A discussion between Eyal Weizman, Mania Akbari and Chowra Makaremi

Eyal Weizman, founder of Forensic Architecture and professor at Goldsmiths, discusses and reflects on the connection between the feminist struggle for equality and freedom in Iran, the liberation of Palestine, and the fight against colonialism in this conversation with Mania Akbari and Chowra Makaremi.

The text below is a conversation between Eyal Weizman, a professor at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the founder and director of Forensic Architecture, with two Iranian female filmmakers, Mania Akbari, based in London, and Shoura Makaremi, based in Paris. This conversation has been translated into Persian for Radio Zamaneh. They discuss their experiences and perspectives on the intertwinement of Palestine, feminism, and oppressed bodies, as well as struggles that are fundamentally interconnected. Popular struggles from various places such as Palestine and Iran can become powerful in unity against oppression but often lead to division and hatred under the heavy shadow of artificial dualities and the dominance of media.

Mania Akbari

Mania Akbari (b. Tehran, 1974) is an internationally acclaimed intersectional feminist artist, curator, and filmmaker who gained early recognition in the Iranian underground art scene, seeking freedom beyond censorship. During the digital cinema revolution in Iran, she transitioned from a painting career to the camera as a mode of storytelling. Akbari delves into the webs of body politics, by documenting personal narratives through the female gaze as a form of empowerment encouraging critical reflection on bodily oppression and suffering. Concerned with the socio-political traumatisation of female-identifying bodies, Akbari transforms lived experience into an act of resistance by uncovering hidden historical and cultural memory and examines the transgenerational transmission of trauma. Weaving through the relationship between the camera and the body, Akbari identifies the body as a metaphor, as a political message with a revolutionary capacity against the patriarchal status quo. Led by a therapeutic approach, Akbari’s practice is often collaborative and participatory. Akbari works with other women to question the ways their bodies are positioned and valued in society, and to explore the relational confluence of embodied memory and gendered violence. Drawing on accounts of sexual assault, abortion, pregnancy, illness, body image, gender, and sexuality through archival material and biopolitical fiction, her films generate dialogues between past and present, between trauma and reflexive healing. Akbari is committed to highlighting the invisible, with a fierce defiance against heteronormative socialisation. Her distinct filmmaking process reframes how we view personal and national histories and produces radical potentialities for women to regain control of their bodies through sharing, talking, and listening. Selected film awards include Feature Film (Digital Section), Venice International Film Festival (2004) for 20 Fingers (2004); New:Vision Award (2019) at CPH:DOX, Copenhagen, Denmark and FIPRESCI International Critics Award (2019), Flying Broom Festival, Ankara, Turkey for A Moon For My Father (2019).

 

Chowra Makaremi

Chowra Makaremi is a writer, director, and anthropologist. She is a tenured research fellow at the National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris. She has published Aziz’s Notebook at the Hearth of the Iranian Revolution (Gallimard, 2011/Yoda Press 2013) and with Hannah Darabi Enghelab Street. A revolution through books 1979-83 (LeBal/Spector, 2019). In 2019, she directed the movie Hitch. An Iranian Story (Alter Ego, France, 78 min.). In 2023, she published the essay Woman! Life! Freedom! Echoes of a revolutionary uprising in Iran (La Découverte/ Yoda Press forthcoming 2024). She leads the ERC research program OFF-SITE: Violence, State Formation and Memory Politics: an off-site ethnography of post-revolution Iran.

 

Eyal Weizman

Eyal Weizman is the founder and director of Forensic Architecture and professor of Spatial and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London, where in 2005 the founded the Centre for Research Architecture. In 2007 he set up, with Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, the architectural collective DAAR in Beit Sahour/Palestine. He is the author of many books, including Hollow Land, The Least of All Possible Evils, Investigative Aesthetics, The Roundabout Revolutions, The Conflict Shoreline, and Forensic Architecture. Eyal held positions in many universities worldwide including Princeton, ETH Zurich, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He is a member of the Technology Advisory Board of the International Criminal Court and of the Centre for Investigative Journalism. In 2019 he was elected life fellow of the British Academy. Forensic Architecture is the recipient of a Peabody Award for interactive media and the European Cultural Foundation Award for Culture.

