THE CONFLICT SHORELINE
Eyal Weizman, architect and Professor of Visual Cultures and the Director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London gave an illustrated talk and responded to questions at a CPS evening ‘salon’ at a private faculty residence set up with rented chairs. Weizman is the author of a number of well-known books, Hollow Land (2007), The Least of All Possible Evils (2012) and Forensic Architecture (2017), in a body of inquiry he describes as “committed architectural research in zones of conflict” (2007, 259).
Weizman also directs the Forensic Architecture project, which concerns the place of architecture in international humanitarian law. His team creates and mobilizes a wide variety of reconstructive materials and forms of knowledge, such as 3D models, social media corroborations, and other techniques for “seeing.” The last time we heard him at Columbia (in an Art History Department lecture), Eyal spoke on “Rafah: Black Friday” his research, conducted jointly with Amnesty International, on the 2014 War in Gaza, which is aimed at the documentation of possible war crimes.
The “shoreline” metaphor refers to the “aridity line,” the boundary between cultivation and desert, which Weizman understands as also marking a patterned “conflict zone,” in the Israel-Palestine region and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. He argues that although conventionally indicated in rainfall amounts the aridity line is not stationary but shifts with the impacts of cultivation, colonial projects, urbanization and, in recent times, climate change. The specific study detailed in the book concerns the Bedouin village of al-ʿArāqīb, in the Naqab (Negev), which is located inside Israel proper. The village has been the site of the repeated bulldozing (over 100 times) of Bedouin housing structures by the Israeli state as it has sought to displace the inhabitants in favor of a new Jewish town. Weizman and his team used Fazal Sheikh's aerial photos as a central piece of data to document the sedentary existences, and thus regular property relations, among the local Bedouin, noting, for example, the visible defecation stains in animal pens. His team also collected testimonies from local people and utilized historical studies of the same region. He noted, however, that related litigation to uphold Bedouin property rights repeatedly failed. Asked about the role of his research materials after such losses in court, he replied, “We publish.”
Weizman also offered notes on parallel circumstances in the West Bank, where he described the occupation strategies as ranging from institutional over-complexity to general neglect or the promotion of chaos.