagoon, where the constant feedback between the hydro-, geo- and bio- dynamics rejects such distinction. These visions are more than two environmental models. They operate two distinct paradigms of habitation and preservation. On the one hand, according to the land-water binary, water intrudes and recedes from the earthly. This makes the molecular relations that surround and compose the Lagoon largely imperceptible under the formula of “taming the water”. On the other side, the Lagoon emerges as a continuous territory of wetness where water leaks, soaks and transpires allowing identities to extend into one-another for various extents of time (Da Cunha, 2018).
The molecular transformations caused by water and pollutants within human, more-than-human and earthly tissues are a way into the potential held in such frictions. Marble sulphation – the transformations of marble into gypsum - and shells decalcification – the inability of sea creatures to calcify their test - among other processes I am looking at, are not only testimonies of the extended impact of extractive practices such as cruise-ships traffic or petro-chemical industrial production. They also acknowledge an amphibious environment of wetness where bodies-in-time, worlds and geologic scales switch and persist into each-other. Through these chemical and watery entanglements interdependency emerges not only between simultaneous modes of existence, but as a historical relation and responsibility. The research unfolds the temporal and spatial extensiveness of these processes with a twofold aim. The first is to lay the ground for an amphibious constituency among different knowledges – activists, restorers, scientists -, inhabitants – human and more-than-human – and worlds – emerged and submerged - on the basis of what Michelle Murphy defines a “more consensual ways of being together within extensive, noninnocent chemical entanglements” (Murphy, 2017). The second is to engage with notions of finitude and persistence mobilized by these molecular processes in order to re-imagine preservation beyond the life-death/nonlife distinction.
Constructing Precrime: Exposing The Dependence On Crime Futurity In Urban And Rural United States
To understand why the United States continues to build carceral institutions across the nation, while crime rates have continued to decrease since the early 1990s, one must question the nation’s dependence on maintaining a criminal population, hence its dependence on crime futurity, in order to manage dispossessed communities. Constructing Precrime choses to observe jails, that primarily hold unconvicted people, rather than prisons, that hold convicted people, as jails represent a privileged standpoint from which to observe the totality of injustice produced by the Prison Industrial Complex as a whole. As scholars in Criminology have done in the past, I apply the notion of precrime, term coined by Philip K Dick, to refer to the forestalling of crimes that have yet to occur. By tying this term to the proliferating construction of jails, the project aims at exposing the direct relationship between the expansion of urban and rural carceral geographies through jail construction and the ensuring of future criminals. In the rural sphere, jail construction is undergoing a ‘hidden’ boom.
Using remote sensing and GIS mapping, a sample of jails constructed in rural America during the 21st century is examined to prove that not only are jails continuing to be built, but they are expanding their current capacities. In the urban sphere, jails are being ‘softened’, casting the carceral net wide enough to blur the line between carceral space and community space. The plan to close Rikers Island in the Bronx, NY, and replace it with four new Borough-Based Jails by 2026, serves as an example of contemporary tactics to portray spaces of detention as caring social service providers, what James Kilgore coins as carceral humanism, and enable their continuing existence. Through interviews with individuals for and against the Borough-Based Jails and bureaucracy mapping, the notion that carceral infrastructures are simply being ‘repackaged’ reveals governmental dependencies on keeping low-income communities of color at arm’s length from the criminal justice system. In understanding that, in rural and urban spaces, carceral construction continues even while governmental authorities such as New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio claim that, “Mass Incarceration is Over,” one can then start to address why the United States relies on keeping 25% of the world’s population behind bars, and how every iteration of reform is simply, as Ruth Wilson Gilmore expresses, another ‘prison fix’.
Mapping A Martyrdom: A Genealogy Of Resistance Through Collective Action
This project examines structures of power and modes of protest through a gendered history of environmental justice. I discuss this within the framework of ecofeminism and environmental martyrs. The notion of environmental justice or environmental defence is a question that needs to be interrogated as an intersectional space – of class, mobility, gender and transnational solidarity (Rob Nixon). This approach is urgent in the case of Pakistan, as ideas of belonging and self-identity need to be understood in relation to place and land rather than nationalist, patriarchal or religious frameworks. My research centres on the practice-based production of maps in the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP), led by the urban environmentalist Perween Raman who was shot in Karachi in 2013. I examine how political agency and urban resilience is shaped by the spatial politics of these settlements through a form of counter-mapping.
Mapping offers an epistemological tool and a mode of developing environmental literacy within the OPP community, supporting legal claims for land rights in the settlement. In her words Rahman was creating an X-ray for the body. This became a subversive moment of transferring knowledge - a counter-mapping to resist the structures of power and abuse by illegal land mafias and government corruption. Rahman was herself involved in a process of embodied mapping, which enabled her to understand the social relations, domestic and gendered spaces of the neighborhoods she was working with; a whole social structure being changed from the bottom up (Franz Fanon). By taking mapping as my primary impulse, I am developing a series of speculative drawings and walking exercises, between myself and people/ sites in the city of Karachi. These are triggered by an effort to learn from the practice and pedagogy of Rahman, as well as other contemporary scholars/ activists working with experimental modes of enquiry. Through this gesture, I explore how ideas of a performative, embodied mapping allows for multiple ways of sensing the land and the body; how this can invoke and visualize speculative possibilities for other worlds and other modes of social reproduction. I call this process Walking in-common.
Hearing Asylum: Reducing Noise Through Acoustic Fencing
In the United States, the Department of Justice is increasingly relying on video-teleconferencing technology to process cases of asylum. In 2019, protocols were put in place by the Department of Homeland Security subverting an established set of laws that allowed refugees to arrive at the border of the United States and claim asylum. These new protocols came to be known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. Under this new policy, asylum seekers are no longer permitted to be let into the U.S. while awaiting their case; now, they are forced to wait for long periods of time in makeshift camps in cities like Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. To expedite the processing of cases, the then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions redirected the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster relief funds to construct two temporary courthouses in the cities of Brownsville and Laredo; both in Texas. Hearing Asylum takes these two sites, which sit within view of the international border, to expose the obfuscation under which the U.S. government ‘hears’ its unwanted populations. This project chooses to look at tent courthouses as spaces that are closed off to public observers, while related typologies such as civil courts are obligated to remain open to public access. These temporary courthouses are not only absurd in their operation, but their architecture reflects the lack of investment in legitimate spaces for justice through their use of shipping containers and soft-walled tents. While asylum seekers are shuffled in and out of metal boxes for their hearings, judges are far away in private offices observing the foreigner plead their case through the restricted view of a video screen. At each point in this process, new forms of violence and new manifestations of the border emerge. This violence is not only physical, but one of continuous and intentional interference, and continuous and intentional dysfunction. Those that unwillingly fall outside this system or attempt to subvert it are criminalized.
Hearing Asylum argues that the violence of the border is reinforced through the assemblage of the physical architecture of the temporary courthouse and the use of video-teleconferencing technology, replacing fair policies and keeping out peoples seeking safety. I intend to schematize and identify the discrete components of the asylum process and the video-teleconferencing apparatus to reveal and highlight the limitations inherent in these architectures. In this way, the asylum system functions like the software component on video calls known as the acoustic fence, which reduces the background noise. For the U.S., asylum seekers represent a din; a prolonged and unpleasant background sound.
MÁCULA* a tale of absence, oceanic cosmologies and epistemological decolonisation
In the course of the final four months of 2019, a large oil spill at sea sullied nearly two-thirds of the Brazilian coastline, affecting most severely, traditional communities of artisanal fishermen dependent on seasonal harvests for their sustenance and income. Whilst alternative lines of inquiry reveal several plausible explanations for this environmental catastrophe, I systematically analyse evidentiary material traces to deconstruct truth-claims and ponder over matters of responsibility and accountability. As Eyal Weizman states, forensic work relies on technical expertise, which is usually the privilege of the state and its agencies. Nonetheless, we can adopt verification as practice, using open-source intelligence to parse official statements and identify inconsistencies, inverting the forensic gaze to question institutional authority. When considering how the marginalised and racialised Brazilian geographies register forms of spectacular and slow violence in the absence of discernible cause and in the silence of neglect, I frame oil as Gabrielle Hecht’s interscalar vehicle, a conduit spanning the spatial and temporal to make us grapple with particularity whilst grounding the planetary. As such, I track the spill’s presumed trajectory in reverse, from the impact to the extractive zone - from soiled tropical beaches, through the geopolitics of mid-Atlantic transhipment, to the peculiarities of oilfields. I propose an investigative methodology to address complex environmental crimes, based on cross-examination of expert work, taking transdisciplinarity as a site of both complementarity and contention. Accordingly, I traverse several techno-scientific realms, positioning myself at the centre of insular networks of practice, in an attempt to forge a wider, transversal epistemic community, allowing for new knowledge formations. This effort prompts a reflection on the curation of truth in the intersection of multiple epistemologies, and the expansion of the field of accountability, not to the detriment of specific justice claims but to instigate a thorough critique of our global extractive practices.
