DAAR is an art and architecture collective and a residency programme based in Beit Sahour, Palestine. DAAR’s work combines discourse, spatial intervention, education, collective learning, public meetings and legal challenges. DAAR’s practice is centred on one of the most difficult dilemmas of political practice: how to act both propositionally and critically within an environment in which the political force field is so dramatically distorted. It proposes the subversion, reuse, profanation and recycling of the existing infrastructure of a colonial occupation. DAAR projects have been shown showed in various biennales and museums, among them Venice Biennale, the Bozar in Brussels, NGBK in Berlin, the Istanbul Biennial, The Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, Home Works in Beirut, Architekturforum Tirol in Innsbruk, the Tate in London, the Oslo Triennial, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and many other places. DAAR’s members have taught lectured and published internationally. In 2010 DAAR was awarded the Price Claus Prize for Architecture, received Art initiative Grant, and shortlisted for the Chrnikov Prize.
DAAR Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, Eyal Weizman
Directed by Alessandro Petti
Artists and Architects in residence: Armin Linke, Francesco Mattuzzi, Ursula Biemann, Brave New Alps (Bianca Elzenbaumer and Fabio Franz), Vincezo Castella, Anne Gough, Zakiya Hanafi, Jake Himmel, Jesse Long, Salvatore Porcaro, Francesca Recchia, Lorenzo Romito, Allegra Martin, Roberto Sartor, Armina Pilav, Sara Pellegrini, Mario Abruzzese, Francesca Vargiu, Beatrice Catanzaro, Sean Murphy, Rachela Abbate, Marco Cerati, Ahmad Barclay, Merlin Eayrs, Sebastiaan Loosen, Marcella Rafaniello, Maria Rocco, Mahdi Sabbagh, Bert Ruelens, Nina Valerie Kolowratnik, Tashy Endres, Diego Segatto, Lorenzo Pezzani, Sonia Arw, Benoît Burquel, Luisa Cerlini, Elisa Ferrato, Alesssandra Gola, Suzanne Harris-Brandts, Benjamin Leclair-Paquet, Michael Baers, Amina Bech.
Our projects use architecture to articulate the spatial dimension of a process of decolonization. Recognizing that Israeli colonies and military bases are amongst the most excruciating instruments of domination, the project assumes that a viable approach to the issue of their appropriation is to be found not only in the professional language of architecture and planning but rather in inaugurating an “arena of speculation” that incorporates varied cultural and political perspectives through the participation of a multiplicity of individuals and organizations.
The project engages a less than ideal world. It does not articulate a utopia of ultimate satisfaction. Its starting point is not a resolution of the conflict and the just fulfilment of all Palestinian claims; also, the project is not, and should not be thought of, in terms of a solution. Rather it is mobilizing architecture as a tactical tool within the unfolding struggle for Palestine. It seeks to employ tactical physical interventions to open a possible horizon for further transformations.
We suggest revisiting the term of “decolonization” in order to maintain a distance from the current political terms of a “solution” to the Palestinian conflict and its respective borders. The one-, two-, and now three-state solutions seem equally entrapped in a “top-down” perspective, each with its own self-referential logic. Decolonization implies the dismantling of the existing dominant structure — financial, military, and legal — conceived for the benefit of a single national-ethnic group, and engaging a struggle for justice and equality. Decolonization does not necessarily imply the forced transfer of populations. Under the term decolonization, for example, Jewish communities could go and live in the Palestinian areas.
Whatever trajectory the conflict over Palestine takes, the possibility of further partial-or complete -evacuation of Israeli colonies and military bases must be considered. Zones of Palestine that have or will be liberated from direct Israeli presence provide a crucial laboratory to study the multiple ways in which we could imagine the reuse, re-inhabitation or recycling of the architecture of Israel’s occupation at the moment this architecture is unplugged from the military/political power that charged it.
The project is also an arena for thinking possible forms of Return of Palestinian refugees. The Right of Return is often articulated in the “suspended politics” of political theology it has gradually been blurred in the futile limbo of negotiations. Return is a political act that is both practiced at present and projected as an image into an uncertain future. But return cannot be understood only as the suspended politics of an ideological projection, but also as a varied form of politics constantly practiced, grounding a future ideal in present day material realities. This represents a varied set of practices that we would like to call “present returns”.
This project seeks thus to chart out and intervene within a wider field of possible political, social and cultural practices of return. Practices of return might include elements of daily life in refugee camps, and the interaction of the idea of return with the built reality of the camp – often a form of architecture that seeks to communicate temporariness – practices through which the camps become spheres of action carved out of state sovereignty. They might also include the material practices of memory, archaeology being one of them, or other cultural and artistic practices that operate within an extraterritorial space but always in relation to an imagined one.
The varied forms of present return navigate the complex relation between two places – the place of refuge and the site of origins – and as such they are practices with a fundamental spatial dimension.
We propose to add to the legalistic approach to the right of return a projective one which proposes a series of images, aiming to open the imagination towards different forms in which an actual return could take place. We believe that a combination of a legal and an architectural approach are necessary in order to open the political imagination.