Writing in New Scientist, Adam Rothstein provides a spot-on explanation of the techniques discussed by Eyal Weizman in his new book Forensic Architecture. Rothstein highlights the questions about how to engage with evidentiary material, and who gets to collect and analyze it. Click here to read the full essay. Click here to learn more about the book. An excerpt appears below:
“Take the Kodak Aerocon high-altitude film used in those 1945 RAF flights, which captured detail in white and black lines spaced 1/70 of a millimetre apart. From 15,000 feet, the altitude at which the photos were taken, that translates to a visible resolution of 20 centimetres. Smaller objects could not show up because they would fall between those lines. If you then factor in the blurring effect of the atmosphere, the resolution is further decreased to 50 centimetres. This makes certain features visible, such as roads, buildings and their shadows, but objects such as wells, graves and humans disappear.
“The reason Weizman delves so deeply into these photographs is that they are central to the claims of a man called Nuri al-Uqbi, one of many Bedouin trying to regain rights to their ancestral lands in the Negev. Israel argues that the land is not arable and could not have been inhabited in 1948. The petitioners therefore have no claim to it.
“But the research work of the Forensic Architecture team shows something different, says Weizman. To justify that claim, he compares both modern and contemporary photographs and the testimony of al-Uqbi and other Bedouin. What appear as mere shadows and smudges in the 1945 photographs are resolved into detail in the later images. A shadow is revealed to be cast by a former house, bulldozed by the Israeli state. Lines become elements of water-retaining dams, with which Bedouin practised subsistence agriculture on the land. Dark circles are uncovered as the telltale signs of goat-keeping.”