Working across the disciplinary boundaries of art, activism, architecture and investigative journalism, the London-based research collective Forensic Architecture produces audiovisual analysis and documentation of worldwide human rights violations, environmental crimes and state, police and corporate violence. Over the past decade, Forensic Architecture has undertaken over seventy forensic investigations to counter official narratives of contentious incidents, with and on behalf of the communities affected and human rights groups, and often for use in citizen tribunals and law courts.

A mediator is present everyday to discuss the issues raised by the exhibition and answer your questions.

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Opening lecture : Terror Contagion

To mark the opening of the exhibition Terror Contagion last December, John Zeppetelli, the MAC’s Director and Chief Curator, seized the opportunity of having both Eyal Weizman, Director of the London-based research collective Forensic Architecture and internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras in town, to hold a conversation around the exhibit and their work .

FORENSIC ARCHITECTURE with LAURA POITRAS

Forensic Architecture courageously probes violence, injustice and corruption. The research group’s projects zoom both in and out from, for example, an explosion, a murder, an act of unlawful detention and torture, a chemical attack or a migrant shipwreck, focusing on the minutiae while also framing the events in a wider context. Its investigative aesthetic is akin to putting time under a magnifying glass, while space is reconstructed through multiple lenses and perspectives. An array of methods and technologies are deployed: opensource intelligence gathering, architectural software, volumetric studies, 3D renderings, recreations of crime scenes, spatial and temporal cartographies, satellite imagery, sound-mapping and machine learning data analysis, as well as witness testimonials. All these contribute to a growing catalogue of investigations, resulting in a form of citizens’ counter forensics. In an age of surveillance and right-wing “post-truth,” Forensic Architecture forges a new politics and poetics of evidence gathering and truth production, resulting in a significant contribution to legal and aesthetic discourse, while helping us to re-imagine what an engaged political art could look like.

In Terror Contagion, the research group has used the condition of global lockdown to turn its gaze to the digital violence of cyber-weapons. The investigation Digital Violence: How the NSO Group Enables State Terror, supported by Amnesty International and The Citizen Lab, examined dozens of targets of state surveillance – fellow investigators, journalists, opposition figures and activists, including close friends of the research group – to map the terrain of a new digital battlefield in which the state wages war against civil society worldwide. Contagion is the operative metaphor for this ongoing investigation of Israeli cyber-weapons manufacturer NSO Group and the much-discussed abuses enabled by its malware Pegasus, sold to governments across the world and used to target human rights defenders, activists and journalists. As an advanced state-level cyberespionage tool, Pegasus can be covertly installed on mobile phones and other devices, enabling operators of the tool to read text messages and emails, track calls and location, collect passwords, and activate microphones and cameras. The 2021 global Pegasus Project revelations rattled the world as a list containing thousands of potential “infections” of high-profile public figures was leaked.

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Digital Violence Introduction

‟With its first detection dated in 2015, the malware Pegasus made by the israeli cyber-surveillance compagny NSO group has been used by governments worldwide to infect the phones of activists, journalists and human rights defenders.”

Terror Contagion
Exhibition by Forensic Architecture, co-produced with the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal

In Collaboration With
Laura Poitras/Praxis Films

Supported By
The Citizen Lab
Amnesty International

Data Sonification
with Brian Eno

Narration
Edward Snowden

Editing
Sarah Su (Sound)
Bethany Edgoose (Video)

Additional Support
Eyebeam Center for the Future of Journalism, 
CyberPeace Institute, Amnesty International

Public program
François Letourneux and Shourideh C. Molavi

About Forensic Architecture
Forensic Architecture (FA) is an interdisciplinary group of artists, architects, filmmakers, investigative journalists, scientists, software developers and lawyers operating as a research agency led by Israeli-British architect Eyal Weizman. Founded in 2010 as part of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, the agency investigates contemporary political conflicts, police violence and human rights violations with and on behalf of the communities affected, international prosecutors, environmental justice groups, and media organizations. The results of their work are presented in international courtrooms, citizens’ tribunals and parliamentary inquiries, as well as in exhibitions, publications, keynote lectures and seminars. All these forums are used to reflect on contemporary forms of violence in the political and cultural context of our times.

The work of these investigators has been presented at international art and architecture exhibitions. For their recent project, a video produced for the 2019 Whitney Biennal, FA developed a machine learning algorithm to automate the detection of Triple-Chaser tear gas grenade manufactured by Defense Technology, a subsidiary of the Safariland Group. By analyzing online photos and images from civilian cameras, the algorithm was able to detect and locate the use of this grenade in countries in North and South America, the Middle East and North Africa.

 

About Laura Poitras
Laura Poitras is an American filmmaker and journalist. Citizenfour (2014), the third part of her 9/11 trilogy, won an Oscar for best documentary. The first film in the series, My Country, My Country (2006), which documents the US occupation of Iraq, was nominated for an Academy Award. Part two, The Oath (2010), focuses on the Guantánamo Bay prison and Al Qaeda. Poitras’s reporting on NSA mass surveillance and Edward Snowden received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. She is also the recipient of many other awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship.

Poitras has herself been a target of government surveillance. In 2015 she obtained over one thousand documents revealing that in 2006 the US government had placed her on a terrorist watchlist following the release of her documentary My Country, My Country. The heavily redacted FBI documents show that the government subpoenaed Poitras’s private information and communications from multiple companies, as well as subjecting her to physical surveillance.

It has recently been reported that in the aftermath of the Snowden leaks, high-level CIA officials lobbied to designate Poitras as an “information broker” and an “agent of foreign power,” thereby paving the way to her prosecution. The CIA plot was ultimately not carried out.

‟Keynote Lecture”, Max and Iris Stern International Symposium 14

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‟Investigative Practices in Contemporary Art: The Exhibition as Forum”, Max and Iris Stern International Symposium 14

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Terror Contagion : continue the reflexion ! 

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Would you like to know more about the Forensic Architecture collective and their work?

The MAC invites you to view, free of charge, the talk given by Eyal Weizman, founding Director of the research group Forensic Architecture, in the auditorium of the Grande Bibliothèque (BAnQ), as he discusses topics of police violence and artificial intelligence.

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