 

Mania: Given the dire circumstances in Palestine, including the genocide perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people and the systematic displacement of Palestinians, as an Iranian feminist filmmaker activist, I have endured significant pressures during this period, which I will explain. For twelve years, I have been condemned to forced migration and barred from returning to my homeland, making living in London not a choice but a compulsory and imposed existence. In these conditions, my interaction with the people of Iran consists of two situations: Iranian diaspora communities and virtual connections with those living within Iran. It is understandable to me that people within Iran, due to the appropriation of the Palestinian name and the regime’s marginalization of Palestinian resistance, as well as the lack of alignment with the ideology of the Islamic Republic of Iran, may not take to the streets alongside the regime in support of Palestine and protest against Zionism. I am fully aware of many individuals tirelessly advocating for Palestine and transparently informing the public in the online sphere. However, I not only fail to understand but also believe that a dangerous fascist ideology is at play when Iranian people take to the streets with Israeli flags, a regime responsible for the gruesome murder of 34,000 innocent people and continuing the genocide of Palestinians. What has created this dual situation for us is the propaganda of the ruling authorities, who wield power as a tool for their empty agendas, translating and promoting support for Palestinians and protesting against global Zionism as support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Islamic Republic. Simplistically, this group believes that the salvation of the Iranian people and the downfall of the Islamic Republic of Iran can only come from Israel. It’s an empty belief to demand your freedom from an occupying, hostile, and criminal entity. You demand liberation from those who have committed seventy years of historical atrocities. In these circumstances, my responsibility becomes even more challenging and complex to explain to Westerners and Western feminists who see the Israeli flag in the hands of Iranian people, how they were deceived so naively, and enumerate the reasons for the silence of the resilient people within Iran. What matters is standing on the right side of history and not becoming the ashamed survivors of Nazism and fascism for future generations. Israel has carved a great historical shame for every Israeli. It is indeed a deep and serious contradiction to advocate for the freedom of the Iranian people while being a supporter of Israel, especially considering the numerous attacks I’ve faced on social media from pro-Israel individuals. How can one fight for the freedom of the Iranian people yet support Israel? This contradiction is stark and significant. How can one seek the liberation of the Iranian people from a dictatorial regime while being an advocate for Zionism, a movement tainted with some of the greatest historical atrocities? How can one claim to fight for optional hijab and the liberation of Iranian women from a system that has committed mass genocide, including the killing of 34,000 mothers, women, and children, and continues to engage in genocide and ethnic cleansing? How can one receive freedom and be saved by someone complicit in such atrocities?

Eyal: For me, this conversation is incredibly important because both of your works have shown me a certain way beyond the kind of dialectics that we are forced into.  From both of your works, I’ve learnt about your principled feminist perspective and opposite to IR. And I’ve also seen from both of you a commitment to freedom, decolonization, and Palestine liberation. And so that is, for me, the starting point. How can one break through the kind of dialectics that we were forced into? Both by the mainstream and sometimes by our own intellectual community. We share a faith in decolonization and Palestine liberation. But when I think with my Iranian intellectual friends about this situation, I think that we can benefit from Iranian political philosophy at this moment. In a situation of commitment to the struggle for liberation, avoid falling into Israeli obfuscation “this is too complicated” and the necessity for thinking in complex terms. This means that multiple lines of connection form also over the years between Jewish and Iranian intellectuals in the diaspora. I think the sense of diaspora, of living in the diaspora, which is now imposed on anti-Zionist Jewish intellectuals, the necessity to think in a complex manner is essential. As you know, there are several questions here that are important to think about. We know that the Israeli colonial regime is a murderous machine that practices dispossession. We know it is also operating on a certain repression of Palestinian women. It’s the kind of the sum of the force that holds Palestinian society together in multiple ways. The occupation has to be opposed as a patriarchal force. I believe in the Palestinian right to resistance. I believe that the breakout of prisons and the breakout of the concentration camps is essential. I believe that atrocities have been committed there. I know that Hamas itself acknowledged that it is wrong to attack civilians. Certainly. It is no justification for genocide. It doesn’t justify or connect to anything that is happening right now.

