Investigative Structures

Barcelona plays host to an exposition of the role of a relatively new process, forensic architecture, which is shown to be increasingly vital in a post-truth world. Co-produced by MACBA, Barcelona and MUAC, Mexico City, Towards an Investigative Aesthetics is based on work done by an expert agency at the Centre for Research Architecture (Goldsmiths, University of London). Using modeling and animations as tools for analysis, they are able to provide evidence-based insights into human rights abuses and state crimes.

The exhibition takes a critical perspective on this cross-disciplinary methodology: as well as explaining its aims and approaches, it also considers the things it cannot do and some of its potential problems. Many of these relate to the difficulty of obtaining objective accounts of place. Concrete facts, for example, are difficult to establish in human narratives of trauma. Whilst practitioners may benefit from hearing personal testimonies of bombings or attacks, which leave destruction in their wake, they must be open to the significant potential for inaccuracy. Aerial photographs, meanwhile, an important resource, show a very specific view of the world, which would not be familiar to many people on the street. “Ground truth” has to be established through a variety of inventive mechanisms, including kite and balloon photography, in order to compare images from above with something approaching lived reality.

Issues surrounding the procedures involved in making evidential claims to truth – often in a legal setting – run throughout. These tie into equally ambitious questions: what is the meaning of environmental violence? Where does blame lie when mass casualties are the due to climate change? Spatial means of analysis are proven here to be absolutely key in offering answers to these questions, all of which are set to become increasingly relevant. Alongside the main exhibition, organised conversations and seminars, as well as a publication, will help to build public knowledge of an innovative and original practice.

Forensic Architecture runs until 15 October. Find out more:

1. Exhibition view of Forensic Architecture. Courtesy of Miquel Coll.