In mapping the complex relationality and normalised hierarchies amongst epistemic domains, I perceive a range of praxes which are discounted as incommensurable with Western scientificism, namely, the traditional knowledges and lived experiences of the disenfranchised fishermen. In order to counter this injustice, I advocate for a move toward epistemological decolonisation, that embraces Boaventura de Souza Santos’ concept of an ecology of knowledges, where ethical and political judgment are employed to acknowledge other ways of knowing and being beyond hegemonic experience. I seek to listen attentively to both dominant and suppressed registers, to document and honour groundbreaking initiatives, where actors have transcended epistemic confines to partake in learning and unlearning, supporting and benefiting from one another’s distinctive understandings of social reality.
* In Portuguese, this word means a blight, blemish, stain, tarnishing or tainting spot. The official investigation into the oil spill conducted by the Brazilian Federal Police is christened “Operation Mácula.”
Luke Starr (TBC)
Xin yi Xie
My research attempts to interpret space as a “matrixial” medium and transgress subject-object orientations of physical spatial engagement. Conceiving of the human as a holobiont—an assemblage of multifarious species (bacteria, fungi, viruses) living in and around a “host”—I aim to unsettle the notion of architecture as necessarily a framing around bodies or events. Instead, how are spaces embedded within bodies, materials ‘breathed’ by holobiontic systems? How do subjectivities of multiple selves or “selves-with-others” texture urbanity? How will shifting, plaiting “matrixial” relations—physical and affective—shape cities and global infrastructures post-COVID-19?
I am compelled by artist and psychoanalyst Bracha L. Ettinger’s proposal of the “matrixial gaze,” and in particular her concepts of “metramorphosis,” “borderswerving,” “wit(h)nessing,” and “surpluses of fragility.” In the context of COVID-19, these frameworks might describe how people adapted group behaviour, regions delineated borders, diasporic allyships emerged, and vulnerable populations protected or neglected, respectively. At the same time, I am analyzing how computational models of viral spread dictated national and sociocultural responses. Working through algorithmic logics of spatial reasoning, I adopt the mathematical matrix as a key paradigm.
My research probes how these two matrix(ial) systems—two epistemologies—diverge. The matrixial gaze worlds the “the organic body [that]… ceaselessly secrets unassimilable substances: the excesses of life, of Eros, of the unconscious.” Meanwhile, computational matrices delineate relationships of “connective,” rather than “conjunctive” “concatenation.” That is, biorhythmic excess allows bodies to join on a sensual level to form common emotional grounds (“oscillations” of syntony); connective modes, meanwhile, “reformats” this exchange, reducing communication to what’s allowed in the “syntactic logic of the algorithm.” In the current pandemic, this friction manifests as governments fail to grasp viral life as agents within and beyond “national bodies,” subjects that usurp observable or modelled means of transmission. Ultimately, how do abstractions of environment limited to sight or touch-boundaries fail to comprehend the porosity of multi-species co-existence (co-exh(sc)alation)?
Understanding space as a “matrixial” material requires new forms of mapping and representation. How do bodies touch, gaze, or oscillate: sometimes as separate “selves,” but more frequently as partial-subjects in shifting “borderspaces,” and linking in “impossibilities of not-sharing?” Currently, I am examining infrastructural design that accounts for metabolic exchanges—beginning with negative pressure rooms and branching into data centres. Software like BIM might be employed to model heat and air flows, but in the age of coronavirus, what rituals of queuing, gathering, and passing-by might emerge? In response, what typologies of roads, sidewalks, or aisle-formation might gain prominence? I hope to voice “matrixial space” through existing representational languages. Built on matrices, digital visualization nevertheless allows for transmutations of spatial projection to point at “conjunctive” relations. In de-centering contours, I aim to illustrate “thresholds of vacillation” to accommodate more pluralistic subjectivities.
As Berardi notes, “the more social life depends on techno-control and automation, the more disruptions may provoke catastrophic effects.” In terms of COVID-19, this was all-too-clear as governments downplayed physical measures like mask-wearing or systematized isolation, trusting instead on statistical modelling or digital tracking as health policies. This lends society to descend easily into “chaosmosis,” described as “simultaneously a space of order and chaos—order in the sphere of connection, and chaos in the interaction of the connected sphere with the pulsating sphere of conjunctive bodies.” Put simply, it is impossible to ascertain if some one has COVID-19 through connective apparatuses like digital contact tracing, because daily life is a conjunctive experience. As capitalistic flows accelerate “losses of centre,” the globalised world can expect other crises requiring matrixial modes of comprehension. Ultimately, I aim to develop spatial representations that describe multispecies entanglement and polyrhythmic chaos, so as to open up potential “frontiers of resonance” and “co-mediation” that better navigate holobiontic relations.
Class of 2019
Clémence Althabegoity (RA)
Molecular bordering: The Spatialisation of Nitrogen Dioxide Injustice
Born out of combustion processes, Nitrogen Dioxide is a toxic gas that depends on the acceleration of an engine. Once inhaled, within living porous bodies, NO2 dissolves in the moisture of tissue causing illnesses such as asthma, heart issues, cardiovascular issues as well as mental health issues, IQ decrease, and premature deaths. This phenomenon is called “oxidative stress”, catalysis of the oxidation of one’s body, the same process that causes iron to rust, which plays a similarly corrosive role in human and nonhuman bodies. The legal threshold of Nitrogen Dioxide was set in 2015 by the World Health Organization (WHO) at 40 μg/m3 as an annual mean. WHO guidelines were adopted in 2010 by the European Union Environmental Action Program (EAP) through an extensive body of legislation which establishes health- based standards. However, the United Kingdom is facing illegal levels of air pollution. While the UK imports its manufacture from Asian territories; in doing so, emissions are displaced, and pollution figures are artificially reduced. This outsourcing of acceleration generates unequal exposure to oxidation through porous time border, creating molecular injustice. Using the body and materials as a form witness, the practice of this research aims to point at those unequal embodied borders.
Dimitra Andritsou (FA)
To Let Burn: Fire, Encampment and Abandonment
My research examines the politics of fire at play on the migrant hotspot of Moria in Lesvos, one of the frontier ‘chokepoints’ of the European border regime. From blazes of indignation to flaring humanitarian infrastructure, fire on the island appears as a lurking, ubiquitous presence. The emergence of it is interrogated as an ambiguous force being concurrently incident and accident, as well as a symptomatic entity that highlights the precarious, differentiated regime of abandonment and care, and thus signals institutional failure at diverse, inter-scalar registers. Interpolating the containment of migrant mobility with the ‘uncontainability’ of the fire, the research constitutes an attempt to navigate between nodes of intervention and negotiation within this conflictual entanglement of fire and regimes of (un)protection, and rethink how accountability and notions of social justice may operate in such a volatile field.
Tim Brouwer (FA)
Techno-Logics of Banking
Expanding labyrinths of Information Technology (IT) obfuscate the modus operandi of banking. Their technological innovations function for but one end: profit production. Despite the Basel Accords following the 2008 financial crisis, the digitisation of the economy continues to fuel the overdependence on mega-banks, alongside the ascendancy of tech giants. A relational consideration of the multiplicity of risks is being ignored due to the western technological condition, which favours division and domination for the sake of automating capital. This research will examine TSB Bank’s recent IT accident—or rather unrealistic reliance on technology—as an entry point into the underlying techno-logics of banking architectures in the UK. By utilising the sensorial capacity of IT as a tool that can detect and register interobjective relations, I aim to materialise the conflicting inputs and outputs of TSB’s platform upgrade.
Manuel Correa (FA)
Is a participatory project seeking to create a radical documental repository of testimonial and archival material about a near to impossible exhumation that has demonstrated the Spanish church’s relationship with fascism.
