For over half a century now, imaging, surveying, mapping, terra-forming and afforestation have played a central role in the ongoing expropriation and obfuscation of Palestinian Bedouin land in the Naqab. While use of these techno-professional mechanisms could be traced throughout the colonial history of this region to the present day, It is at the same time, from this intersection of these image archives and emerging computational optical systems that new modes of intervention and resistance practice can arise. In this short paper I wish to follow two lines of inquiry. On the one hand, look into the ways in which aerial and remote sensing has been made operative by Israeli authorities, academic experts and specifically by the right wing organisation Regavim against the Palestinian Bedouin claims for land-rights. Secondly, through Forensic Architecture’s Ground Truth project I wish to demonstrate how DIY participatory image production and spatial photography can become a counter-dominant mode of practice that allows us to re-frame our understanding of photography, survey and witnessing .
On July 27th 2010, heavy machinery and workers escorted by 1,500 policemen arrived at the Palestinian Bedouin village of al-Araqib and by noon that day demolished it to the ground, uprooting all trees and leveling all structures. Authorities left around 400 residents with no alternative housing. By evening of that day, the families of al-Araqib rebuilt what they could of the village, erecting basic wooden structures and tents in place of their previous homes. At the time of writing, we counted nearly 180 such cycles of demolition and rebuilding of what remains of al-Araqib. By now, it has been reduced to slightly over a dozen residents, living under extremely harsh conditions within the confines of their own ancestors’ graves in the al-Turi Cemetery.
Through a collaborative process of DIY ground and aerial photography with Forensic Architecture, PublicLab, Zochrot, and the local families of al-‘Araqīb, a kind of ‘civic satellite’ is formed. We use kites and balloons equipped with simple cameras to form a methodology through which aerial and ground views can be gathered across multiple expeditions. These are assembled through photogrammetry into stacked geo-referenced 3D point-cloud photo terrains. Photographs, taken by residents and activists, document not only expulsion and destruction but also their ongoing life and resistance. These photographs, along with other media, data, and testimony, attest to an inflicted violence by connecting the history of this local land struggle to larger-scale and longer-term environmental transformations and to the conflicts that such changes have provoked.
The community of al-‘Araqīb: Nūri al-Uqbi, Sheikh Sayah al-Tūri, Aziz al-Tūri , Sabach al-Tūri Marim abu Mad’im, Salim al-Tūri
Professor Oren Yiftachel teaches political and legal geography, urban and regional planning and public policy at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Yiftachel is one of the main critical geographers and social scientists working in Israel/Palestine.
Miki Kratsman Miki Kratsman an artist and photographer. “The Bedouin Visual Archive”, a project which he is undertaking in collaboration with the Negev Coexistence Forum (NCF) is aiming to use narrative and visual literacy to raise awareness to the rights violations of the Bedouin and give voice to their silenced histories and claims on the land.
As part of his work in the Negev and specifically in al-‘Araqīb, Miki Kratsman took part in the discussions, meetings and conceptualisation around the formation of this project.
Michael Sfard (Michael Sfard Law Office | Legal Partners) is a lawyer specializing in international human rights law and the laws of war. He has served as counsel in various cases on these topics in Israel. Sfard has represented a variety of Israeli and Palestinian human rights and peace organizations, movements and activists at the Israeli Supreme Court. Team: Michael Sfard, Carmel Pomerantz.
Forensic Architecture, Masters Course students (MAFA) at Centre for Research Architecture Goldsmiths, University of London, 2017.
Ontology And Counter-Dominant Practices of Spatial Photography
PhD Research Goldsmiths, University of London 2015 – 2019. Supervision: Eyal Weizman, susan schuppli
Examiners: Haim Yaacobi, Mariam Ghani (2019)
New forms of computational 3D imaging have given rise to a new photographic condi-tion—one in which the fl at image is replaced by an omni-directional spatial data constella-tion, and in which viewing is defi ned by immersive navigation. The ‘spatial photograph’, as I term it, does not fl atten reality onto a chemical grain emulsion surface or a plane of discrete pixels, rather, in this highly computational environment, physical surface is transcoded onto a mirrored digital terrain of spatially distributed, discrete coordinate points. ‘Spatial Photography’ comes to contest both the ocular perspectival gaze of monarchic land ownership and control as well as the Cartesian fl at abstraction of the map with its view from nowhere (or from a satellite). Fusing survey and perspectival imaging, optical media has gradually technologically developed to incorporate a multiplicity of images and sources, that are both perspectival and projective, communal, situated and multiple. While primarily developed by states, military and industry, permeating and restructuring them from the inside, it simultaneously opens new spaces for civic-led counter practices. Situated predominantly within the geo-political context of Israel, my homeland, I fol-low the changing role of the photographic as it is implicated within the larger ethno-po-litical confl ict, manifesting through a spatial entanglement of volume, control, opacity and vision. Constructed in an intertwined manner between a research project and an artists prac-tice, through two dedicated projects, one in East Jerusalem (Silwan and City of David), the other in the Naqab Desert (Unrecognised Bedouin village of al-Araqib), this thesis off ers a counter-dominant spatial photographic practice, reframed within new epistemol-ogy. ‘Spatial Photography’ is not simply a changed mode of mechanical production but rather, a vehicle for the creation of relation between diff erent people and machinic sys-tems, taking, analysing and producing spaces, that together add up to a socio-techno-po-litical community of practice.
The video work Enivrons looks at the surface of the land and that of the photograph, shedding light on the fragility and brittleness of both. Caine draws on a wide range of original and archive photographic materials, predominantly of Jerusalem, in order to point at the link between the image in the Christian pilgrimage world view, and the function of the photographic image in present day messianic Judaism. To a large extent, throughout the years these two images served as a blueprint, influencing and shaping landscape design, architecture, and archeology in Jerusalem, a process that still continues under the auspices of the state. This work also looks at the medium of photography, which through the development of “Point Cloud” technology becomes an architectural space in itself. Caine employs this technology on the archival materials, from which he extracts the original surface that undergoes deconstruction and reassembly. The new file transforms the flattened photographic space into a three-dimensional sculptural space, thus cancelling the existence of a fixed point of view, a single perspective—along with that of the photographer. Perhaps this can also bring about a cancellation of the messianic perspective, so that the space could return to be as it once was. The hologram Pioneer, an extension of the video, was produced through the holographic printing of a point cloud file. This point cloud file was processed based on an archival stereoscopic photograph of a pioneer, an immigrant from Poland named Debora Rushkin, taken circa 1920 at the women’s agricultural training farm “Borochov”. The treatment of the archive photograph using this technique restores fragments of the physical space that was flattened, and retrieves its three-dimensionality as a body, volume, and a physical presence.
These works was exhibited in late 2015 at the Petach Tikva Museum, Israel.
Above is a first test in holographic printing of one of the reconstructed stereoscopes from the American Colony archive.