During the 2010s, the international art scene began to note the growing importance of the work of research group Forensic Architecture, headed by Anglo-Israeli architect Eyal Weizman, which transfers advanced visualisation techniques over to research into the violation of human rights in the legal sphere. The group has also given rise to a series of independent artistic practices specialised in geographical and technical areas and specific aspects of pro-human rights research. One such case is Lebanese artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, who chiefly explores the political dimensions of sound and voice, and its potential as legal evidence. In the installation Walled Unwalled, the artist produces a sound essay that explores the functioning of the wall as a political device, the violence that this architectural mechanism exercises on certain communities, and its key role in cases of human rights violations.
Forensic Architecture, based at Goldsmiths, University of London, applies digital visualization techniques and spatial analyses imported from disciplines such as architecture in investigations on the violation of human rights in geopolitical and military conflicts, cases of police brutality, the management of border and migration policies and processes of environmental degradation. Underlying their initiatives is a critique of the West’s models of hegemonic visual elements and their progressive militarisation, connecting with the work of other artists such as Harun Farocki and Hito Steyerl. The group’s investigations are made public via three channels: conclusions used in national and international courts, parliaments and different governmental political commissions; conclusions disseminated in the press as proof, a role historically associated with photojournalism; and results which are widely exhibited at art and architecture biennials and in museums, which partially fund the group’s activity. Moreover, Forensic Architecture comprises a significant pool of new artists, including Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Forensic Oceanography and Paulo Tavares.
In the installation Walled Unwalled, Abu Hamdan refers to legal examples such as the trial of South African sportsman Oscar Pistorius, and the oral evidence of survivors of abuse committed by the Bashar al-Assad regime in the Saydnaya Prison, Syria, to question the validity of the architectural-spatial roles of walls — their separation of public and private life and containment of the domestic sphere — as well as their legal role — the delineation of jurisdictions. Made entirely in the Funkhaus recording studio, a vestige of the Cold War era located in the former East Berlin, Walled Unwalled sees Hamdan build a polyphony which evinces the porousness of these systems and their repressive action at a time in which US president Donald J. Trump was hell-bent on building a wall between the United States and Mexico to stop the transit of migrants towards the north.