Anna Engelhardt (FA)
On the 25th of November 2018 Russian coast guard attacked 3 Ukrainian vessels, which were going to Azov sea via Kerch strait. Overall 3 Ukrainian ships were captured with 24 crew members on board who are under prosecution now for possessing a threat to Russian sovereignty. This event marked the first official military aggression from the Russian side against Ukraine since the start of the proxy war in 2014. This crime is one of the multiple materialisations of the offence that is still unrevealing in the Kerch Strait. It was enabled by the adversarial infrastructure created in the area, one that functions as a border despite the label of the bridge. Stating this, I define adversarial infrastructure as one that is achieving hostility against an enemy by combination of antagonistic functions. My project is an investigation of the continuous atrocity of adversarial infrastructure - Crimean Bridge, unlawfully constructed by Russian state in 2015-2018.
Rebecca Huxley (RA)
Earth as Spectrum Archive
Our memory of the night and experience of darkness, is undergoing a slow erasure amongst the hyperproduction of diurnal-nocturnal urban and rural environment. By using the term slow erasure, I am proposing that our personal archive of the night is slowly deconstructed and re-programmed by the excess of memory of a ‘false’ night. The stages of twilight towards night are intriguing, they reveal moments in which our interactions with the earth and sky in our milieu distinctly alter. Darkness is measured by the absence of light. We move towards darkness and every photon of light has value, but perhaps this value is not the most accurate way to describe the experience of light. As the ever-increasing saturation of light occupies the planet, minimising the amount of darkness in our lived experience, this research will consider questions on the importance of darkness in human and non-human experience. How does the earth hold memory of light and dark in different locations on it's sphere? How did interactions between human, nonhuman and darkness affect the past, and come to transform the present landscape? The UV photon and its relevance in reindeer herding in the arctic circle raises critical questions about light violence that is invisible to humans. A reduction in darkness means we must better understand light - both natural and artificial - as it operates through the scale of Earth's atmosphere to the depths of the sea.
Carol Iglesias (FA)
Research Boundaries: Contesting the Calculus of Risk and Protection in Geo-engineering Experimentation
My MA project investigates the political and legal determinations of risk and care in the face of developing geo-engineering experimentation. I focus on the SCoPEx experiment — led by Harvard University and scheduled to take place in New Mexico in 2019-20 — and analyse how the production of speculative calculations concerning temperature, light reflectivity, and particle behaviour in the stratosphere becomes central to the discussion around the political (in)acceptability of outdoor geo-engineering experiments. By drawing on histories of damage and toxicity resultant from the Gasbuggy nuclear test in Dulce, NM, I argue that current standards for environmental protection and risk assessments — reliant on the notion that producing a controlled and isolated setting is possible — dramatically fail to imagine the multiple modalities of harm that scientific experimentation with the planetary is capable of causing.
Imani Jacqueline Brown (FA)
The Great Unraveling of the Corporate Sublime
Throughout the 300 years of Louisiana's colonial existence, acolytes of Extractivism have sacrificed human and nonhuman persons on the altar to a "hyperobject" bestowed with the legal and cultural status of more-than- personhood, lowering the world's horizons. I call this entity the corporate sublime. The corporate sublime draws its energy through invasive infrastructure grafted into the increasingly machinic Mississippi River Delta. Since the discovery of oil at the turn of the 20th century, fossil fuel corporations have dredged 10,000 linear miles of canals to drill and access over 75,000 wells throughout the state’s coastal wetlands. This practice has unraveled Louisiana's coast like a threadbare tapestry, disintegrating 2,000 square miles of wetland in eighty years–– one of the fastest rates of land loss in the world. Further upriver, these same companies have sited scores of petrochemical plants on the footprints of former plantations, smothering communities of slavery’s descendants with carcinogenic petrochemicals. A $50 billion-plus Master Plan––to be paid for by Louisiana’s fence- and front-line communities––outlines the State’s vision for “defending our way of life” against the unraveling coast. Paradoxically, however, this unraveling of our corrosive way of life is our and the planet’s only salvation. My project will explore methods of bringing the corporate sublime––corporate-owned wells, canals, and plantations-turned-plants––into focus. Corporate de-territorial maps and geontological memorials will gesture toward a demand for corporate accountability and reparations that could fund humanity’s transition through and beyond the Great Unraveling of the Corporate Sublime.
Victoria McKenzie (RA)
Toxic Mushrooms: The Mycoremediation of Disaster Landscape
My research takes the mushroom as a point of departure to investigate soil toxicity at sites of radioactive disaster. The aim of my research is to understand the role specific fungi play in the remediation of radioactive soil. While most disaster relief efforts are focused on anthropocentric methodologies of intervention, my research instead argues that existing ecological phenomena, such as sub-terrain fungi root networks known as ‘mycelium’, are proficient at performing soil recovery functions if given sufficient time and support. The research furthermore posits that the methods by which Queendom Fungi, specifically the mushroom, enter into relation with toxicity can be used as a speculative method of ‘ecosophy’ or a democratic intervention through which cooperative action and environmental activism can emerge. As a conceptual and practical tool, I believe the mushroom recognizes crisis as opportunity, challenging one's understanding of the differences between nation-state capitalist mediation and citizen-led communal projects of remediation of which the more-than-human commons play a magnificent role.
Christopher Bennett-Grant (RA)
Sounding the Crisis
This research practice aims to create new methods of investigation and pedagogy, which address historical and contemporary social, cultural and political activism across the Caribbean and African Diaspora. Drawing on critical approaches to political economy, Black studies and sound theory, combined with the spatial approach of Research Architecture, this practice will produce techniques of ‘sounding’ the infrastructure and institutional relations which have emerged out of the ‘crisis’ of transatlantic slavery. Following Christina Sharpe in describing this condition as being ‘In the wake’; “to occupy and to be occupied by the continuous and changing present of slavery’s as yet unresolved unfolding”(13–14 Sharpe), how can spatial methods of investigation and experiments in pedagogy (wake-work) work through the paradoxes which surround black history, identity and citizenship? Indeed, a part of this project has pursued an investigation into the acoustic design of the so-called ‘Windrush Scandal’, which signals the recursive sounding of crisis. The abolition of key arrival documents by the United Kingdom’s (UK) Home Office and recent changes to immigration laws, led many UK citizens of Caribbean descent to be detained, denied social services and in 83 cases deported from the UK, eleven of which have died. Therefore, I have initially considered the various spatial elements of this case, such as how the acoustic formation of rhetorical devices in the House of Commons organises political power; sounding the infrastructure of an old shipbuilding site at Convoys Wharf in Deptford; as well as conducting a series of interviews with academics, activists and lawyers.The purpose of this practice is to produce an archive of spatial research from a series of public forums, with which to create an innovative pedagogical framework which addresses historical and contemporary social, cultural and political activism from across the Caribbean and African Diaspora.
Romy Kiessling (RA)
Situated at the intersection of climate, law, and the built environment, my research is concerned with how the impacts of climate transformations unfold socio-politically and spatially in uneven ways. The unevenness of harm is revealed through buildings and infrastructures – which both originate from and adapt to the structural violence linked to CO2 emissions. How does one use architecture to frame a field of causality that connects disparate localities for the purpose of making claims for climate justice legible? In order to pursue this question, I follow an ongoing legal case in which Saúl Luciano Lliuya, a Peruvian farmer, has brought charges against the power plants of a German energy provider operating in Europe. The lawsuit claims that the company has contributed a discernible amount to the emissions at the root of global climate change, and that it should therefore be responsible for a proportional share of the costs of containing a swelling glacial lake, which is at the brink of overflowing due to melting glaciers and could destroy the plaintiff’s house in Huaraz, Peru.
Tiago Patatas (FA)
Harm by Indirection
My research investigates the conditions of the illegal, small-scale gold mining epidemic in the Amazon. Often carried out in frontier zones, the informal practice uses mercury to amalgamate the gold particles, irreversibly spreading the volatile metal. While contamination occurs with the absence of a punctual act, it is a project of severe molecular violence. Miners, traditional communities and non-human beings alike are exposed to the toxic effects of mercury, reflecting a project of environmental injustice that questions the notions of victim, perpetrator and crime. By putting forward the hypothesis that the environments, its actors and actants in study are permanently contaminated, the investigation attempts to explore modes of action that can sustain life otherwise.
