London-based research collective Forensic Architecture, known for its use of architectural, spatial, and technological analysis to uncover state and corporate violence, opens its first major U.S. exhibition today at Miami Dade Collegeâ€™s Museum of Art and Design (MOAD). However, as the collectiveâ€™s founder, Eyal Weizman was preparing to fly to Miami from his home of London for the opening, he received an email from the U.S. Embassy informing him that his visa had been revoked and he would not be allowed to travel to the United States.
When Weizman went to apply for another visa, an interviewer at the Embassy told him that an â€śalgorithmâ€ť had identified him as a security threat due to people he had interacted with, places he had traveled recently, or an unidentified combination of the two. When given the opportunity to â€śspeed up the processâ€ť by giving names he felt might have been the cause for setting off alarms, Weizman refused.
Here is the full statement, which will be read by his partner professor Ines Weizman at the MOAD tonight, and was sent to AN by Weizman via email.
Today (February 19th) I was meant to be here with you at the Museum of Art and Design in Miami to open Forensic Architectureâ€™s first major survey exhibition in the United States, True to Scale.
But on Wednesday, February 12th, two days before my scheduled flight to the U.S, I was informed in an email from the U.S. Embassy that my visa-waiver (ESTA) had been revoked and that I was not authorised to travel to the United States. The revocation notice stated no reason and the situation gave me no opportunity to appeal or to arrange for an alternative visa that would allow me be here.
It was also a family trip. My wife Prof. Ines Weizman, who was scheduled to give talks in the U.S. herself, and our two children traveled a day before I was supposed to go. They were stopped at JFK airport in New York where Ines was separated from our children and interrogated by immigration officials for two and a half hours before being allowed entry.
The following day I went to the U.S. Embassy in London to apply for a visa. In my interview the officer informed me that my authorization to travel had been revoked because the â€śalgorithmâ€ť had identified a security threat. 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. I was asked to supply the Embassy with additional information, including fifteen years of travel history, in particular where I had gone and who had paid for it. The officer said that Homeland Securityâ€™s investigators could assess my case more promptly if I supplied the names of anyone in my network whom I believed might have triggered the algorithm. I declined to provide this information.
This much we know: we are being electronically monitored for a set of connectionsâ€”the network of associations, people, places, calls, and transactionsâ€”that make up our lives. Such network analysis poses many problems, some of which are well known. Working in human rights means being in contact with vulnerable communities, activists and experts, and being entrusted with sensitive information. These networks are the lifeline of any investigative work. I am alarmed that relations among our colleagues, stakeholders, and staff are being targeted by the U.S. government as security threats.
This incident exemplifiesâ€”albeit in a far less intense manner and at a much less drastic scaleâ€”critical aspects of the â€śarbitrary logic of the borderâ€ť that our exhibition seeks to expose. The racialized violations of the rights of migrants at the U.S. southern border are of course much more serious and brutal than the procedural difficulties a U.K. national may experience, and these migrants have very limited avenues for accountability when contesting the violence of the U.S. border.
As I would have announced in todayâ€™s lecture, this exhibition is an occasion to launch a joint investigation with local groups into human rights violations in the Homestead detention center in Florida, not far from here, where migrant children have been held in what activists describe as â€śregimented, austere and inhuman