Chowra: The discourse and realities of war immediately impose their logic, organized by the figure of the enemy and the need for alliances (the enemy of my enemy becoming my friend); and they impose their temporality of total destruction and slow destruction combined. The very practical question is how the non-binary power of feminist thought can give us tools to refuse this binary logic imposed by the dominant orders, in favor of forms of resistance whose logics and temporalities do not follow those of war. On the 8th of March demonstrations in Paris this year, there was a group called “We will live” (Nous vivrons), a collective against antisemitism that formed after October 7th and is defending Israel’s war crimes in Gaza under the right to self-defense. Their presence was very unwelcomed in this demonstration, in which they participated while “protected” and actually separated from the rest of the demonstrators by a security staff of masked strongmen. The image was so paradoxical on this 8th of March demonstration. It embodied a patriarchal national order as the protector of women’s lives. It equated feminism with the feminine. Israel’s colonial order, embodied by these militia-like muscle men, became the savior of the women’s bodies and integrity. This instrumentalization is all the more revolting that this so-called self-defense of Israel, the war crimes in Gaza, are targeting and annihilating Palestinian life in its reproductive dimensions (households, hospitals, food supplies, education, plantations). The ways in which this image hurts us also makes us realize how feminism is a radical challenge to, and in radical opposition with the idea of nationalism. It is a strange thing to say when we talk about Palestine, because anti-colonial struggles show how the struggle for the right to a nation can be a precious force for change and emancipation –although even in these contexts, we can’t forget how the paradoxical gains of nationalism have been vivid ferments of collective violence (in post-1962 Algeria, in post-independence India). But in the case of Iran for instance, we could witness how nationalist ideas and positions harmed the Woman Life Freedom uprising. There was an attempt, within the diaspora, to claim ownership over an organic energy of revolt that stemmed from a deep, brave refusal of gender-apartheid, and to reframe it in a nationalist project rooted in Persian suprematism aligned with global neoliberal values and alliances. This came from the outside, while the condition of possibility of political organization on the inside was violently repressed and dismembered. It projected a conservative political project on an uprising which lasted on the ground through demands of gender equality, ethnic and national minorities rights to life, and denunciation of economic corruption. It absorbed the subversive dimension of the Woman Life Freedom uprising – where people literally experienced the revolutionary potential of feminism – and turned it into a political power-game aligned with nationalist grids of analysis: allying with Israel and the US against the Islamic Republic, which is now revamping itself as the champion of the “axis of resistance”. And you are so right to talk about complexity: if we refuse to acknowledge how radical impoverishment and protracted states of war have fueled religious fundamentalism in the region, we miss a whole dimension of the lived realities. The existence of fundamentalist ideologies presented as counter-hegemony is a component of the everyday life and fights, but also a point of articulation that shows the very concrete destructive effects of global neoliberal regimes of domination through wars (through “managing global chaos” as the US foreign policy phrased it since the 1990s). It is not only a question of nationalism, but also of capitalism.

Mania: Jin Jiyan Azadi, the movement of Freedom, emerges as a multifaceted and profound testament to the complexities of liberation. It delves into the depths of societal structures, unveiling layers of oppression that extend far beyond the confines of gender. Beyond its initial confrontation with the visible symbols of patriarchy, such as compulsory veiling, Jin Jiyan Azadi exposes the intricate web of power dynamics that intersect with class and nationality, relegating certain voices to the periphery while amplifying others. At its core, Jin Jiyan Azadi is not merely a struggle against external constraints but a profound reevaluation of historical narratives and their implications for contemporary society. It challenges the dominant discourse by shedding light on silenced histories, replete with trauma and resistance, that have been systematically erased by those in power. In doing so, it disrupts the hegemonic structures that perpetuate injustice and compels us to confront the uncomfortable truths of our collective past. Central to the ethos of Jin Jiyan Azadi is the concept of collective memory, a reservoir of shared experiences and struggles that catalyzes collective action. By reclaiming suppressed memories and amplifying marginalized voices, it transforms the individual into a political actor, capable of challenging entrenched power structures and demanding justice and accountability. Yet, Jin Jiyan Azadi goes beyond mere confrontation; it embodies a philosophy of resilience and renewal. It calls upon us to confront the specter of forgetting, to resist the allure of amnesia in the face of systemic oppression. Transcending the boundaries of the present moment compels us to reckon with the enduring legacies of injustice, from class divisions to systematic inequalities, and to envision a future grounded in principles of equity and liberation. Moreover, Jin Jiyan Azadi demands a reevaluation of cultural production and representation, particularly within the realm of cinema and media. It calls for an end to the perpetuation of stereotypes and the normalization of violence, urging instead for narratives that reflect the complexities of lived experiences and the resilience of marginalized communities. Ultimately, Jin Jiyan Azadi represents not a singular event but a continuum of resistance, a tapestry woven from the threads of collective memory and shared struggle. Its impact reverberates globally, inspiring movements for justice and equality across borders. As we bear witness to its transformative power, we are reminded of the ongoing imperative to uphold the principles of feminism and to continue the fight for a more just and equitable world. My concern arises from my lived experience in both Iran and outside of Iran, which enables me to understand the perspective of feminists within Iran protesting against the hijacking and appropriation of women’s movements and their resistance. My fundamental issue lies with white feminism. By “white feminism,” I don’t refer to race or class, but rather to a structure that self-appropriates any resistance, movement, or uprising, and exploits it again for personal empowerment, unfortunately, a widespread phenomenon. Feminism today, in my view, is both a struggle for liberation and growth, as well as a necessity for reexamining history and exploring different layers that allow historical rifts and dark chapters to be seen, to give voice to suffocation in history, and to elevate the gaze from individual plight to a collective imperative. The slogan “Women’s Life, Freedom” dealt severe blows to both white feminism and mainstream feminism. In a way, women inside Iran spent their resistance, suffering, and historicizing while “Women’s Life, Freedom” banners waved in the hands of celebrity feminists on red carpets, showcasing a misguided and superficial representation of what Women’s Life, Freedom truly encompasses. They swiftly launched all economic ventures and initiated various academic, artistic, and cultural projects, claiming them as products of the freedom gene. A group of white feminists, playing a supporting role, raised their sleeves to elevate personal identities and create individual powers. In essence, they propelled an authentic grassroots movement into its most diluted form, hollowing it out and reducing it to a mere historical footnote for us. But let us not forget that women inside Iran continued their steadfast struggles and resistance. People like me also attempted to anchor our roots more deeply with women inside Iran, preserving our distances from the shallowness of epiphenomenal white feminism.

