United Kingdom

Maps of Defiance

‘Maps of Defiance’ presents Forensic Architecture’s ongoing work with the Yazidi NGO Yazda in northern Iraq, where it is providing a local documentation team with a much-needed toolkit of accessible digital methods to record spatial data from sites of violence and trauma as evidence of war crimes.

For the UK’s entry, Turner Prize-shortlisted Forensic Architecture showed how innovative digital tools and image capture can enable on-the-ground DIY recording and preservation of evidence of cultural heritage destruction and genocide. The interdisciplinary team of investigators, including artists, architects, archaeologists, filmmakers, software developers, lawyers and journalists, have been working in the Sinjar area of Iraq with NGO group Yazda to support and train members of the Yazidi community to collect, document and preserve evidence of genocide perpetrated by Islamic State (ISIL). Three-dimensional models of the Yazidi sites destroyed by ISIL were constructed using ground and aerial photography and photogrammetry and served as valuable pieces of evidence for future litigation. Maps of Defiance showed the broad spectrum of analysis needed to bring cases of genocide to light.

Curated by the V&A, this installation responded to the theme of Emotional States by examining how design can directly inform new perspectives and lines of investigation. Visitors were able to see the process by which these images were collected and reconstructed, alongside the objects used in the training of Iraqi citizens such as rigs made from kites, plastic bottles and helium balloons used for aerial photography in locations and situations where drones couldn't be deployed and approach from the ground is prevented or dangerous. This toolkit could be applied to other post-conflict zones where the collection of this data is vital in bringing justice to light. The installation presented the ways in which digital reconstruction allows for trauma to be understood and contextualised, with the investigation highlighting the importance of acknowledging the destruction of cultural heritage as a part of genocide itself.

Eyal Weizman, the founder of Forensic Architecture, said: “This research project is an important piece of evidence that will hopefully help bring the perpetrators of these war crimes to account.”

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Photography: Ed Reeve


Design Team:

Forensic Architecture with Yazda


Natalie Kane and Brendan Cormier (V&A)

Administering Bodies:

V&A; in collaboration with Art Jameel; supported by the British Council and Arts Council England

2018 Exhibitors