Tara Plath (FA)
Mapping The Space of Deterrence: Conceptions of Rescue in the Arizona Borderlands
This research focuses on the United States Border Patrol's response to the missing migrant crisis unfolding in the west desert of Arizona over the past two decades, following the implementation of the Prevention Through Deterrence strategy in the mid-nineties. Fifty-eight Rescue Beacons, or "Panic Poles," have been installed across the state by U.S. Border Patrol in this remote desert region, which spans the U.S.-Mexico border to the south and is primarily under federal jurisdiction as national parks, wild life refuge, and military bases. The beacons' exact locations and data related to their use and effectiveness are not public, yet their presence are offered by Border Patrol as the preferred method of aid, in contrast to the efforts of local activist and humanitarian workers. In the investigation, the rescue beacon serves as a nexus for interrogating state obligation in response to migrant fatalities, tensions between Border Patrol and local humanitarian groups, the existing legal frameworks surrounding immigration law and their recent applications under inflamed nationalist rhetoric, and the relationship between conservation, federal land management, and border enforcement. The research seeks to challenge concepts of aid and rescue and state obligation, while also practically intervening in the criminalisation of humanitarian workers by collaborating with local NGOs and producing materials for recent court cases and forthcoming human rights reports.
Santiago Rivas (RA)
Unlock/Feedback/Fold: Permafrost as a Translator, Facilitator, and Spatial Archive
In 2016 reindeer begin dying en masse in the Yamal Peninsula in Northern Siberia. A massive heat wave reaching 32C hit the Russian tundra thawing the upper layer of the permafrost. As a result, dormant spores of a deadly bacteria hosted in a 75 year-old reindeer carcass were released into the environment. 72 Nenet nomadic herders were hospitalised and the area evacuated. It was found that 2,300 reindeers and a 12 year-old Nenet boy died in an outbreak of Anthrax. Air temperature determines the existence and stability of permafrost, the ground at or below 0C that covers two thirds of the Russian Federation territory. Thermal activation of microbes and sequestered carbon cryopreserved in the upper layers of permafrost may have critical socio-ecological consequences. Greenhouse gasses are increasingly being released into the environment, the terrain is being altered by subsidence and erosion phenomena, and unknown or eradicated diseases are expected to revive. Receding permafrost due to global warming manifests thus spatially and biologically, posing a severe, unequal threat to the life of certain socio-ecological communities that inhabit the Artic regions. In this project I investigate the architecture of the thawing permafrost and its shifting border regime under current climate conditions. Moreover, I explore permafrost as a temperature and biological archive, and as facilitator and translator of climate change.
Mohamad Safa (FA)
“Witnesses of war are as well the ones that have listened to It”. Borrowed by J.Martin Daughtry, this claim reformulates the notion of armed-conflict as a sonic quasi-event (Povinelli). There, its survivors’ ears have registered not only the blasts but what has led to and followed it. At 2:40 pm in the afternoon of the 13th of August 2006, an “ear blasting impact that I have never heard in my life” as one witness asserts, had struck the southern suburb of Beirut. The blast in question was the result of 20 consecutive Israeli aerial bombardments with guided bomb units GBU-27 on Imam al Hassan residential complex in the southern suburb. This assault materialized the end of the 33-day Israel-Lebanon war. What was to follow was the reconfiguration as well as the consolidation of sectarian conflict in the construction practices that emerged out of the particular modes of rebuilding the devastated city. Stemming from the multiple sonic facets of those events, this research is investigating the auditory particularities in Lebanon, as a method that underpins the structural extension of armed conflict traumas during the cessation of hostilities. This hypothesis is communicated through an analysis of sonic and spatio-acoustic modes that govern the reverberations of bomb impacts and their continuous reoccurrence in the post-war reconstruction noisescape.
This dissertation investigates the 2016 intrastate conflict and redevelopment program in Diyarbakir, SE Turkey as an instance of "civic warfare." Civic war refers to the extension of hostilities-- beyond the destructive situation of armed conflict in an urban environment-- into the civil domain, particularly by use of the legal instruments of State power. The thesis, through spatial analysis, image-production and writing, seeks to enhance critical discourse on International Humanitarian Law and the State-terror nexus."
Phevos Simeonidis (FA)
Omonoia / Trajectory of hates crimes in Athens, Greece
My research explores the genealogy of hate-crimes in Greece and abroad in parallel to the current rise of nationalist ideals and xenophobic narratives of fear and irredentism. I aim at investigating the current and past social realities of the Balkans, prior to and while austerity measures are in place. Meanwhile, I'm focusing on instigating a dialogue of experiential exchange between the university and the social movements. I'm currently working on cases of police brutality against migrants throughout the past two decades, trying to unravel, monitor and present the multidimensional connections of the Authorities with extrastate right-wing groups.
Asli Uludag (RA)
This research investigates the politics of smart greenhouse hydroponics and the consequent alienation of the natural environment. Mobilized around environmental emergencies, the agriculture industry has shifted its focus from arable farming to smart, greenhouse hydroponics for which Westland in the Netherlands functions as a test site. Widely considered the future of agriculture for its sustainability and efficiency, smart greenhouse hydroponics in Westland is practiced in Dutch greenhouses. In these sterile and monitored environments of control, the complex ecological network of generation is simplified, modified and recreated in a closed system for mass crop production. Yet the distinction between this modified system of production and the natural generative network it is derived from operates on the logic of sustainability of not the generative network as a whole but exclusively of the human-made system of crop production on the interior. The glass and concrete borders wrapped around these sterile, fragile and so-called closed system environments expand and contract in all directions to regulate crossings by non-human actors. Coupled with the monitoring ability provided by sensing technologies, these fluid borders protect the tamed interior while contaminants leak into the environment the greenhouses redefine as wild and unsterile. This project aims to locate these fluid borders and explore the logics they operate on.
Avi Varma (FA)
My research at the Centre for Research Architecture explores the multiple forms of environmental and epistemic violence. Through my dissertation project I investigate the Tornillo “Tent City,” a detention center for unaccompanied migrant children near El Paso, Texas, situated on the US-Mexico border. I argue that the Tornillo detention center is part of an emergent pattern of population management that is being enacted to contend with climate migrations resulting from ecocidal harm. It is a matter of environmental concern involving federal-and-military infrastructure, toxic environments, refugee detention, and emergency management companies making hundreds of millions of dollars in profit. Therefore, my project attempts to disentangle the complex relations that intersect at Tornillo and to establish a set of core, ecological processes that are the conditions of possibility for the detention center."
Sarah Vowden (RA)
Contactless Technologies have increasingly entered the financial terrain of small payments, reducing the transaction to the waving of a card over the payment terminal, or at the touch of a thumb with biometrics integrated into mobile phones, forming a new material encounter of the everyday transaction. The dwindling popularity of using cash exposes our embodied disciplining of contactless technologies, and the dematerialization of exchange practices. Using Near-field-Communication technology, contactless cards produce an electromagnetic induction via its internal antenna and data is transmitted via radio waves between the card and the payment terminal at a maximum distance of 4cm. It is this zone that the contactless makes contact. I mobilise this 4cm as a critical space in which multiple scales of contact take place; the prosthetic tendency of contactless as an extension of the body, the haptic touch between the card and the ambivalent air in between, the reduced social encounter, and the increasingly biometric uses of contactless as it shifts from the plastic card, to the watch, to under the skin. In the moment of a contactless transaction, touch is not wholly removed. A non-touch, the almost touch, the tap, these produce an ambivalent physical encounter that destabilizes notions of touch. This project mobilises contactless as a lens to interrogate the shifting notions of materiality as money sheds its form. Archival in nature, Contact/less produces non-linear narratives of contactless technology, both as a financial and cultural strategy towards cashless society, but also as an entry into capitalism's demise of touch, and the constant blurring of subject and object in an emerging contactless urbanism. I do not see this as a genealogy of contact nor an attempt to create a stable definition of touch, but a practice of speculating how to frame contactless as an urban impulse of fearing the touch of the other, by disorientating touch through digital technologies of exchange and data extraction.
Class of 2018
Esra Abd-elrahman, Faiza Ahmad Khan, Riccardo Badano, Nelson Beer, Guillaume De Vore, Halima Haruna, Patrick Harvey, Rebecca Huxley, Anna Sofie Hvid Hansen, Naiza Khan, Robert Krawczyk, Enrico Murtula, Riccardo Badano, Imani Robinson, Hanna Rullman, Erin Schneider, Ariadna Serrahima, Elena Solis, Ido Tsarfati, Clive Vella, Sarah Vowden, Liza Walling
Forensic architecture studio
Esra Abd-elrahman - Rawabi as a Mega-Project
Rawabi, the first planned Palestinian city, is it a project of resistance? The city intertwines cultural elements of both Israeli and Palestinian architecture. Through this manipulation, I ask if it is succeeding in its attempts at creating an ideological image, that entices influx populations of Palestinians to fill the role of its ‘Invisible citizen’? A messianic figure belonging to the future Palestinian state, that inspires individuals to accomplish their idea of resistance against the occupation, by visiting, working and living there. Has it been successful in promoting the economic peace that has been advocated by the west and the state of Israel? I draw comparisons from the mega-projects that stem from the Gulf region, comparing their function, marketing strategies, funding, growth and how this project is functioning in the political climate it is situated on. I explore the propaganda being imposed and if it is in fact forming, what Rohan Advani termed in 2017, the ‘Neopatrimonial Palestinian Proto-state’.