Chowra: And there is also the power of images. One of the images that marked the uprisings following Jina’s murder is that of women taking off their veils and burning them. In France, where I come from, some newspapers have commented “the Iranian women wake up,” as if unveiling oneself was a natural act of political liberation and awakening. Of course, this is not the case. Iranian women have been awake for a long time and feminist movements are amongst the most powerful movements in Iranian civil society. Taking off the veil, and burning it, is an act of defiance born from outrage and rage, but it is also a very precise language of revolt. These acts of unveiling were not solely spontaneous; they were also precise and strategic, in so far as they announced a radical shift and gave its exact coordinates. Faced with the fetishized image of the unveiling of women as a figure of emancipation that serves a Western-centric and colonial narrative, one may avoid engaging with them, in order to distance oneself with the stereotype and its political instrumentalization. On the contrary, I have searched to counter and deactivate this colonial instrumentalization by drawing back our full attention to the act of unveiling, as a grammar of revolt that revives a posture with a complicated history in Iranian politics: that of antagonism or frontal opposition. This needs to be contextualized a little further in order to understand its full meaning within the history of resistance in the last decades, and its revolutionary power or potential (there is no word in English for “potencia” as Veronica Gago words it, drawing on Spinoza, but it is what is at stake here). This act is different from the hidden subversions and skillful circumventions deployed by Iranians for decades: is carried out frontally, and in public. And it is assumed with joy and creativity: there is not only rage but also elation. Crucially, these feelings imply, and perform, an absence of fear. Moreover, this gesture produces a “we.” Women take off their veils and people around them honk, applaud, and shout that they are “women of honor” (bâ gheirat). The sounds circulate their gesture in a collective re-appropriation. Finally—and this is the point that makes this gesture such a challenge—taking off the veil crosses a “red line” (khate ghermez). Removing one’s veil is a clear indication that one is rejecting the social pact—not quietly deserting it, but resoundingly defying it. It enables us to grasp the scope and depth of what has been challenged since September 22 through this beautiful and powerful process that brings back antagonism at the forefront of political relations.

This attention to the act of unveiling as a form of resistance echoes the question of attention to Palestinian voices. Because, if all these years, since the Oslo agreements for instance, the media had paid attention to the experience of violence and atrocities lived by Palestinians, and treated Palestinian victims with the attention and dignity they treated the victims of the massacres on the 7th October, then the work of colonization under cover of “pacification” and so-called “peace process” produced by the state of Israel since the late 1990s would simply not have been possible. So, it is not only a question of discourse but also a question of attention, and an economy of attention. And this attention often acquires another texture through images.

Eyal: I am mesmerized by this conversation. I learned so much. I can think of this notion of unveiling that is a specific act in a specific context, whose meaning is coming from that particular moment. And here, this principle gets weaponized. And I think about this moment of unveiling, which is the very first principle of journalism. unveiling is also an act of violation. And of course, unveiling has a subversive force. Or being violence at the same moment. And, when to do that and how to understand that unveiling. So, I find it extremely relevant to comment and to think theoretically, philosophically, and aesthetically around this unveiling.

Chowra: A resonance between your practice and that of Mania is the attention to the relation between secret and power. This implies to build your works in ways that open a space for collective responsibility (through a space of relative exteriority in your case). It also implies to develop writing apparatuses that mirror/visibilize/subvert the aesthetics of power. In this regard, a question I have on the work of Forensic Architecture is about your recent decision to publish your investigations through social media and not through the Press. Can you explain the strategy and the reflections behind this?

