Meeting Architecture III - FRAGMENTS
MEETING ARCHITECTURE III : FRAGMENTS (2015-17)
Memory is not an instrument for surveying the past but its theatre. It is the medium of past experience, just as the earth is the medium in which dead cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach his own buried past must conduct himself like a man digging.
FRAGMENTS considers how ideologies are shaped, memories evoked and emotions stirred by buildings, their contents and their ruins. To this end the programme focuses on the concept of the fragment, defined as an urban ruin ; it may be a house and its remaining contents or it may just be an assembly of personal relics, images, photographs, and other documents. When the meanings and memories we attach to our experiences are so closely tied to materiality, how can individuals, ethnic groups and even nations rebuild their identities and histories in the face of destruction? In an age of increasing displacement, architects and visual artists are invited, along with historians and archaeologists, to examine and to reassemble such fragments to offer a contribution to the reconstruction of personal or collective identities in zones of present or of past conflict. The programme will also discuss the destruction of monuments and heritage sites brought about by war and in particular the attempt to erase or fragment the memories of differing cultural identities and ideologies.
Lecture | Culture, Identity and Genocide | Robert Bevan (Britain) | Architectural Critic for the Evening Standard and writer who also works on heritage and regeneration.
The targeted destruction of material culture has continued for centuries but despite the connection between such attacks and human rights first being made before the adoption of the Genocide Convention, this vital point is still barely recognised today. What should we be doing to address this?
Bevan is best known for The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War (Reaktion Books, 2006) in which he argues that the destruction of the built artefacts of a people or nation is a means of cultural cleansing or division in order to annihilate the identity of a people. A special preview of extracts of the documentary film based on the book will be shown at the BSR on the same day as the lecture.
Lecture and exhibition | The Archaeology of Rumour | Akram Zaatari (Lebanon) | Visual artist.
Zaatari often refers to the way his architectural training influences how he looks at the world, and the attention he gives to objects and documents in writing his histories. Archaeology is frequently used as a metaphor for connecting to the past and to the collection of fragments: stories, personal recollections, images and testimonies from areas of conflict, in particular the Lebanon. The lecture and exhibition The Archaeology of Rumour focuses on the theme of the letter which Zaatari uses both as the subject ( the document) and as the form of his works. The BSR show will present two videos: In this House (2005) which is about the excavation of a letter and Letter to a Refusing Pilot (2013) which is addressed to an Israeli pilot. Both works look at war through the eyes of the people who lived through it and who narrate personal fragments of history.
Lecture | The Past as Hostage. Heritage, Conflicts and International Organizations | Francesco Bandarin (Italy) | Architect and Assistant-Director General of UNESCO for Culture and Former Secretary of the World Heritage Convention.
Throughout the last decades, the world has witnessed several situations in which the built or the intangible heritage has been at the core of political, ethnic and religious conflicts. From the deliberate destruction of the Mostar bridge in Bosnia in 1993 and of the Bamyan Buddhas in Afghanistan in 2001, to the recent offenses to the heritage of Mali, Iraq and Syria, historic heritage is increasingly targeted in situations of conflict.
Bandarin will examine recent cases and discuss the actions taken by the international community to address these issues as well as ways to improve and extend the protection of cultural heritage.
Lecture and exhibition | 40 Days | Dor Guez (Israel) | Visual Artist and head of the Photography Department at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the souls of the deceased are believed to wander the Earth for forty days after death until the soul ascends. Special prayers at the gravesite and in the church are then held in memory of the departed. 40 Days combines intimate video works about Guez’s family with photographs of destroyed gravesites in the Christian-Palestinian cemetery in Lod, a town between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The images relate to Guez’s ongoing work the Christian-Palestinian Archive devoted to this dispersed minority in the Middle East.
Guez’s installations combine diverse modes of video and photographic practices and raise questions about the role of contemporary art in narrating unwritten histories, both personal and collective, referring to his own cultural heritage, Christian Palestinian and Jewish Tunisian.
Lecture | Only the Criminal Can Solve the Crime | Eyal Weizman (Israel) | Architect and Professor of Spatial and Visual Culture, Director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London and Global Professor at Princeton University.
An authority on the architecture of Israel’s occupation, Weizman has written on and practiced in relation to the architecture of Israel’s occupation, suggesting ways to decolonise architecture in the occupied territories. Weizman recently established Forensic Architecture, a research project based at Goldsmith University. Its aim is to analyse the physical ruins and debris left behind by drone strikes and other forms of mass-attack by working with archaeological scans, mobile phone footage and interviews with witnesses in order to create detailed, architectural reconstructions of such events. Forensic Architecture’s investigations provide evidence for international prosecution teams, political organisations NGOs and the United Nations.