Guillaume De Vore - 38°19’28.02”N; 26°5’31.47”E Distant Images or Fragments of Containment
the photograph, as a reproduction made by a machine, carries with it an evidentiary truth value.
— McLagan and McKee, Sensible Politics
Images from above are tools to analyse and interpret remote spaces. What traces lie latent in these seemingly objective representations? A series of fragments, this visual essay tells the story of the proliferation of a space. The invisibility of this space and its inhabitants raises the questions: how to see, how to be seen, how not to see and how not to be seen. The imaged space itself is a fragment of an archipelago of similar spaces, spaces that are built with the purpose of fragmenting and containing.
As the flows of goods and resources are constrained to corridors and pipelines, so are those of people. Migration movements follow defined and regulated paths: migrants are under constant surveillance and control, constant channelling. How do such apparatuses of confinement operate? How to counter them? The research project will take me to Greece – one of fortress Europe’s borderlands. Is the Greek nation-state itself a space of confinement and exclusion for illegal migrants en route for Europe? How confining are refugee camps, detention centres and other supposedly temporary halts throughout the path of migrants? Do these apparatuses of confinement submerge illegal migrants in a state of in-betweeness, left in limbo as neither citizen nor stateless? What are the existing alternatives and modes of resistances to such intolerable states of confinement? Can social movements resist imposed forms of fixity and fluidity? Can other networks be created where people and resources meet? Can places of counter-confinement render states of crisis visible?
Anne-Sofie Hvid - Counter Pastoral
The rural is a hybrid space shaped by conflicting ideologies and spatial narratives. From high-tech agriculture, land speculation and logistical interface, to deep ecology and nature as imaginative projection screen the rural serves as a narrative fabric mobilized for various political purposes. Denmark, a relatively compact geographic area, holds one of the most efficient agriculture industries in EU, but also the poorest nature in terms of biodiversity along with an increasing inequality relative to the distance from the urban centres. In my research, I investigate the relations between spatial capitalism, “cheap nature” and the social and cultural crisis of rural Denmark. My focus lies in particular on the southern islands of Denmark, Lolland-Falster: Shaped by landesque capital since the late 19th century, this high-quality arable land has become prone to land speculation from foreign investors. Simultaneously, Lolland-Falster is facing vast social problems and extensive unemployment- a situation which is indirectly created by the centralized organisation of the Danish welfare state. Supporting the argument of the rural as a social residue of urban ideology, are recent attempts to gentrify the rural as symbolized through the art museum Fuglsang Kunstmuseum on Lolland-Falster, which was inaugurated in 2008.
Enrico Murtula - Slow Violence in the Deep Sea
Most of our Planet’s surface is not reached by sunlight, because of the layer of water above it. This is the ‘Deep Sea’, an unknown space, a frontier. Soon to be explored and mapped, by means of new technologies. Anyhow, the impossibility of seeing through the ‘Deep Sea’ is often used as a justification for freely using and abusing it. National regulations are still allowing nuclear reprocessing plants to discharge radioactive waters into the sea. And Governments are not usually keen to investigate the past wrecking of toxic ships. Out of sight, out of mind. Environmental advocacy requires new conceptual tools to expose the slow violence that operates in the ‘Deep Sea’.
Imani Robinson - The Black (D)rift
The Black (D)rift is an ongoing curatorial and research project exploring the spatial dynamics of black interiority, objecthood, and affect through encounters with particular sites, geographies and temporalities of the afterlives of slavery. My practice works with prose, poetry, orality and performance and I am interested in how Blackness moves through space and time. My research explores the area in which I grew up, which is also the area that holds Grenfell Tower, Notting Hill Carnival, and an urgent, logistical history of migration, housing, policing, surveillance, disaster, resistance and movement.
Hanna Rullmann - Fort Vert
This research will analyse the construction of a natural reserve at the location of former refugee camp ‘The Jungle’ in Calais, France: after its destruction in October 2016 the City Council of Calais quickly established plans for the plot to be absorbed into the neighbouring natural reserve named ‘Fort Vert’, funded in part by the UK Border Force. The landscape design outlines the use of several natural features for the purpose of preventing new settlements, while also creating a habitat that will stimulate the re-appearance of the protected fen orchid. As the new natural landscape is shaped, a discontinuity in memory and visibility invokes the following question: how does one interrogate a landscape as a truthful record of the events it is a witness to? This question will weave through the accumulation of events that have formed this particular landscape in relation to its history of toxicity, ownership, soil, (native/invasive) species, agriculture, logistics, finance, hostility and displacement, in order to understand its weaponisation in migration and border policies.
Elena Solis - Speculation(s): Extraction and Finance in Spain
At a time of economic decline, when extraction finance is displacing real production of raw materials, there appears to be an acceleration of exploratory and exploitation projects being silently processed in Spain. This state of affairs has conjured a landscape of socio-ecological devastation which is quickly penetrating the imaginary of those inhabiting the surface of the territories targeted, while the apparatuses of financial exploitation are immersed in subterranean geography of investment alchemy, premature profits and social struggle obfuscation. Given this perplexing reality, it is pressing to speculate as to the underlying logic of these fictitious extractive operations and the opaque web of supranational, domestic, private and public connections, so we can perhaps, ultimately, demystify the hyperrealities of supply security, technical progress and energy transition failures, which are presented to us as inevitable, should we not consent to this new model extractivism.
Ido Tsarfati - (Non-) Human Shields: Urban Renewal as War
Israel consists of various architectural forms that compose a protected space, shaping its political-spatial policy into militant interventions that sit at the threshold between defensive and offensive strategies. This protected space is formed by defensive shields, as it is understood through different theoretical contexts such as international law, philosophy and the built environment. Rather than examining the way Israel preserves its territorial claims through the familiar militant protection, this research seeks to investigate the domestic arena; in accordance with the law, Israel encourages an integration of Mamad towers (vertical private shelters) as an element of reinforcement in residential buildings, a structural act of the urban mechanism of Tama 38, a current nation-wide plan for the protection of domestic buildings from local natural threats. Using the shield, and specifically the Mamad, as an operative concept, the research will focus on the way in which militant strategies are manifested ideologically and physically in the domestic space, increasing the safety and stability throughout the country and improving Israel’s ability to attack.
Forensic architecture studio
Faiza Ahmad Khan - Archival Testimony
The project examines articulations of testimony within a (shared but not-yet-public) video archive of anti-Muslim violence in India. Largely containing witness accounts partly redacted, the archive and equally the redaction, bear testimony to the political infrastructure of the violence. Simultaneous to the redaction of information, leaks and stings, appear as a counter flow. A proposed methodology is to work with processes of redaction and annotation between these materials as a way to productively perform the aporia that is the archive.
Riccardo Badano - Hostile Environments: The Alps as Space of Conflicts
In the attempt of crossing the Alps on foot, asylum seekers are endangered by temperatures that dip dramatically below the zero, snowy cliffs and icy ravines: many of them, retrieved by Alpine Rescue Teams, suffer massive injuries. State actors can efficiently screen behind the natural elements to deny their responsibility. Nonetheless, these accidents are carefully constructed. By funnelling migration routes outside the urban areas, the different political actors rely on the fact that natural barriers would serve to discourage illegal entry, mobilising nonhuman actors— plants, animals, and biophysical elements—in the process of “boundary-making”. My research proposes to map the weaponisation of the terrain as a political strategy ofdeterrence (and, consequently, redistribute accountability) as well as the efforts trans-national groups of activists put in place to counter-deter that system and facilitate the “free circulation of bodies” across the Italian-French border.