Eyal: This is not fully true, because we have a long piece in The Guardian on ecocide and another one in Democracy Now! on humanitarian violence and the mapping of Israel’s geocidal campaign. But in principle, we need to understand now that the media is not only a vehicle or the carrier of our message: the media itself, the position of medium to big platforms do have a power of their own and are responsible for a lot of violence that is happening right now. And I think particularly about the New York Times. We have had to retreat, temporary or permanent I don’t yet know, from publishing with this media platform. We also have had to think through the principles of open-source investigation, which we were also very much identified with. I’ll just recap it very briefly. FA emerged in the early teens when social media emerged. There was a great subversive force in open-source investigation directed towards critiques of state power. Exposing the secrets of states and showing these secrets, was not only about exposing unknown stories, but as a way of creating panic with states by showing to them, that the walls around their secrets are perforated and that their secrets could spill out, if you just know how to look at it: when the US engaged in extraordinary renditions, drone strikes in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which they thought was secret. But actually, the secret is can be exposed by learning how to see, it is spread between receipts, online travel itineraries, and satellite images. Through images on social media. These dispersed bits of information need to be connected together. Connected vision is not like a concentrated, penetrating look, but it is about building hyper relations between weak signals. So that was the kind of anti-state power of open-source. The second biggest enemy of open-source investigation, at the time that we were part of this revolution, was to direct it against traditional investigative journalists. So, we went against the kind of journalism that cultivated its sources. The kind of journalism that has a deep address book, the kind of journalism with friends in the Army or Secret Services or the Pentagon, the kind of “Deep Throat” figure, who can be revealing information from inside while remaining anonymous. We said, we don’t care about sources. In fact, we do not, in principle, speak to people in power. We don’t need to. We can create chaos. And that was our attempt. Deploying a subversive camp by linking up, by developing new ways of seeing, and using architecture as a way of seeing. Architecture became an optical device, a connecting instrument, the connective tissue between a huge multiplicity of weak sources. And that was the early 2010s. That was the anarchic years of our operation. And we created havoc because we could expose things and the state and police and militaries and Secret Service were not completely protected. And we just connected things. And the secrets were spilled out. And that – the spilling out – had power in itself. But starting in the middle of the 2010s (2015, 2016, 2017) corporate media, Washington Post, New York Times, BBC, and Spiegel started hiring out. Graduates started developing this kind of practice, and at the same time, states and police started doing open-source intelligence. Now the CIA has an open-source branch. The Israeli occupation forces have an open-source in this at least. The comments were weaponized and collected by several large groups. Social media platforms and corporations. So be open-source. We don’t believe anymore in open-source. We think it’s finished, and we know that if we put something out there, it could be traced to those who posted it and they could be killed. And we know that if a West Bank Palestinian boy is posting in violation, there will be a knock on the door. And if your CCTV video on your garage on a highway between Nablus and Khan Yunis captures an Israeli murdering a Palestinian kid, you get a knock on the door and they get to your house. You know it can get destroyed and your things confiscated, and you can lose your life. People don’t put the most important things online anymore. So, we had to transform, and we had to locate ourselves to respond to that challenge by breaking Forensic Architecture into a multiplicity of groups that are located on-site and building trust. It becomes part of the struggle. We are not human rights investigators like Amnesty, that can say “on one hand… on the other hand”. We are part of the Palestine liberation struggle. This is our ethos. We fight with the people through our technique and people know us, and then we get their information. We don’t do it to get the information. We get the information because we are sharing the same struggle. It’s not open-source, but the people that give us that data are not the perpetrators. They are not the ones in the Pentagon. They are in the frontline of struggle. So, this is how we break the principle of what it means to unveil. And what does the act of unveiling do? Here I want to connect again to what Chowra said about the act of unveiling: It’s the moment you take it off, rather than walking unveiled, that is subversive. That is the political act. It’s the moment of transformation. And it is not a story. It’s the act of exposure. It’s showing power. They are putting power in a state of panic, and they know it. The borders, of course, are something porous. And this is exactly why the veil is also a border that can be made obvious in the act of unveiling, which can have a subversive power. At this moment, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, all of them have their own open-source analysis. In fact, they have their own “forensic architecture”. Which is our graduates, just working there. They use it sometimes in a way that is not part of the struggle. They use it sometimes in a way that risks people’s lives. So, at this point, we struggle. And for us, that is not the spirit of our work. Something of the anarchy of open source, the subversive power of it, has been lost. And some of those newspapers are putting Palestinian lives at risk, and we cannot allow this to happen. And we need to evolve. It is not to say that Twitter is like a perfect medium (it’s governed by other corporations, etc.), we’re not naive about that – but we need our independence. We need to get directly to our readers, not through the filter of media, which also is sometimes filtering on a language. We say the “Israeli occupation forces” edit it into the “Israeli defense forces”. We say “Israeli occupation forces” because it’s a language of struggle. It is the language of people struggling against Israeli settler colonialism.