The first year (2015-16) of FRAGMENTS focussed on the Middle East, this second year (2016-17) will concentrate mainly on case studies in Poland and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Poland, in particular Warsaw, provides an interesting case study which will be examined by Joseph Rykwert and Grzegorz Piatek, two architectural historians from very different generations. Piatek will talk about both Warsaw’s reconstruction after World War II as well as the one following the fall of the Communist regime in 1989. Rykwert instead will take part in a conversation with the Polish artist, Miroslaw Balka, that will focus in part on the town of Otwock, near Warsaw, from which Rykwert fled upon the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and where Balka was born under Communism in the nineteen fifties . In his exhibition, Balka will present a selection of works that reflect on the role and responsibility of modernism during World War II and continuing with this theme, the architectural historian, Jean-Louis Cohen, will look at the destruction of Marseilles by the Nazis and its subsequent reconstruction .
Two case studies on Bosnia-Herzegovina will follow: Helen Walasek will converse with a Rome based archaeologist on her work with the archaeologist Richard Carlton in assessing and documenting destroyed historic monuments in ethnically-cleansed areas across Bosnia-Herzegovina. Finally, the Serbian artist, Dragana Zarevac, will focus on the reconstruction of the old Ottoman Mostar bridge, one of the most symbolic battlegrounds of the Yugoslav civil war 1991-5.
Exhibition | Emplacement | Miroslaw Balka (Poland) | Artist who is also active in the field of experimental video and drawing. Balka has directed the Studio of Spatial Activities at the Department of Media at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw since 2011.
….It used to be a whole, but it fell apart, fell to pieces. It seems that you can embrace it, but the memory is unreliable and what you can retrieve is merely a fragment…
The fragment is used in Balka’s work to question both personal and collective memories; the artist’s Catholic upbringing and his family and the collective experience of Poland’s turbulent history, focusing particularly on the Nazi occupation of Poland. Through installation, sculpture, video and drawings, Balka’s work often concentrates on the preservation of traces, on what is absent, memory and loss. Frequently using his studio as well as his own body as a point of reference and scale, Balka’s materials are simple everyday objects and things, powerfully resonant of ritual and hidden memories. In his show at the BSR, Balka considers the role and responsibility of modernism in World War II, employing a characteristically meticulous minimal placement of drawings, video projections and a sculpture in the three gallery spaces.
Lecture | Miroslaw Balka (Poland) and Joseph Rykwert (Britain) in conversation
Architectural historian and critic, Joseph Rykwert, is Paul Philippe Cret Professor of Architecture Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of numerous publications and has taught at most of the major schools of architecture.
I make my place in space when I smell, touch, see it around me. That experience of location through the senses makes my sense of place, but inevitably summons memories. So there can be no place without memory evoked and experienced through the senses – sometimes pleasurable but as often painful. It reaches back to my own past, but the past also of my forebears, my friends and enemies making a tissue which clings to things, to fragments which memory reconstructs and through which it lives anew. It is the condition which assures my place in the world, my place among the fragments which constitute my place. Joseph Rykwert
Focusing on Otwock, near Warsaw, Balka’s home town and Rykwert’s childhood holiday home, the artist and architectural historian will discuss their respective work in the context of architecture and memory and architecture and ideology.
Lecture | Re-constructing Warsaw | Grzegorz Piatek (Poland) | Architect, critic , curator and co- founder of Centrum Architektury, an independent architecture foundation and publisher based in Warsaw.
Piatek was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2008 for curating the Polish pavilion . He is currently writing a book on the post-war reconstruction of Warsaw and has contributed to numerous publications on Warsaw’s history and architecture.
The main focus of Piatek’s work is twentieth century architecture and planning in Poland and his lecture will address the reconstruction of Warsaw both post war and post communism.
Both 1945 — the end of the Second World War, which left eighty per cent of Warsaw’s building stock destroyed, and 1989 — the transition from socialism to capitalism — mark crucial turning points in the history of Poland’s capital. Both events provided opportunities to rethink the city’s future as well as to re-engineer its past.
Lecture | Memory Erased/Regained: Marseilles at War | Jean-Louis Cohen (France/ United States) | Architect, historian and curator, Cohen holds the Sheldon H. Solow chair in the History of Architecture at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. He is the author of numerous publications.
