Designed by Turner Prize-shortlisted Forensic Architecture, and curated by the V&A, 'Maps of Defiance' is the UK's entry to the 2018 London Design Biennale at Somerset House (4 – 23 September). This installation demonstrates how innovative methods of digital design and image capture can enable on-the-ground DIY cultural heritage documentation for use in human rights investigation.
Based at the University of London, Forensic Architecture is an independent research agency comprised of architects, archaeologists, artists, filmmakers, software developers, lawyers and journalists. This interdisciplinary team of investigators are working with NGO group Yazda, in the Sinjar area of northern Iraq, to support and train a local documentation team to collect and preserve evidence of destruction, genocide and enslavement perpetrated by ISIS against the Yazidi people.
Using digital tools and image capturing, Forensic Architecture provides members of Yazda (made up of surviving Yazidi community members), with a much-needed toolkit of accessible digital methods to record spatial data from sites of violence and trauma, and as evidence of war crimes. In Iraq, 3D models of the sites destroyed by ISIS will be constructed using aerial photography and photogrammetry to serve as evidence for future litigation, and to explore how to preserve the memory of destruction before lands are redeveloped, and traces wiped clean.
'Maps of Defiance'
Curated by the V&A, the 'Maps of Defiance' installation at Somerset House will showcase Forensic Architecture's ongoing work as part of the 2018 London Design Biennale (4 – 23 September). Visitors to the Biennale will see the journey through which the team collect and analyse signs of genocide, as well as the destruction of important cultural heritage. It will show how ISIS targeted the destruction of buildings, focusing on an important Yazidi landmark, the Temple, in order to erase the Yazidi's cultural history. The exhibit will also detail the process by which images are collected and reconstructed, with an accompanying 'how-to video' alongside the objects used in the training of Yazda researchers, such as DIY photogrammetry rigs made from kites, plastic bottles and helium balloons.
The installation presents the ways in which digital spatial reconstruction allows for trauma to be understood and contextualised, highlighting the importance of acknowledging the destruction of cultural heritage as a part of genocide. It offers examples of how digitally preserving cultural heritage can be made more accessible, allowing communities to create their own invaluable archives of the spaces they inhabit, the memory of destruction and loss, and artefacts of culture.
Eyal Weizman, the founder of Forensic Architecture, says:
This research project is an important piece of evidence that will hopefully help bring the perpetrators of these war crimes to account.
London Design Biennale
The London Design Biennale enables this conversation to hold significant weight alongside over 40 exhibitors from across the world, responding to the Biennale's theme of Emotional States by examining how design can directly inform new perspectives and lines of investigation. The Biennale will also present two talks with Forensic Architecture, experts and V&A curators, as well as dedicated tours for students, arts and design practitioners and cultural professionals.
More information can be found at londondesignbiennale.com
'Maps of Defiance' is designed by Forensic Architecture; curated by the Victoria and Albert Museum; in collaboration with Art Jameel; supported by the British Council and Arts Council England.