Mania: In my view, these virtual streets serve as platforms for vulnerable and marginalized individuals, allowing their voices to be heard. Today, we cannot deny the impact of the digital revolution on challenging centralized powers. The younger generation doesn’t seek the truths of the world around them in mainstream news and media. Instead, they take to the streets with their smartphones’ cameras ready, broadcasting moments of violence and fascist-Zionist aggression. They identify the perpetrators from a distance and disseminate their details as violent and fascist individuals in the virtual space. They strive to carve out their history, along with their resistance and efforts, in the digital realm. The #The MeToo movement in Iran has expanded similarly, spreading its influence and reach.  The courageous journalists were both prisoners and truth-seekers, disseminating the voice of truth through their small devices. However, we must not overlook the challenges of virtual space. Countless cyber soldiers exist, creating conceptual wanderings over time. Homogenization, which occurs simultaneously, is equally significant as it eliminates hierarchical structures and, on the other hand, normalizes viewing Israel’s crimes alongside cooking classes, dancing, singing, birthdays, and weddings, gradually transforming its danger into a normalized display of violence that the eyes and mind become accustomed to. Watching the violence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard with the people of Iran, or the Israeli soldier’s brutality against Palestinians, becomes so normalized that you accept it as part of everyday life. This is horrifying, and from my perspective, another danger lies in it becoming a tool of power for displaying the propaganda of the Revolutionary Guard and Israel, turning it into their platform.  As Kurdish people showcase the fragmented remains of their loved ones by the regime, this voice of truth also encompasses a threat to the Revolutionary Guard and their power display. For example, an Israeli soldier proudly displays his power by showing the lifeless body of a Palestinian child killed, in front of his smartphone. This display was nothing but a demonstration of power and the normalization of violence. If you pay attention, Israeli soldiers have, during this time, used their smartphones to promote nothing but ultimate inhumanity and pure violence, advertising the dehumanization of Palestinians in front of their demolished homes, dismembered bodies, or shackled prisoners, without any fear of being identified. In a way, they attempted to legitimize their actions through the virtual world, presenting their power as knights in shining armor, saving humanity. The danger lies in the initial shock, fear, and anger that the human brain and body experience, but its repetition and continuation gradually become acceptable as part of life. This is horrifying!

Chowra: I would like to come back to the relations between power and secret here, and to share my viewer’s experience of Mania’s film 20 Fingers. I don’t know what the place of improvisation is in the making of the movie, but the way Bijan talks in Persian embodies male domination for me: he “speaks male” as we say “speak white”. I suspect this is what you intended for if we think about your conversation as actors of the film in the last scene. There is an attention to this power of/in language in the word “Mozakhraf” (rubbish) that is another example of speaking male for me. This generates, for the viewer that I am, a bodily experience of nausea that encapsulates the knowledge of male domination. We all know about the mechanisms of gender domination and how they mobilize desires, moral order, and subalternity: you do not “unveil” these mechanisms (as is the ambition of critical theory). You produce a perceptive exploration that does not expose a truth but is faithful to the texture of the secret, as a fundamental dimension in the experience of violence. So my question is about exposure and unveiling, and the idea that something is lost in there, which is the secret. The experience and the texture of the secret. There is this scene in a movie by Fellini where construction workers are digging a subway tunnel in Rome and they come across an archaeological site with paintings on the wall. And as soon as the light hits these very old paintings, they disappear. There is something similar about the experience of violence: as soon as you expose it, then you make it enter a regime of narration – that sometimes makes us miss the core issue. I have been thinking about an image from Palestine in the last few weeks. It was in a shop in the West Bank. No one dared to film the scene, but the CCTV recorded it. Three Israeli soldiers came and asked a young boy to take off his shirt. And then, there was a “suspense” in the scene (this is the awful part), on how far the Israeli soldiers would go. Because you know that they can pull on the trigger and kill him any moment. This moment of suspense connects you (in the worst of ways) to an experience of violence: you feel the fear. Suddenly, in the most impersonal image, the fear is here, encapsulated in a feeling of distrust. We talked about trust, but distrust is equally important. Inside and outside Iran, distrust is a fundamental dimension and challenge to activism. It is linked to the nature of social media. But it is also a legacy and a long-term effect of violence: distrust as an experience of life, as what violence does to social bounds, as a way of relating to the world and the others. This reminds us of the power of emotions and effects, not only as reactions but also as productive forces that shape our understanding. When we talk about the urge to listen to Palestinian voices, it is not only about rebalancing the voices entitled to debate. It’s also because these voices are where love is. In the powerful testimonies from Gaza, there is both a refusal to become “bare lives” and a will to narrate all that goes beyond survival – all that that bounds a society through effective resistance, but also a will to hold the world witness of what it means to be reduced to a state of survival, which is the nervous system of genocidal enterprises. A constant tension between the bareness of survival and the defiance of love rooted in loss.