Published in 2011, his book Architecture in Uniform has recast the accepted vision that saw the Second Word War as an empty period for architecture. Cohen has instead highlighted all the domains in which it allowed for the victory of modernity. He will lecture on his new research that develops these ideas and concentrate on Marseilles both during the Vichy regime as well as its aftermath.
The cold-blooded destruction of the centre of Marseilles by the Nazis in 1943 and the subsequent reconstruction of the city, which involved, among others Fernand Pouillon and Le Corbusier, are vibrant episodes, in which memory was mobilised in all its manifestations, from the collective one discussed by Maurice Halbwachs in those years to the most intimate one.
In collaboration with the American Academy in Rome.
Lecture | Fragments of a Conflict: Archaeology in the aftermath of the Bosnian War | Helen Walasek (Britain) in conversation with Richard Hodges, President of the American University of Rome | Former Deputy Director of Bosnia-Herzegovina Heritage Rescue (BHHR) and author of Bosnia and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage (Ashgate 2015).
Walasek visited Bosnia-Herzegovina frequently during and after the 1992–1995 war. In 2000 and 2001, she carried out the first assessments and documentation of destroyed historic monuments in ethnically-cleansed areas across Bosnia-Herzegovina, with the British archaeologist Richard Carlton.
From the use of archaeological field detection techniques to locate the sites of historic monuments and religious structures destroyed during campaigns of ethnic cleansing, to the work of forensic archaeologists excavating mass grave sites, archaeology has been deeply implicated in attempts to document and restore in post-conflict Bosnia. Occasionally misused (to give scientific credibility to the tactics of hardline ethno-nationalists), more often archaeology has been a positive force, whether in the recovery of the remains of historic mosques buried at landfill sites or exhuming mass graves – where the fragments of demolished mosques have sometimes been found.
Lecture | Keep your memory on a cloud (or on a rainbow?) | Dragana Zarevac (Serbia) | Visual artist and curator, Zarevac works with video, drawing, photography, and performance. One of her best known video installations Most discusses the destruction of the Mostar bridge, one of the most symbolic battlegrounds of the Yugoslav civil war 1991-5.
The Old Mostar Bridge, built in 1566, was considered an architectural miracle until it was destroyed in 1993. The Ottoman poets and travellers referred to it as a bow of light and as a metaphor for a path leading to the other world, after death. It used to be something I identified with and was proud of.
Although identical in form, today’s reconstruction of the Bridge looks different and stands as a monument or a representation. In this era of global electronic media, of de-territorialisation and denationalisation of culture and identity, a better way to remember the Old Bridge would be through storytelling, music and time-based images. I believe that is how one can recreate the light of a rainbow.
This event will take place at the Accademia di Francia a Roma – Villa Medici.
Lecture | Miroslaw Balka (Poland) and Joseph Rykwert (Britain) in conversation | Chaired by Tim Marlow (RA Artistic Director)
Following an earlier conversation between acclaimed artist Miroslaw Balka and architectural historian Joseph Rykwert held at the British School at Rome, Balka and Rykwert get together once more to discuss the concepts of memory and conflict, and how these are explored in contemporary art and architecture from UK to Poland, the birthplace of both speakers.
Conflict leaves a mark upon cities, societies and culture that endures not only in the sensibilities of the generations living it, but also in the identities of those that follow. In the aftermath, memories of conflict continue to have great impact, frequently creating greater political awareness and engagement. Culture reflects the values of a society and conflict has historically had a strong influence on art and architecture. In fact, it can often be the motivation behind speculative new ideas, while also providing a platform for reflection, recalling history and leaving a legacy to future generations. Architecture and art have played an important role in shaping the politics of memory around violent conflicts, defining the way they are later remembered.
Part of the London Festival of Architecture 2017.
Miroslaw Balka, Cruzamento, 2007. Installation view at Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. Photo © Attilio Maranzano.
We would very much like to thank our sponsors who have made this programme possible: Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, the Bryan Guinness Charitable Trust, the Cochemé Charitable Trust, the John S Cohen Foundation, Wilkinson Eyre and Bennetts Associates.
Architecture Curator, British School at Rome
In collaboration with : Accademia di Francia a Roma – Villa Medici, American Academy in Rome, MAXXI – Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Royal Academy of Arts
With the support of : Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, Bennetts Associates, Bryan Guinness Charitable Trust, Cochemé Charitable Trust, John S. Cohen Foundation, Wilkinson Eyre
For further information and comments, please contact the Architecture Curator, Marina Engel.