Nelson Beer - Architectures of Exclusion: Atmospheres and Alternative Development in and around the City of Calais
Air has until recently been what the Ocean was to the Nomos: a heedless space, the host of lawless rovers and threatening farers; a disembodied matter unfit to the bounded substance of society. Today, it seems like air has shifted from its outsider state to become the pivotal discipline for the exercise of power and law; operations that themselves flux and flow, dissimulate and adapt to deceitful forms in order to keep populations safe and ensure economic expansion. In an attempt to define how atmospheres are utilised in militarised environments, border protection and social inclusion, I will in a first instance observe what atmospheres are made of: intrinsic to the imaginary, yet creating a distance with the outside. Second, I will look at how building atmospheres in and around Calais creates shared imaginaries which themselves are at the origin of spatial partitioning. Boundaries grow with elasticity yet separate and divide from within.
Halima Haruna - Coastal Screens: Image Re-organises Material
My research interests interconnect local geopolitics and personal geopolitics. Through video, performance, design and writing; I conduct an archaeology of the interior, of the milieu that holds the temporal and spatial qualities of my “environment.” I work through and with ever-resolving ontologies of Blackness, in the academy and outside of it, metamorphosing and articulating myself as the site of study. My most current research is on Eko Atlantic and the Lekki Free Trade Zone public-private projects undergoing construction on the coast of Lagos state in Nigeria. I write and think with a Black politics of time and logistics of food shipping; land grabbing and the fast-moving consumer good.
Patrick Harvey - Cathodes
A look into the Democratic Republic of Congo’s cobalt industry, focusing on pivotal moments and spaces where land, resources, and capital go through a process of either legitimization or delegitimization as they flow between the hands of the Congolese people and the global market. These processes are investigated through the conceptualization of what constitutes the contemporary ‘Grid’. An abstraction stemming from the 1970’s off-grid movement, and a notion presented as a mediating threshold between the Congolese and the globalized world.
Rob Krawczyk - World Hothouse with Many Rooms
World Hothouse With Many Rooms, or Spheres, Stacks and Other Stories along the New Silk Road is a research proposal that seeks to elide a diverse set of geometric vitalisms - most acutely, Peter Sloterdijk’s Spherology volume III - Foams - in opening out the architectural, linguistic, philosophical and sociological elements of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the $1 trillion infrastructure initiative to develop high-speed rail systems, energy pipelines, coastal harbours, ports and trading hubs throughout the Asian, European, and African continents. World Hothouse with Many Rooms tends toward foam as a media and material theory of the infrastructural fold and its forms and spheres of influence. Propositions propel this experimental field into the percolation stream: The New Silk Road is a column of foam. The New Silk Road is a cosmic machine, scattering a neighbourhood of aqualine spheres across the spine of three continents, weaving polyhedral oases in black, grey and fractal forms — of financial, industrial, mineral and technology clusters — stacking into dense columns of foams, stretch-strained through distance. The New Silk Road is a hypercubist, multiperspectival tension sculpture par excellence, a litmus to the polyplural pin- universe of co-fragile influence spheres we now live in east-west convergence times.
Ariadna Serrahima - Translocal Practices of Care
My research investigates daily performed gestures that operate within minority communities as active forms of resistance. To explore this terrain, I will examine the socio-political complicities between Catalunya and Kurdistan and how these two stateless peoples have shared forms of self-management practices at the margins of capitalist infrastructures, inspired by the “anarchist” and “collectivist” period that took place in Barcelona during the 1930s. Therefore, I will be working with the Kurdish Community Centre in London and the “Cooperativa Integral Catalana” in Barcelona in order to examine how both collectives develop multiple forms of assembly and communal gathering as fundamental practices of care, and through which they generate a common space for transformation, reorganisation, insistence, resistance and daily protest. How does the micro-political challenge the scale of action and appearance in the struggles of our contemporaneity?
Clive Vella - Sound as Catalyst in the Siege of Sarajevo
The Siege of Sarajevo, during the Yugoslavian wars, incorporates disparate layers that extend from the logistical, architectural, affective, and beyond, making it an ideal case study in which a sound-based analysis raises the question of how these high-stake situations, incorporating predominantly acoustic phenomena, provoke territorial reconfiguration. By focusing on singular points of the Siege such as sniper attacks, we can consider how the relationship of occlusion between sniper and target can be deeply analysed as a consequence of the de/codifying juxtaposition of the disparate speeds and phenomenal components of the bullet. Implying, in addition, that the observation and interpretation of how counter-sniper activities unfolded over time in response to the bullet as territorial agent, may grant us an outlook on the effect of sound within active engagement, sound as a catalyst to complex material mobilisations, changes in pace, mobility, distribution of supplies, and changes in infrastructural flow.
Liza Walling - Albedo: Reflecting on Mental Health
Today, light is a potential cause of poor mental health, administered as a treatment, and used to “image” a condition which is exceptionally non-visible. We see this through Seasonal Affective Disorder’s (SAD) widespread diagnoses and eco-anxiety’s penetration of popular media. My research deals with geospatioal medicine and light conditions. It studies how artificial and natural light have been deployed to act as a solar prothesis at various scales; the cityscape, the bed, and the protein. Light has become an inter scalar device explaining and creating relationships between minds, bodies, and environments.
Class of 2017
Evangelia Argyrou (Greece), Henry Bradley (UK), Sebastian Clark (US/UK), Sophie Dyer (UK), Sami Hammana (NL), Linda Kinstler (US), Conor Lorigan (NZ), Fadi Mansour (Lebanon), Greg McLaren (UK), Rosa Rogina (Croatia), Eeva Sarlin (Finland), Solveig Suess (China), Lua Vollaard (NL), Leonie Weber (Germany), Oren Ziv (Israel)
Evangelia Argyrou - Reinterpreting Stereotypes
My research explores the concept of stereotypes as a process linked to the transformation and the production of space, as a strategy and tactic to generate value and to solidify a political or social condition. It analyses signs, representations and repetitive practices in the Aegean Archipelago, human conflicts and the act of inhabiting, as a means to delve into its current condition. The Greek society is ‘in becoming’ unveiling the antinomies and tensions inherent in the coexistence of potential economic development and nostalgia-driven models, it is a platform where multiple desires, expectations and forces clash, and where an icon is constructed and deconstructed at the same time.
Henry Bradley - Managed Imaginaries: A Crisis of Anticipation
My practice is located at the intersection of cinema, theatre and performance art. My current research has followed processes of live rehearsal as they continue to move from theatre into contemporary forms of preparation for future events. Although used most evidently within medical and military fields, the phenomena of simulation and virtuality are increasingly found within a range of more intimate moments in both public and private sectors. Exploring these moments of preparation, a series of pressures, imaginaries, policies and desires begin to emerge, as the subject or event becomes constructed through various forms of capitalist-pedagogy.
Sebastian Clark - Earth-Writing
My research examines geography as a discipline in image-making. After all, geography means ‘earth-writing’: it is the written practice of interpreting and imagining the Earth and its natural processes. As is evidenced by its historical implication in colonial networks of power, geography is never apolitical. Writing (or depicting) earth always determines how the Earth’s surface is written upon, inscribed by patterns of land use and systems of property. My investigations proceed from the belief that today’s political and ecological quagmire stems from the failure of geography to conjure adequate words and images: a failure to make the dire state of the Earth legible. In pursuit of a new environmentalism, I examine modes of earth-writing that can, in accord with Michel Serres’ philosophy, draw up a natural contract: visualising invisible processes of violence and establishing alternative forms of coexistence. In my reappraisal of geography as a creative discipline, I explore histories of technology and urban form as well as document contemporary land struggles.
Sami Hammana - Geofinance: Spatial-material Derivatives
The 2007-2008 financial crisis unfolded several narratives of how capital-power restructures society, but one thing in particular sticks out, namely that the derivative market holds more wealth than the combined GDP of all nation states on earth. Does this mean that the derivative market’s influence and reach surpasses the Westphalian understanding of nation state sovereignty? And moreover, what does this mean in a time where the conditions of the Anthropocene and climate politics are ever more pertinent? If this is true then the actual restructuring powers will not be within nation states anymore, but rather in the derivative market itself, thus contradicting the commonplace argument that derivative finance is ‘immaterial’. This project suggests that derivatives have material and actual spatial ramifications, rendering finance as having a spatial materialist ontology and effectively positioning derivative finance as a key player in the Anthropocene.
Linda Kinstler - Memory After Forensics
My research explores the memorial techniques applied to sites of atrocity in Eastern Europe, particularly sites of forensic interest, with the aim of probing how forensic researchers approach the delicate 'topography of terror'. My work will focus on Babi Yar, outside Kiev, Ukraine, specifically, investigating the history of archaeological erasure and violence that still haunt the soil of the former ravine. My research questions how the digital turn in forensic aesthetics alters the practice of memorialization, and how techniques like virtual and augmented reality have been mobilized for investigative, memorial, and archaeological ends.
