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from July 9 2016 until August 28 2016
Design Column #11 Migration Matters featured practical and more conceptual projects related to the migration crisis. This new Design Column explores what happens when design is deployed to study the political dimension of this problem. Design Column #13 Migration Matters 2 poses the question: can design make visual sense of the abstract figures, and mountains of metadata our reality seems to be made up of?
Almost five million Syrians have fled their homeland and worldwide approximately sixty million people are currently displaced. Never before have so many people lived in a different country to the one in which they were born. In total there are now 244 million people – refugees and migrants – seeking prosperity and happiness abroad. These are unimaginable statistics. We have no idea what all those zeros mean and what the consequences are for such large numbers of people moving around the world.
We cannot begin to imagine the reality of life in a war zone or as a refugee. How fearful must you be to decide to leave everything behind and travel tens of thousands of kilometres to build a new life elsewhere? Your home and your city have been reduced to ruins and you find yourself in a parallel universe of high fences, laws, incomprehension and uncertainty.
Population displacement is turning out to be one of the most complex political challenges for the decades to come. Controlling the movement of people has become an important focus and new issues arise: to what extent can surveillance take place from a distance via ‘remote eyes’? What is the role of drones in this scenario? How far does our privacy extend in this surveillance society? And what is the effect of the barriers that are being created in the shape of fences, walls and longwinded bureaucratic procedures?
Every three months the Design Column focuses on a news item in the form of a small exhibition. The column is a place where new ideas are made visible, where the power of imagination is given expression. Designers and artists are especially interested in experimental imagination. With their idiosyncratic vision, they see things differently and are capable of bringing about change. The Design Column creates a space for these innovative concepts.
On view at Design Column #13 Migration Matters 2
Forensic Architecture is a research agency made up of architects, scholars, filmmakers, designers, lawyers and scientists that gathers and presents spatial analysis. Its findings are used as evidence by international prosecution teams, political organisations, NGOs and the United Nations. The project The Left to Die Boat examines how a boat with 72 refugees was allowed to drift for fourteen days in the Mediterranean Sea. Only nine of the refugees survived. This reconstruction demonstrates how different actors operating in the Central Mediterranean Sea used the complex and overlapping jurisdictions at sea to evade their responsibility for rescuing people in distress.
The project Rafah: Black Friday is a collaboration between Forensic Architecture and Amnesty International. It aims to provide a detailed reconstruction of the events in Rafah, Gaza, from 1 August until 4 August 2014. It is based on images from social media, accounts given by aid workers and journalist, the official news channels and the explanations of the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. In retaliation for the murder of two Israeli soldiers and the capture of lieutenant Hadar Goldin, Israel conducted an air strike in which 135 civilians were killed. Mapping and analysing the various data in a digital 3D environment enables an objective reconstruction of a complex and politically sensitive conflict. On the basis of this investigation, Amnesty International issued a report on 29 July 2015 stating that the Israeli army’s attack constitutes a war crime.
Supported by Bold Tendencies, TDO Architects.
For the project The Right To Flight, artist James Bridle launched a military surveillance balloon from the roof of a car park in south London every day for four months. The balloon was hung with cameras, transmitters and tracking apparatus. The data collected by the balloon
served as input for a research programme on technical infrastructure, surveillance, ballooning and utopias, which Bridle was conducting on the rooftop.
The Refugee Project is an experimental education and research tool. It consists of a map showing the migration of refugees since 1975 based on data compiled by the United Nations. The data is visualised to indicate migration volumes over the years. An additional historical layer elucidates the events that have caused several of the largest streams of refugees.
The people piloting drones in war zones are often thousands of kilometres away. Whereas video games create a complete experience through the use of visuals and audio, drone pilots base their actions solely on visual input. They therefore lack a certain situational awareness. The absence of the sounds of warfare for the drone pilot is in stark contrast to the fear that the sound of a drone instils in the public. Ruben Pater has released an LP with the sounds of seventeen types of drones
on the A side and a composition by Gonçalo F. Cardoso based on drone sounds on the B side.
In 2013 a group of journalists, statisticians and software developers launched the project The Migrants’ Files. The initial aim was to collect data about the number of deaths among migrants. In a follow-up study, the Migrants’ Files team looked at the money streams that
are paired with migration. Refugees and migrants spend more than 1 billion euros per year to reach Europe, and Europe spends approximately the same sum to keep them out.
Although border controls have largely become digital – think of facial recognition, biometric passports and long-distance surveillance – high fences are still being built to reinforce
borders. When viewed at close quarters, it becomes apparent that each fence has a unique pattern: its own metal signature. Ruben Pater has designed a series of notebooks in which these border patterns function as blank pages that can be filled with your own ideas, sketches or stories.
Please watch the ARTtubevideo about the work of Ruben Pater here: