08 March—10 June 2023
Can the art institution become a care-taker of truth? Continuing our work through the research platform The Bureau of Care, that examined the ethics and politics of care and how they can inform cultural practice, State of Concept is looking into the way two crises unfolding in tandem these last years are presented in the mainstream: the climate and what became known as the refugee crisis. We will be investigating how they are both affected by new technologies of surveillance, developed within and outside of Europe. Particularly when this last decade we observe that data, information and manipulation play a substantial part in major political changes and interventions.
The two year-long project will investigate the relation between social and environmental justice, and how they are shaped by surveillance technology, especially in developing economies like Greece and other countries. The project arrives as a response to what we see as an emergency: the corrosion of truth and the major discrepancies of states: while fake news has a long history, today the bio-political methods of power, via big data and surveillance technology, manipulate knowledge production and the understanding of reality in ways and speeds before inconceivable. This manipulation is most often related to both the fabrication of alternative truths for both environmental catastrophe and the refugee crisis, many times built through a weaponisation of nature- presented as the culprit instead of state necropolitics or climate change denial.
In many countries around the world, Greece included, democratic checks and balances are increasingly absent, due to a lack of understanding of technology by bureaucrats, but also due to a rigged judicial system that does not act when it comes to major breeches of individual citizen (and migrant and refugee) rights. In some cases, the judicial system is instrumentalised by the state to criminalize those that speak truth to power. In Greece, it persecutes activists in the fields of environmentalism and human rights, and in contrast protects through inactivity, those that pollute, extract, violate and survey.
The current wire-tapping scandal involving various EU countries, among them Greece, where dozens activists and journalists were under surveillance via hacking spyware Predator, is an example of how surveillance technology is used against those that aim to safeguard truth: in the case of Greece activists of civic society and journalists. The scandal prompts us to ask:
What can an art institution do, when it claims to care? What should its role be, when the public sphere is shaped by racist discourse, fake news and alternative facts, poisoning our reality and jeopardizing our future? In an age of mistrust, surveillance and disinformation, how do you gain back people’s attention to the multiple crises we face? State of Concept is aiming to become a vessel of hard facts and precarious testimonies, in a sea of alternative truths. How can we “re-invent life through a hopeful futurity”, in the words of T.J. Demos in order to avoid the possibility of de-futuring all life?
The two year-long program “Truth will not take Care of itself”, discusses the current questions that arise from the relationship between social and environmental justice inspired by the sociopolitical problematics that arise in Greece today and the responses of civic society to them. We are proposing the institution as a place where misinformation and right-wing propaganda can be contested, through the presentation of informed data and facts via people’s forensics. The program will unfold in two phases, with the first to be launched in March 2023.
State of Concept since 2021, invites curators, artists and cultural collectives to curate a program: this year we are honored to be working for the second time with Forensic Architecture (FA) and its Berlin-based sister agency Forensis.
The Fire in Moria
In the late hours of 8 September 2020, large fires broke out at the migrant camp of Moria, on the frontier island of Lesvos, Greece, displacing thousands of people and reducing to ashes what had until then been the epicentre of the EU’s carceral archipelago. Only a few days after the fire, the police arrested six young asylum seekers (known as ‘the Moria 6’), five of them minors, and accused them of arson. The ‘Moria 6’ were convicted in two separate trials which were widely heralded as a ‘parody of justice’, with five of the 6 being convicted on the testimony of a single witness, who never appeared in court.
In the context of the upcoming appeal trial in Lesvos, FA/Forensis were commissioned by the lawyers representing four of the defendants to reconstruct the fire and cross-examine the key witness statement. Drawing from hours of footage from that night, our investigation, launched in the press conference, severe inconsistencies are revealed in the witness testimony casting further doubt over the evidence upon which the judgement of the young asylum seekers was based. The investigation also situates the last fire within the overcrowded camp’s history of hundreds of outbreaks, demonstrating that it constitutes instead a foreseeable result of the precarious and unsafe living conditions manufactured and maintained for years by EU and Greek authorities.
On the 2nd of March until 8th of April: FA/Forensis will present a new investigation on Greece, screening followed by a public program.
See the full investigation here: https://forensic-architecture.org/investigation/fire-in-moria-refugee-camp
12th of April until 6th of May: Second presentation of Forensic Architecture’s investigations with a public program.
9th of May until 10th of June: Third and last part of FA investigations and public program.
**Due to the nature of the project, the activities and participants will be announced closer to the date of the events.
The Moria Fires, Forensic Architecture/Forensis, 2023.