Forensic Architecture, the London-based collective known for its investigations into crimes around the globe that bridge the gaps between architecture, art, design, and filmmaking, is no stranger to controversy. Having explored topics as diverse as police killings in Chicago and the torture of inmates at a Syrian prison to the business dealings of a museum board member, the group is accustomed to making headlines on a regular basis. On Wednesday, February 19, as the group’s first American survey opened to the public, Forensic Architecture’s founder said he was barred from entering the country.
In a statement sent to the Architect’s Newspaper, Eyal Weizman, who founded the group in 2010 in the British capital, said he was told last week in an email that he could not board a flight to Miami on February 14 for the opening of “True to Scale,” Forensic Architecture’s show at the Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art and Design. Weizman, who holds British and Israeli passports, said that, after attempting to re-apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in London, he was told that he could not travel.
“In my interview the officer informed me that my authorization to travel had been revoked because the ‘algorithm’ had identified a security threat,” Weizman’s statement reads. “He said he did not know what had triggered the algorithm but suggested that it could be something I was involved in, people I am or was in contact with, places to which I had traveled (had I recently been in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, or Somalia or met their nationals?), hotels at which I stayed, or a certain pattern of relations among these things.”
A representative for the MDC Museum of Art and Design declined to comment, saying that the matter was “not an issue involving the college.” The exhibition is slated to run through September 27.
Forensic Architecture’s star has risen dramatically over the past couple years in the art world. Its work was surveyed at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in 2018, and the group was later nominated for the Turner Prize that same year. Last year, the group appeared in the Whitney Biennial, where, with Laura Poitras’s Praxis Films production company, it crafted a work focused on the tear-gas canisters manufactured by Safariland, which is owned by former Whitney Museum vice chair Warren B. Kanders. Amid a larger outcry over Kanders, the group became one of eight artists to demand that the Whitney pull their work from the Biennial. (The work remained in the Biennial because Kanders ultimately resigned.)
In his statement on Wednesday, which was issued during the MDC Museum of Art and Design show’s public opening, Weizman said that the revocation of his visa to enter the United States is indicative of larger surveillance structures. “This much we know: we are being electronically monitored for a set of connections—the network of associations, people, places, calls, and transactions—that make up our lives,” he wrote, adding that the matter also points up larger issues about borders.
He continued, “I would like to thank our partner communities who continue to resist violent state and corporate practices and who are increasingly exposed to the regime of ‘security algorithms’—a form of governance that aims to map, monitor, and—all too often—police their movements and their struggles for safety and justice.”