In Mania’s film A Moon for My Father, Douglas says: “as if objects, the stuff of the world, might speak some otherwise inexpressible truth”. This movement to relocate truth in the stuff of the world resonates with the critical shift operated by Eyal’s forensic architecture. My question is about “otherwise inexpressible”. I hear this as a key to your film practice as well Mania (where the visual is encapsulated in a more multisensorial sensitivity). And I hear it as the exact opposite of a “fetishization” or a mystic of truth, but on the contrary as perpetual and always incomplete attempts to explore what is left outside of our regime of truth. A movement that looks like a razzia rather than a conquest if we use a political image. If “art is an evidentiary practice” as you say, Eyal, it is one that recreates, blurs, questions the regime of evidence (our implicit agreements about what makes an evidence and evidence, and how they should be organized in order to prove something, i.e. build a truth). Affects have a predominant function in this exploration. I wonder if and how there could be space for these affective, perceptive dimensions in counter-investigations and the work of FA. Not only as tools for establishing the truth (reconstructing, proving) but also as what widens the very definition and methods for establishing what is true, in the sense I just evoked. For instance, the fact that it was enough for the mainstream media to hire people trained in forensic architecture in order to acquire your methodology: does it say something about how counter-investigative practice stays within a regime of truth that echoes that of the State, the media and the legal courts?

Eyal: I think there’s so many distinctions that need to be made here between the necessity for withdrawal and states hiding their crimes. There are distinctions between the empirical exposure of facts and a deep understanding of the mechanisms of power. Distinction between exposing and violating the body to further violence through its visual exposure, and the protection of bodies. I think that we need to understand that all those acts are politically powerful if they operate within a hugely specific and unique area. Each decision is very situated, and its power comes from its moment. Sometimes it’s necessary to show it. Other times it’s necessary to withdraw from any works within aesthetics. The three of us are making films, moving images, in completely different ways. But we still do. And we know that there is what you show and what you hide and that there is always a relation between withdrawal and exposure. It’s a wide differential and it is not. So much thought had to be invested in that balance between dignity, exposure, withdrawal, and shilling. And I think there’s another balance between opening the crust of power back in and through an incident. But then, unpacking and unveiling the multiplicity of context and experience that come out of it – so that you can show what has happened. The genocide and the degrading of human life. The degrading and desecrating of the dead. It happened in Al-Shifa hospital literally. Bulldozed through the mass graves. But the act also does not need to be seen. It is sitting within a kind of necro-politics of power that needs to be unpacked and thought about. So, there is a relation between the exposure and/or knowledge of an event, a critical exposure. Let us see what they do. But let’s kind of puncture the mechanism of power through the incident, as a doorway, and start building towards a kind of a genocidal inversion of humanitarianism, which is effectively one of my analyses of what is happening in Gaza. Israelis inverting and abusing each and every principle of humanitarianism: warnings, evictions. Because the 13th of October was the one most decisive strategic action of Israel. We see it now everywhere. It said that an entire city should move to another city. The biggest city in the Gaza Strip had to be evicted in 24 hours to the south of the strip — the desert part. The Gaza Strip sits between the sea and desert. The south of the Gaza Strip is a desert, Palestinians are expelled into the desert. At this moment, Israel built a barrier now through a route and a wall, stopping people from coming up. But it has used a humanitarian principle of protection to create a reality of ethnic cleansing. And then it says to the Palestinians: you have 130 Israeli captives; we have 2 million Palestinian captives. Okay. Now we are entering into an economy, right? Do you want to go back to your homes? There’s no homes. There’s carpet. There’s a desert of ruin spread around the former fertile parts of Gaza, a desert of rubble and concrete and broken homes and broken things. But there is an economy. Existing within this entire conflict. This entire genocide is based on numbers. It’s the numbers of the exchange. It becomes more and more clear that there is an economy, an “exchange rate”. What is the exchange rate for one Israeli captive? How many Palestinians with one Jewish Israeli life? This question, in itself, imbues the racist conception that lives do not equal the same. And somehow that question has been used also by Palestinian fighters to say: “Okay if you are claiming this, we are going to use that racist conception to our advantage”. Right? And the exchange rate changed throughout the periods from the 60s until now, when captive Israelis were entering into an economy of an exchange: an airplane full of captives for this and this; prisoner-soldiers caught in Lebanon for this and that; prisoner-soldiers caught in Gaza for this and this; and the prisoners increasing. Then, you have another economy: the economy of proportionality. It’s also an economy of violence. It’s a necro economy. We need to kill one Hamas member. Tactical commander. How many civilians are we allowed to kill? Three. Five. Seven. 700. The minute you know these are the kind of calculations that lawyers are sitting and saying: “we should kill 30, 20, 15, and they should know that’s too much; we should kill only 12” that becomes a dehumanizing violence that does not see human life as infinite in itself. Because one time infinite or 12 times infinite is the same infinite human life. Life, creativity, the power of life in itself are infinite. And therefore, the multiplication of things makes no sense at all. And that is actually the kind of dehumanizing reality we exist in, in which violence is in the question of the economy. Question of how many calories? How many food dishes? How many trucks? For 1 million people. Should we reduce it from 100 to 50? Those are the questions of necro economy. That is extremely disturbing and needs to be refused. And this is why Palestinians on the ground say: “We are not numbers”. They refuse the economy. Make oneself incalculable. Exit the economy. Rank the economy rather than play within this economy.