Fadi Mansour - Dream Land / the techno-engineered restitution of a disfigured landscape
My research explores the libidinal and financial dimensions of the construction of new territories created by accumulations of waste landfill in areas of conflict. I will explore these sites as examples of an on-going post-traumatic condition following the disfiguration of a landscape. In Lebanon, the prolonged waste management crisis permeates the familiar surroundings with a lingering toxicity. Vast amounts of municipal solid waste piled up at street corners, stored along riverbeds, hidden and dumped in forests, valleys and seashores, become the embodiment of environmental destruction. If the material destruction of war impacts upon buildings and cities, the trash crisis takes a hold of what has been seemingly spared: the air, water and soil. Land reclamation becomes a project of restitution, looking towards the clear horizon and turning away from the disfigured landscape. But this new land, engineered from the transformation of waste landfill, increases the level of toxicity by infiltrating the soil and groundwater while increasing air pollution.
Rosa Rogina - Croatian Landmine Crisis: Environmental Harm in Delay
My research explores implications of humanitarian demining and land management in post-conflict Croatia. Utilising Andrew Barry’s exploration into material politics, this project will approach the demined soil from the area not as an isolated material but as a part of “dynamic, informed assemblages”. Combining research from the fields of demining, biology and social sciences will play a critical part in arguing that the processes of mine clearance serves to construct a new temporality of violence within the local environment. Using the case of the Croatian War of Independence in the early nineties, this project will aim to develop new aesthetic tools and ways of mapping the environmental violence of demining. In constructing this extended temporal framework of the conflict, I will challenge the issue of who should be accountable for the damage caused.
Eeva Sarlin - The New Nokia: Futurities of Mining in Finnish Lapland
My research looks at mining in Finnish Lapland and the so-called new Nokia as identified by the President of Finland. As global mineral resources become scarcer, the formerly postcolonial practices of extraction seep into the western world. Finland, a developed European country actively embraces this development as it has huge mineral wealth and amongst the lowest effective taxations on mining internationally. Using Rob Nixon’s notion of slow violence, I am exploring the extent of mining and the environmental destruction caused by the new Nokia. The focus is on the Kittilä Suurikuusikko mine - the biggest gold mine in Europe, operated by a Canadian mining company.
Solveig Suess - Alibis and Aliens
My research finds its urgencies through the various cosmologies which co-construct global supply-chains, weighed by their deeper times of development and imperialism. I’m currently inquiring into the New Silk Road, where it was Hewlett-Packard who had initiated negotiations for the construction of the alternate rail route ‘defined not only according to business logic, but also with a certain strategic calculation’. Here, mechanisms of modulation and forecasting are central drivers for violent re-organisations of geographies; where control over time and motion is calculated to serve a desire of unhinged flow for some and increased regulation for others. My practice has been a pattern-making of both documentary and imaginary counter-narratives, which instead looks at how seemingly disparate sequences collude together into unsettling these streamlined operations and imagining alternative futurities of worlds, however temporary.
Leonie Weber - Para-sites or Common Toxicity: The Marginalization of People, Soil and other Entities in the Urban
With the disappearance of the outside and the acknowledgement of ubiquitous entanglement we must rethink our understanding of mutuality. Reciprocity is multi-dimensional and relationships are not necessarily apparent. The intangibility of interconnectedness exceeds scales of time, location and space perceivable to individuals and societies. By using the different meanings of para- as a vantage point I investigate three fields: empathy, toxicity and architectural activism. I aim to discover how the marginalization of entities in the urban context are exposed to similar dynamics, and in return how their juxtaposition might offer a different perspective on precarity and the organisation of space. Drawing on my involvement with various architectural and activist situations, I aim to present concurrencies of marginalized people and soils entangled through different modes of toxicity. The ecology of soils is irreparably altered and contaminated. Thus we have to abandon the belief in recovering a pure past in our future. Ecological toxicity is our new – or continuous – ground.
Oren Ziv - The Facebook Prisoners
My research focuses on the Israeli use of social media in order to arrest, prosecute and jail Palestinians in the West Bank and within Israel. I am investigating how data and algorithms become part of the policing methods used against Palestinians, and how this connects to the translation and reading of images and text that they post on social media. Whilst some Israeli security experts claim that social media can create a new model to locate and control ‘incitement’, I argue that that there is a direct line between classic policing methods used in the occupation territories, and the tactics used today to bring charges of ‘incitement’ against Palestinians for online activity. In considering the ways the authorities ‘read and translate’ Palestinian social media posts, I would argue that the algorithm, the policemen, the judge, and the prosecutor all affect the way in which cases are being processed; creating a framework that allows almost any Palestinian activity on social media to be determined ‘incitement’. In my field research, I interview, photograph and film Palestinians (and one Israeli) that were arrested for their social media activism, asking them to re-read the words that led to their arrest.
Class of 2016
Alice Bucknell (US), Phoebe Eustance (UK), Alexia Giacomazzi (Australia), Ming Lin (US), Emma McCormick-Goodhart (UK), Dana Ozaino (Palesntine), Pietro Pezzani (ITA), Robert Preusse (CH), Blanca Pujals (Spain), Laurie Robins (UK), Elena Solis (Spain), Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe (UK)
Phoebe Eustance - A Manual for Listening to Quiet
To become quiet is often regarded in a similar way to becoming passive, signifying that one has weakened their capacity to act in a situation. If to speak is to validate a person's existence - does being quiet mean that the person is no longer participating or has given up their right to act?
The condition of quiet is an intrinsic part of all relations, yet our contemporary political culture has consigned it to exist in the background of events. This thesis aims to construct or activate a field of thought around the condition of quiet and the ways in which we register presence. Here, quiet is considered firstly through the notion of presence as a political form that precedes speech, and secondly through deconstructing the relationship between quiet and power.
Ming Lin - Slow Sea, Fast Fashion: Poetics of the Supply Chain
My research considers landscapes and architectures of supply and demand, the politics of production and the mytho-poetic narratives running through the network of global logistics. Taking its starting point from a specific industry lore – which attributes fast fashion chain ZARA’s inimitable success to alleged factories on water – my project at the Centre for Research Architecture explores the apparently seamless spaces of the supply chain in an effort to reclaim these largely obscured movements of circulation from the rhetoric of efficiency and progress. Destabilizing conventional narratives of global distribution as smooth, technologically advanced, and just-in-time, this work seeks to contribute instead to a postcolonial discourse through the articulation of vast networks as subjective, queer and rife with friction.
Pietro Pezzani - Drawing Borders: Genealogy, Aesthetics and Politics of Digital Targeting
Targeting is the act of addressing an entity by identifying its borders. It is an operation adopted to classify – to divide a population or a space into homogeneous groups or regions – and to detect – to make a figure emerge from its background.
Targeting can be understood as a spatial diagram following a logic of economization. This is true both in pragmatic and in aesthetic terms: in fact, on the one hand, its diagram is mobilized whenever the scarcity of available resources makes it inconvenient or impossible to direct an operation in an indiscriminate fashion.
In its materialization, targeting depends on the construction of highly asymmetrical points of view. In this respect, and following Gilles Deleuze, if the "form of the visible" is the privileged site of production of objects of power relations, targeting is a technology of vision that corresponds to a mode of governmentality: its diagram currently presides over operations aimed at directing both human and machinic labor, distributing resources and assessing the opportunity of military attack.
Through my research, I tried to prove how the rise of digital technologies of inscription and computation caused a shift of the very space where targeting operations take place. As data became the privileged “environment” of new forms of visibility – forms that have prescinded from human vision altogether – targeting turned into one of the most powerful aesthetic/governmental diagrams at work today. By turning to abstract, purely numeric multidimensional spatialities and sophisticated algorithmic methods of border production, digital technology made it possible to simultaneously detect and produce incomparably more complex entities, whose nature is heterogeneous, probabilistic and totally – even mathematically – dependent on the contingent needs of the targeting subject.
Robert Preusse - Spectral Apperception
My research investigates new perspectives emerging from meta-communication. It inquires into the data-double that follows and precedes movement in space, focusing upon trace anomalies of interception in the cellular telecommunications network of London. This infrastructure of identification is examined through the policies, protocols, and spatial and social relationships of communication. Consequently I ask how perception is ingrained through a dialectic of revealing and withdrawing, and whether composition allows for a cognition of perception – a form of apperception – to emerge.
