Conference:
Itinerant Witnesses

  • Date
    Saturday 28. January
  • Time
    Kl. 09:30 - 17:30
  • Place
    The Concert Hall
  • Price
    DKK 125-300

Foto/Photo: Amel Alzakout.

This day-long conference will draw lessons from itinerant witnessing. Bringing together feminist and environmental scholars who offer new notions of the human body as they tackle direct and indirect forms of violence, as well as artists/witnesses, and activists, the conference will both address theoretical frameworks as well as attempt to translate some of Forensic Architecture’s methods to a local context and the struggle against violent European migration policies that keep itinerant lives at bay. In doing so the conference will propose witnessing as an activist practice and as a means to reframe accountability across human and environmental rights.

BUY TICKET

Prices: DKK 300, students 125, asylum seekers/refugees free admission.

 

Asylum seekers fleeing war and violence form a special kind of witness. Through their movements in space, they not only attest to what originally forced them to relocate, but also to the way that governments systematically fail in protecting their rights and even employ violence as a means to deter them. By blocking entry, denying safe passage, and by weaponizing nature against those travelling, European states facilitate the precarity of itinerant lives and extend the violence towards them.

The bodies of these itinerant witnesses store the memory of multiple human rights violations across contexts. They breath in bomb clouds, swallow seawater, bare the traces of torture or shootings at the borders, and absorb the toxicity often found on refugee camps. Both material witnesses and speaking bodies, itinerant witnesses are also technologically enabled investigators. They self-organise through social media groups, film their journeys through mobile phones or water-resistant cameras, send GPS locations, and document the multiple egregious violations they find on their way.

Speakers: Amel Alzakout, Giovanna Di Chiro, Nanna Elvin Hansen, Stanley Edward Nwaogu, Lorenzo Pezzani and Christina Varvia.

Programme

09.30 Arrival – registration (main entrance area)
Coffee+croissant in Louisiana Cafe

10:15 Access to the Concert Hall

10:30 Welcome introduction by Christina Varvia

10:50-11:25 Border Forensics – Lorenzo Pezzani:
Lorenzo Pezzani will present some of the casework of Border Forensics (previously Forensic Oceanography) dealing with migration across the European context. Each case is situated in a series of political decisions that have defined European policies from the Arab Spring onwards. Looking at both incidents and practices, this presentation will also offer the theoretical tools to read our current climate of hostility towards people on the move.

11:30-12:30 The coloniality of asylum in Denmark and the Global North – Stanley Edward Nwaogu & Nanna Elvin Hansen: Departing from an expert from the collectively produced film Cast Away Souls (2019) Stanley Edward Nwaogu and Nanna Elvin Hansen will discuss testimonies of both the souls left to die and the bodies currently witnessing the western colonial, capitalist and imperialist policies of the European migration regime. Referring to one of the slogans of protests by Castaway Souls of Denmark, that erupted in Sjælsmark detention camp in 2016, the Danish asylum system is killing people slowly through mechanisms of criminalization, detention and more recently externalization. By presenting collectively produced testimonies, Nwaogu and Hansen will attempt to raise the question of who counts as a witness. Please note, that Stanley Edward Nwaogu will be attending online.

12:30-12:50 Q&A for both panels

13:00-14:00 Lunch in the Boathouse

14:00-14:45 Screening of an excerpt of Purple Sea and discussion – Amel Alzakout:
After surviving a deadly shipwreck at the Aegean Sea, Amel Alzakout decided to both launch an investigation and create her own film, based on the footage she filmed through a waterproof camera attached to her wrist. The film Purple Sea offers a poignant first-person account of the journey to the alleged safety of European shores and an incisive insight into the ways European migration policy fails.