Mania: Eyal your exploration of truth through moving images, your perspective is deeply influenced by your understanding of architecture and space as active agents in shaping societal narratives. You posit that the built environment, including architectural structures and urban landscapes, is not merely a backdrop for human activities but a medium through which power relations and socio-political dynamics are both reflected and contested. One of your key philosophical points is the notion that truth is not static but inherently contingent upon the perspectives from which it is observed. Through the lens of moving images, you suggest that truth is not a singular entity awaiting discovery, but a multifaceted phenomenon shaped by the interplay of visual representations, socio-political contexts, and individual interpretations. Your importance regarding Palestine lies in your commitment to advancing justice, human rights, and peace in the region through your scholarship, activism, and advocacy. By critically examining the spatial dimensions of the Israeli occupation and amplifying the voices of Palestinians, you contribute to efforts aimed at ending oppression and achieving a just resolution to the conflict. In the vast expanse of dialogue, amidst the interplay of thoughts and emotions, I find myself immersed in a profound conversation, a convergence of minds echoing the cadence of truth. Gratitude permeates the space, extending towards S Jin Jian, for it was in their company that the seeds of my voice found fertile ground. Initially cloaked in the shroud of silence, I, too, hesitated to partake, until the resonance of authenticity stirred a tempest within, compelling me to inscribe the ruminations of my soul. Do you sense it, dear interlocutors? The palpable presence of existential inquiry, akin to a silent orchestra, orchestrating the symphony of our shared human experience. Within this labyrinth of discourse, I am reminded of the cinematic tapestry woven by Jonathan in “The Zone of Interest,” a narrative not confined to the visual realm but one that delves deep into the recesses of our collective consciousness, exploring the echoes of history and the specter of violence that reverberates through time. Indeed, the soundscapes of cinema serve as vessels, ferrying us across the turbulent seas of memory, where the echoes of bygone eras intertwine with the whispers of our present reality. It is through these auditory brushstrokes that we navigate the labyrinth of truth, for it is not merely in the tangible images that we find meaning, but in the intangible essence that transcends the confines of the visible. As a filmmaker, I am intimately acquainted with the power of storytelling, for in the act of creation, we become both architects and archaeologists of the human condition. My oeuvre, a testament to the ceaseless exploration of corporeal boundaries and societal constructs, bears witness to the indomitable spirit that surges forth in defiance of oppression. For I, too, have traversed the labyrinth of patriarchal structures, my body a battleground upon which the forces of control and subjugation sought dominion. Born of Palestinian heritage, I am no stranger to the tyranny of occupation, where every step is laden with the weight of history and the burden of resistance. Yet, in the crucible of adversity, I emerged not as a victim, but as a beacon of resilience, my narrative a testament to the triumph of the human spirit over the shackles of oppression. Through the lens of postcolonial feminism, I excavate the layers of my existence, each revelation a stepping stone towards emancipation and empowerment. In this sacred space of dialogue, I shatter the chains of taboo, casting light upon the shadows that linger at the periphery of societal discourse. For truth, dear friends is not a static monolith but a kaleidoscope of perspectives, each shard reflecting the myriad facets of our shared humanity. And so, I extend my gratitude to each of you, fellow travelers in this journey of enlightenment, for it is through our collective exploration that we forge a path towards liberation and understanding. Let us continue to unravel the tapestry of existence, one thread at a time, until the symphony of truth resounds with clarity and resonance.From River to the sea palestine will be free.

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