Blanca Pujals - A Synthetic Sun: The Unmaking of Microscopic Bonds in Transnational Space
‘A Synthetic Sun’ is a research and film project exploring the aesthetic and political impacts of the underground network of elemental particle infrastructures. The project investigates the entangled relationships between big scientific institutions and political realms, and the forms of networked knowledge generated therein. These spaces become sensing architectures that amplify networks, political agreements and non-visible or barely detectable events. They are comprised of a number of scientists, particles, liquids, data, politics and technologies working together for the production of knowledge. The film is accompanied by a Google Map Archive, which illustrates the interrelations between these architectures through geolocation, images and data, and can be ‘explored’ by the user. I am interested in the physical and spatial articulations of contemporary science and how subatomic particles create a political form. Elemental particles create new forms of alliances and global networks; infrastructures which produce hybrid systems of transnational and transhuman collaboration.
Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe - Techniques of Fidelity
'Techniques of Fidelity' is a curatorial project is driven by research into mechanisms of faithful reproduction alongside the conditions that prohibit it. Fidelity can mean precision and exactitude, but it can also relate to emotional and sexual relationships, religion, consistency and commitment. It is possible to be faithful to an object or code but it is equally possible to faithful to an ideal, an image or a fantasy. A faithful technique can be a method of enlargement or extension or pedagogical mobilisation. By focusing on dance, performance and movement studies across varied media, ‘Techniques of Fidelity’ investigates the challenges present in the display of live and corporeal art. The inevitable failures of verbatim re-presentation and the study of display create a space for knowledge that simultaneously exceeds and resists representation. As the paradoxical title suggests, this work’s methodology is based in the comparison of objects and materials, through which the project outlines a definition of faithful practice.
Class of 2015
Stine Ailling Jacobsen (Visual Culture, Denmark), Phoebe Eustance (Artist & Botanist, UK), Eldar Ganz (Architect, Israel), Hania Halabi (Architect, Palestine), Thomas Jenkins (Architect, UK), Ion Maleas (Architect, Greece), Pietro Pezzani (Architect, Italy), Grace Phillipps (Geographer & Poet, USA), Laurie Robbins (Graphic Designer & Wolf Specialist, UK), Sam Stork (Architect, UK), Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe (Art Critic & Historian, UK)\
Hania Halabi - Through the Scopic Lens:
Geology, Agency & Secrecy of Fallahin Architecture
On May 4th 2015, High Court Judge Noam Solberg rejected a petition for an interim order that would freeze the implementation of demolition orders issued against homes in the village of Khirbet Susya, a tiny encampment of tents and shacks in Area C within the West Bank, where a few hundred people are still hanging onto what is left of their ancestral lands. They do so in the face of the Israeli Civil Administration, which could uproot the entire village of 80 structures at any moment following that decision. In Summer 2015, when I was writing my dissertation and preparing for MARA’s exhibition, the whole village lives on the brink of eviction, awaiting a fateful decision from a pending court hearing.
In my research into the conflict of Susya, I transform the photograph of the Concrete Tent into my scopic research tool. Using it both as a microscope for viewing small details, and as a telescope for making remote observations and broad-scale spatial analysis. In doing so, I allow sight to extend over a spectrum of scales, across which the conflict unfolds. This opens up a field of vision that reaches beyond the limits of what is visible inside the image’s frame. By analysing the envelope of the Concrete Tent, I show how the concrete and fabric strata delineate the borders of the village’s white, grey and black spaces, and explain their materiality in relation to the village’s ground jurisdictional pattern.
Grace Phillips - Lines of Sight: A Meteorological History
My dissertation plotted the history of meteorology within the expansion of the British Empire, exploring the problem taking an invisible material (the air) as an object of science. By tracing the circulation and distribution of a set of materials - a popular British weather broadcast called the Shipping Forecast, the Forecast's metric the Beaufort Scale, developments in glass-making for scientific instruments, and a networked architecture of observation - I sought to understand the role of the visual in the production of knowledge.
My research examined the difficulty of engaging with an object that cannot be seen in its totality from any one vantage point. It highlighted implications in an observation practice that occurs when an object of study is only visible as it appears in other things (i.e. wind). The project questioned the possibility of objective vantage points and the priority of objects over relations in modern epistemologies. Taking a cue from the poetry of the early wind measuring systems, the work resolved by suggesting a need for further exploration of embedded vantage points.
Class of 2014
Yasmine Abboud (Architect, Lebanon), Olympia Anesti (Architect, Greece), Nick Axel (Architect, US), Jacob Burns (Activist & Art History BA, UK), Jesse Connuck (BA History, US), Rodrigo Delso (Architect, Spain), Helene Kazan (Artist, UK), Yi-Hui Lin (Designer, Taiwan), Frank Mandell (Literature, US), Hannah Meszaros Martin (Artist, US), Basima Sisemore (Peace & Conflict Studies, Palestine & US), Alan Yates (Artist, UK)
Nick Axel - Grounding Deregulation
On August 8th, 2005, George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Policy Act and deregulated the production technique of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. Fracking is a supplemental step in the traditional process of drilling for oil and gas that occurs between well completion and production. Fluid is injected down into the well at high pressure to rupture the geological formation and release and oil and gas trapped within its structure. Fracking allows for petroleum to be extracted from places where it would be impossible to do so otherwise. The most significant effect of its deregulation was that the scope of industrial interest was drastically expanded to encompass significantly more land area than was conceived of previously as viable for oil and gas production. In other words, what fracking does geologically, it also did economically. Fracking reconfigured the speculative logics of development and its deregulation was immediately followed by a land grab for un-owned mineral rights.
I wanted to understand how it could be possible to intervene within such a dramatic and rapid process of territorial development that propagates grave ecological risk, along with political disenfranchisement across the American landscape. The object of my study could be thought of as the political architecture of democracy, rights as they are institutionally situated and geographically distributed. My unique contribution to the ongoing debate surrounding fracking was the exposition of a new terrain for intervention, that of the regulatory device called unitization. The work presented was produced to represent the relation between an individual plot of land and international networks of speculation.
Class of 2013
Andrea Bagnato (Architect, Italy), Jennifer Boyd, Selman Celik (Architect, Turkey), Jessica Donato, Hannah Husberg (Art, Sweden), Daniel Fernandes Pascual (Architect, Spain), Bhavika Patel (Interior Architecture & Design, UK), Elina Pelvanidi (Archtect, Greece), Maria-Angeliki Sakellariou, Alon Schwabe (Performance Artist, Israel), Doron Van Beider (Architect, Israel)
Class of 2012
Palwasha Amanullah (Architect, Pakistan), Nadia Barhoum (Political Economist, US), Remco de Blaaij (Curator, NL), Eva Dietrich (Architect, Germany), Daniel Fernández Pascual (Architect, Spain), Blake Fisher (Architect, USA), Mirko Gatti (Architect, Italy), Janet Hall (Architect, Northern Ireland), Samir Harb (Architect, Palestine), Irmelin Joelson (Sociologist, Sweden), Heejung Kim (Architect, South Korea), Steffen Kraemer (Media Theorist & Filmmaker, Germany), Chris Molinski (Curator, US), Corinne Quin (Interior Designer, UK)
Blake Fisher - Applied Idleness: On the Economy of Pastoral Images
The pastoral mode reaches back to the known origins of language and human settlement. In many ways, it has been a cultural site through which the transitional condition between settlement/movement, leisure/work, and otium/negotium has found poetic expression. In other words, it has served as a register for the emergence of governance and urbanization.
Readings of the pastoral sometimes presume the mode to be a reductive stand-in for nostalgia and loss of former Edenic utopias, or of the pre-modern in general. However, such cursory readings fail to recognize its potential to redirect power toward those caught in the crossfire of the violence of state formation. In fact, such presumptions depoliticize the mode while trivializing its capacity to depict the banal and inoperative – depictions that may resist being caught up in power’s production of artifice and glory.
‘Applied Idleness: On the Economy of Pastoral Images’ tracks some of these co-opted images through a contemporary landscape of state violence, that is, Afghanistan during the U.S. military occupation that has been continuous since 2001. It follows a series of images in which Central and Southern Asian artifacts, natural resources, and poems are fed through an American salvation machine and transformed into tactics for primitive accumulation and economic development. Thus, the pastoral mode is refocused through a political-theological lens that intertwines issues of sovereignty, poetics, and visual culture.