14:45-15.05 Break

15.10-16.10 Witnessing, Storytelling, and Environmental Justice & Q&A – Giovanna di Chiro:
How do we “witness” the lived realities of social and environmental trauma? How are stories of resistance to environmental violence told and by whom? In this talk, Giovanna di Chiro will discuss how residents of communities exposed to toxic contamination and environmental racism use the methodology of the “toxic tour” to tell their own stories of the traumatic impacts of living in the shadow of polluting facilities such as waste incinerators, oil refineries, and chemical plants. Toxic tourism, as an alternative form of “sight/site-seeing,” aims to encourage first-hand “witnessing” of the poisoned landscapes and the harmful effects of breathing polluted air and drinking dirty water that marginalized communities in the US (and around the world) experience every day. The environmental justice activists leading toxic tours intend for their “tourists” to go beyond witnessing, however. The hope is that tour-goers will take action after seeing with their own eyes and hearing with their own ears the stories of people living in toxic “sacrifice zones” who are fighting for environmental justice for their own communities and, ultimately, for all. Please note, that Giovanna di Chiro will be attending online.

16.10-17.10 Discussion across the day

17.10-17.30 Closing remarks

SPEAKERS

AMEL ALZAKOUT
Born in Syria and an artist and filmmaker based in Leipzig. Between 2010 and 2013 she studied journalism at Cairo University, Egypt, between 2017 and 2018 she studied art at the Weißensee Art Academy in Berlin. Currently, she is studying media art at the Academy of Visual Art (HGB) in Leipzig. Purple Sea is her debut film. Previous work includes Stranger’s Diaries (2019, with Khaled Abdulwahed, 8-channel video installation, 35′), Home Sweet Home (2020, with Khaled Abdulwahed, 111), PM Tune (2022, Video Installation).

GIOVANNA DI CHIRO
Professor of Environmental Studies at Swarthmore College where she teaches courses on environmental justice theory, ecofeminism(s), and community sustainability, and coordinates the Environmental Justice & Community Resilience Program. Di Chiro has published widely on the issues of human rights, feminism and the politics of care, food security, and environmental and climate justice. She is completing a book titled Worldmaking from the Ground Up: The Praxis of Environmental Justice (University of California Press).

NANNA ELVIN HANSEN
Artist and filmmaker based in Copenhagen, whose practice often focuses on questions related to politics of feminism and migration. These questions are mostly researched through collective and collaborative process of film, video and sound production. She is a member and has been part of forming the Bridge Radio Collective, which makes radio and sound about people’s movements, migrant struggles and freedom of movement. She recently graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts where she studied at the Media Art School with Angela Melitopoulos and Jane Jin Kaisen. The work of Hansen has been shown at CPH:DOX(DK), SMK (DK), Louvre (FR), Kassel Film festival (DE), CAMP(Center for Art on Migration Politics) (DK), Dokfilmwoche Hamburg (DE), Louisiana (DK), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (DE), Charlottenborg Kunsthal (DK), Alt. Cph (DK), Astrid Noacks Atelier (DK) among others.

STANLEY EDWARD NWAOGU
Member of the group Castaway Souls of Europe, a coordinator at the Silent University Hamburg, a migrant/refugee activist, a radio host at the FSK radio in Hamburg and an independent scholar on capitalism, colonialism and western migration politics and policies.

LORENZO PEZZANI
Architect and researcher. His work explores the spatial politics, visual cultures and political ecologies of migration and borders. He is Associate Professor in the Department of Arts of the University of Bologna and is the co-director of Border Forensics, an agency that uses innovative methods of visual analysis to investigate border violence practices. His work has been used as evidence in the courts, published in various media and exhibited internationally.

CHRISTINA VARVIA
Currently a Research Fellow and formerly the Deputy Director of Forensic Architecture. She was trained as an architect and has taught at the Architectural Association. She is currently a Lecturer at the Centre for Research Architecture, at Goldsmiths, University of London, and is pursuing her PhD at Aarhus University, where her research focuses on biopolitics and imaging of the human body. She has received the Novo Nordisk Foundation Mads Øvlisen PhD Scholarship for Practice-based Artistic Research. She is a founding member and the chair of the board of Forensis: the Berlin-based association established by Forensic Architecture. She is a fellow at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, where she co-curated the Forensic Architecture exhibition Witnesses.

For questions or inquiries please contact: Christina Varvia at christina.varvia@cc.au.dk

Forensic Architecture

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Forensic Architecture is an interdisciplinary agency operating between architecture, journalism, law, human rights, environment, etc. with the aim of uncovering conflicts and crimes on a global scale.