The culture of things

Almost complementing each other, an essay and a long poem based on "forensic architecture" can be viewed as the beginnings of a new field that has emerged in recent years: Dingpolitik, or the culture of things.

Thomas Keenan, Eyal Weizman, Mengele's Skull. The Advent of a Forensic Aesthetics . Sternberg Press/Portikus , Berlin/Frankfurt 2011. pp. 88

Eyal Weizman, Forensic Architecture: Notes from Fields and Forums , Hatje Cantz , Ostfildern 2011. pp. 44

Mengele's Skull: The Advent of a Forensic Aesthetics , co-authored by Thomas Keenan and Eyal Weizman, focuses on the 1985 committee of experts who went down to Brazil to identify a skull as that of Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele. The book was published on the occasion of an exhibition at Portikus, Frankfurt am Main, which was part of a forum and research group headed by Weizman and run by the Centre for Research Architecture at the Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London. The multidisciplinary project team included architects, artists, geographers, scientists, information designers, jurists and media scholars.

Authored by Weizman, the dOCUMENTA Notebook no. 62, Forensic Architecture: Notes from Fields and Forums further develops Weizman's previous writing on destruction strategies with his focus here not only on the Israeli attacks on Gaza, but also on Gazan homes. With the Israeli attack in late 2008-early 2009 and with the following un Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, also known as the Goldstone Report, we see how the investigation of war crimes becomes a forensic inquiry into the mechanical parts and objects involved in the attack.
Eyal Weizman, <em>Forensic
Architecture:
Notes from Fields
and Forums</em>,
Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2011
Eyal Weizman, Forensic Architecture: Notes from Fields and Forums , Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2011
The two publications, a booklet and a short book, can be seen as complementary. One can be read as a long essay and the other as a kind of a long poem. Based on Weizman's recent research into what he calls "forensic architecture", both publications can be viewed not only as a result of his and Keenan's practice, but also as the beginnings of a new field that has emerged in recent years — Dingpolitik . Since the beginning of the millennium we have been told by Bruno Latour and others that criticism has run out of steam, that the critical standpoint has devoured itself. For someone like Latour, the proof for this would be the overflowing of conspiracy theories.
Eyal Weizman, <em>Forensic
Architecture:
Notes from Fields
and Forums</em>,
Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2011
Eyal Weizman, Forensic Architecture: Notes from Fields and Forums , Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2011
Suspicious, doubtful and critical, the conspiracy theory will always see things as merely illusions or symptoms of a system playing in the background. Against this logic, Latour proposed what he called realism. And since, this realism has assumed many forms. From speculative realism to animism, to thing theory and object-oriented ontology, new materialists in contemporary art and philosophy have come to suggest some of the most interesting projects in recent years.
Suspicious, doubtful and critical, the conspiracy theory will always see things as merely illusions or symptoms of a system playing in the background
Eyal Weizman, <em>Forensic
Architecture:
Notes from Fields
and Forums</em>,
Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2011
Eyal Weizman, Forensic Architecture: Notes from Fields and Forums , Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2011
Mengele's Skull is an exploration of the language of things, which here are skulls and bones. The science of osteobiography, the biography of bones, is presented in this book in a fascinating way. Mossad agents, Nazis on the run, video simulation technologies, South American dictatorships, mass graves of civilians and guerrilla fighters — all these make an appearance in this book, as the juridical and scientific method for scaling truth through probability is scrutinised. As Keenan and Weizman put it, as far as war crime investigations go, we have moved from the framework of the document (the Nuremberg trials of 1945-1946 were an exemplary forum of this) to that of the witness (the Eichmann trial of 1961 being a prime example) and to the forensic, which they claim had its first manifestation with the investigation into Mengele's skull .
Thomas Keenan, Eyal Weizman, <em>Mengele's Skull. The Advent of a Forensic Aesthetics</em>, Sternberg Press/Portikus, Berlin/Frankfurt 2011
Thomas Keenan, Eyal Weizman, Mengele's Skull. The Advent of a Forensic Aesthetics , Sternberg Press/Portikus, Berlin/Frankfurt 2011
Forensic Architecture proposes "material proportionality" as the name for the process by which "the economy of violence intersects with the science of engineering and the shaping of ruins". The book examines Israel's destruction strategies in the Occupied Territories, especially in the Gaza Strip. According to Weizman, as "the archaeology of the very recent past" is being examined, "a form of assembling for the future" takes place, and he proposes an interpreter who addresses the public in the name of the destroyed homes. The evidence produced by the investigative body (be it a committee to identify a Nazi war criminal or the investigation into the existence of war crimes, for example in Gaza) demands presentation as a testimony. It must speak. But as objects cannot do that, the ancient technique of prosopopoeia — a mode of speaking on behalf of inanimate objects — is called back. Joshua Simon, Director and chief curator at MoBY
Thomas Keenan, Eyal Weizman, <em>Mengele's Skull. The Advent of a Forensic Aesthetics</em>, Sternberg Press/Portikus, Berlin/Frankfurt 2011
Thomas Keenan, Eyal Weizman, Mengele's Skull. The Advent of a Forensic Aesthetics , Sternberg Press/Portikus, Berlin/Frankfurt 2011
Thomas Keenan, Eyal Weizman, <em>Mengele's Skull. The Advent of a Forensic Aesthetics</em>, Sternberg Press/Portikus, Berlin/Frankfurt 2011
Thomas Keenan, Eyal Weizman, Mengele's Skull. The Advent of a Forensic Aesthetics , Sternberg Press/Portikus, Berlin/Frankfurt 2011

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