Refugee Heritage by Decolonizing Architecture

 

The artistic research of Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency) is situated between politics, architecture, art and pedagogy.

Refugee Heritage, presented as part of the ‘Phantom Limb’ exhibition, is an ongoing project where the refugee camp, quintessentially imagined as a precarious and impermanent space, is put forward for inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. An ambitious and complex project involving organisations, individuals, camp residents, politicians and conservation experts among others, the nomination of the Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Palestine as a World Heritage Site seeks to deploy the potential for heritage to be mobilised as an agent of political transformation, tracing and representing refugee history beyond narratives of suffering and displacement and imagining “refugee-ness” outside the typical spaces and images of humanitarianism.

Starting at 6pm, a lecture by Sandi and Alessandro will present the thinking behind the project, how it builds on their previous works, and how they were able to mobilise and work with the local community as well as international actors to produce a comprehensive nomination dossier including maps, photographs, architectural surveys and testimonies related to the camp and its history. By reusing, misusing, and redirecting UNESCO World Heritage guidelines and criteria, Refugee Heritage challenges definitions of heritage and their foundations in colonialism, asking instead how architectural instruments can be undermined, or mobilized as agents of political transformation.

An assembly, a gathering of invited and guests and attendees, will follow at 7pm, to further discuss and critique the project, its real-world ramifications and possible futures.

Programme

6-6.45pm Talk by Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti (DAAR)

6.45-7pm Coffee Break

7-8pm   Assembly with invited guests and audience

In their collaborative practice, art exhibitions are both sites of display and sites of action that spill over into other contexts: built architectural structures, the shaping of critical learning environments, interventions that challenge dominant collective narratives, the production of new political imaginations, the formation of civic spaces and the re-definition of concepts. Their latest book is entitled Permanent Temporariness (Art and Theory 2018). They are co-directors of DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency) an architectural studio that explores the reuse, subversion and profanation of actual structures of domination: from evacuated military bases to the transformation of refugee camps, from uncompleted governmental structures to the remains of destroyed villages. In 2012, they initiated Campus in Camps, an experimental educational program hosted in Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem with the aims to overcome conventional educational structures by creating a space for critical and grounded knowledge production (www.campusincamps.ps). Alessandro is professor of Architecture and Social Justice at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm and Sandi has initiated the living room project, a series of spaces of hospitality that have the potential to subvert the role of guest and host.

 

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