In PRJ 24:7 On Disappearance

Palimpsest (CIV), mêmes leurs ombres, unrender #15
Unrender #15 (Centre d’Identification de Vincennes)

Erasing, Obfuscating and Teasing out from the Shadows: Performing/installing the camps’ (in)visibilities has been published in the Performance Research issue dedicated to the topic “On Disappearance.” Three practice-based investigations discussed in this essay—Razing Manzanar II, States of Exception, and Palimpsest—correlate two seemingly separate conditions of invisibility. One is invisibility produced through the making and unmaking of spaces of internment or detention called forth through governmental utterances. The other is hidden labor, specifically related to architecture and built environments.

These performance-installations reflect upon government-mandated, and now-demolished, camps and the labor occurring there. The sites of study include World War II-era Japanese American internment camps in the American West, where interned citizens wove camouflage for the US Army, and the Centre d’Identification de Vincennes (CIV) in Paris used to detain French Algerian laborers during their war of independence. Most traces of the Japanese American camps are now invisible—razed long ago—but are acknowledged by government. The camps situated within the Paris city limits are also invisible, but not simply by erasure; they are obfuscated by government obstacles to locating them, with the CIV’s whereabouts, the city’s largest intentional camp, remaining elusive.

While seeking to render sensible, or knowable through the senses, these internment camps, and the camp as a recurrent condition, my practices of installation and performing spatial labor also explore rendering visible otherwise-invisible labor. My labor is architectural, employing the discipline’s instruments, such as drawings and models. These labors take cues from Eyal Weizman’s Forensic Architecture (2017) and age-old techniques of descriptive geometry and shadow projection. Juxtaposing these concerns problematizes both the now-razed architectures that once disappeared whole populations and (hyper/in)visibility (Kunst 2015) of spatial labor. Performed and installed spatial labors of erasing, obfuscating and teasing out of the shadows are the three modes of rendering the invisible visible I examine in this essay, arguing that the performative nature of the explorations is critical to rendering sensible what the artefacts normally conceal.