Public Humanities Initiative

Storytelling and Spatial Violence

Thursday, December 10, 2020  12:00pm Virtual Event at 12:00pm (EST)


Free and open to the public

Registration required

Please join us for a film and discussion series on the impacts of gentrification, development, and other forms of spatial violence. The Public Humanities Initiative at the SOF/Heyman presents four events exploring architectural and territorial planning as instruments of violence, and the activists that seek to use visual and narrative storytelling as a way to reclaim spatial rights. The films we will highlight not only serve to reflect on the contemporary global context of spatial violence, they also serve as instances where artistic and humanistic production engage in spatial activism. 

Panels feature the film’s director/producer in discussion with architectural historians, sociologists, and others. All films will be available to registrants for the 24 hours preceding the scheduled panel time. 

Please click here to register for the series. You will be sent a Zoom link the day before, and the day of, the event.

Co-organized by Maria Gonzalez Pendas with Nisrin Elamin, Naeem Mohaiemen, and Dimitris Antoniou

Co-sponsored by the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Public Humanities Initiative, the Center for Spatial Research, the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, The Committee on Global Thought, Weatherhead East Asian Institute, and the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University. 


Not in My Neighbourhood  | 2018 | 86 mins
November 12th, 6:00pm EST

If you are a member of the Columbia University community, you can access the film via CLIO at any time.

Not in My Neigbourhood tells the intergenerational stories of the ways in which ordinary citizens respond to the policies, process, and institutions driving contemporary forms of spatial violence and gentrification in three self-professed world-class cities: Cape Town, New York, and São Paulo.

Exploring the effects of various forms of spatial violence on the spirit and social-psyche of city dwellers, we follow the daily struggles, trials and triumphant moments of active citizens, fighting for the right to their cities. By illuminating the tools and approaches used by urban activists to shape and navigate their cities that have been affected by colonization, architectural apartheid and gentrification, the film aims to build solidarity among active urban citizens. 

Director Kurt Orderson (Azania Rising Productions, South Africa) and co-producer Najma Nuriddin (Nsorma Films) will participate in a panel discussion with sociologist Sujatha Fernandes (University of Sydney) and architectural historian Anooradha Siddiqi (Barnard College). 


Forensic Architecture | Selection of short films  
November 19th, 6:00pm EST

Samaneh Moafi (Forensic Architecture, London) in conversation with Beth Stryker (Cluster, Cairo; ArteEast, New York), moderated by Naeem Mohaiemen (Society of Fellows, Columbia University)

Forensic Architecture (FA) was founded in 2010 by Eyal Weizman, co-founder of Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London. FA employs pioneering techniques in spatial and architectural analysis, open source investigation, digital modelling, and immersive technologies, as well as documentary research, situated interviews, and academic collaboration. Findings from investigations have been presented in national and international courtrooms, parliamentary inquiries, and exhibitions at art museums, as well as in citizen’s tribunals and community assemblies. In 2018, FA was one of four finalists for Britain’s Turner Prize. Their 2019 video Triple Chaser was featured in the 2019 Whitney Biennial and was a harsh indictment of Whitney Museum board member Warren Kanders’s attempts to profit off tear gas violence and to hide his complicity behind the walls of the very museum in which the video was presented. It remained on view for the show’s duration, outlasting Kanders himself, who resigned from the museum’s board after extensive protests by artists in the biennial.

All registrants for this event will receive viewing links for the following four FA films: Cloud Studies (23 min; Region: Worldwide, tear gas and spatial dispersion), Herbicidal Warfare in Gaza (8 min; Region: Palestine-Israel); Triple Chaser (8 min; Region: US-Mexico border), and Shipwreck at the Threshold of Europe (23 min; Region: Aegean Sea).

About the discussants:

Samaneh Moafi is Senior Researcher at  Forensic Architecture, providing conceptual oversight across projects, and supervising the Centre for Contemporary Nature. Her research is focused on developing new evidentiary techniques for environmental violence. She holds a PhD from The Architectural Association (AA), and an MA in Architecture from the University of Technology, Sydney. Her PhD thesis examined struggle and resistance from the home, with a particular focus on gender and class relations in Iran.

Beth Stryker is a Co-founder of CLUSTER (Cairo Lab for Urban Studies, Training and Environmental Research) a platform for urban research, architecture, art, and design initiatives based in Downtown Cairo. CLUSTER was included in the Egyptian National Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale (2016, 2018). Stryker received her B.A from Columbia University, and her M.Arch from Princeton University. She is currently Executive Director of ArteEast in New York. 

Click here to register.


The Concrete Revolution  | 2004 | 61 mins
December 3rd, 4:00pm EST

Part objective documentary, part personal essay, on the surface this film charts the transformation of Beijing as it prepares for the 2008 Olympic Games. In order to present a modern glossy face to the world, one where shiny new buildings and icons of western consumerism are rapidly built and pushed to the foreground, the Chinese government prefers to hide the hardship of the people constructing the new image, and that of the disappearing world of its culture-carrying elders.

Electing to focus beneath the facade, this intelligent and important work bravely exposes the unseen changes in values and the social costs being paid, especially those of the peasant construction workers of the new China. Told through the contrast of individual's stories with elements of retrospective context, the film functions as a feminine poem on a macho subject using a clever mix of colour and black & white film, stills, snippets of media newsflash and even quotes and songs from Maoist China.

Xiaolu Guo, writer and director in conversation with architectural historian María González Pendás (SOF/Heyman, Columbia University) and SOF Fellow JM Chris Chang (SOF/Heyman, Columbia University).

Click here to register.


Third Kind  | 2018  | 21 mins
December 10th, 12:00pm EST

This event is hosted by the The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Public Humanities Initiative and the University Seminar in Modern Greek

Director Yorgos Zois will participate in a panel discussion following a screening of Third Kind, a sci-fi film that invites us to contemplate ruination, nostalgia for a future-present, economies of abandonment, and collateral populations and spaces. The film considers the refugee crisis in Greece from the perspective of an alien future and through the abandoned Ellinikon airport—a former camp that was violently evacuated to facilitate a large development project. In narrating such spatial and social histories of dispossession, Zois frames this tale as follows: “Earth has been abandoned for a long time and the human race has found refuge in outer space. Three archaeologists return to Earth to investigate where a mysterious five tone signal is coming from…»

Yorgos Zois, film director in conversation with anthropologists George Μantzios (University of Toronto) and Dimitris Antoniou (SNFPHI, Columbia University)

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