Alessandro Petti at CORNELL, CUNY, MIT

Posted: 23.03.2012


The Camp as Political Project

Since its invention in colonial territories, the “camp form” has been used as an instrument for exceptional regimes in which citizens are stripped from their political rights. Despite the more recent scholarly works has been able to locate the figure of the refugee and its associate spatial dimension the camp as central critical category of our present spatial political organization, the refugee is reduce to a passive subject, lacking an independent and autonomous political subjectivity and the camps are looked at only as a site of marginalization and exclusion. In this paper I’ll will present emerging spatial practices and projects in refugee camps in Palestine, which not only challenge the idea of camps as site of humanitarian intervention but they suggests new political, social and spatial configurations. Refugee camps are today site from which we have to start to re-think the very idea of the city as a space of political representation, thinking the camp as a laboratory for spatial and political practices yet to come.



April 16 CUNY

Common Assembly

For the occasion of DAAR’s exhibition at The James Gallery – Center for the humanities, Alessandro Petti’s lecture will deal with new forms of political action and association – collective protests —  in the Middle East and around the world. The term Common Assembly comes to name a radical form of political participation and collective actions that has been used, in different variations, within different contexts of revolutionary protest from Cairo’s Tahrir square to the stairs of St Paul’s cathedral. These forums of action have changed the meaning of political categories: The Common — a form of space different from both public and private, sometimes extracted from them in which an immanent form of association replaces state regulated form of publicity. The situation against which protest occurred is that in which the “public” no longer belonged to the “people” —  rather to regime performance or to private capital accumulation. The act of cleaning in Tahrir Square was the manifestation of turning the public into the common. Assembly – a form of immanent political association and decision-making process that is distinct from the Parliamentary form. Assemblies are contingent, temporary, networked, expanding and contracting, always directed at action.  Could we think of Palestinians camps not as places of refuge but rather as those of assembly?  Spaces from where a new political ideas and form of action could arise?  Where political participation and representation are organized beyond the idea of nation-state? Occupation — a word that the current landscape of events seem to be in the process of decolonizing. It is extracted from the jaws of the military jargon into a form of direct action that aim at dismantling existing system of power. It is true that new media played an important role to mobilizing and organizing the protests. However it was the prolonged physical occupation of the spaces that created the possibility of political change. Common Assemblies pop up in different slippages and cracks in property and land systems: a park whose jurisdiction is ambiguous, in the relative extraterritoriality of a church land within the extraterritorial frame of the city of London, public roundabouts in Cairo and Bahrain. Isn’t it reveling that the Bahrain military forces destroyed the Pearl roundabout — reiterating! — rather then demolishing –  the  potential power of space and spatial construction. The lecture would like to engage the public around the nature of the these forms of political participation and action.



April 18 MIT

A Program for an Architectural Decolonization

Since its establishment five years ago, DAAR, the architectural collective and art residency program based in Palestine, has developed a series of projects that today could be understood retroactively as a pragmatic and visionary program for an Architectural decolonization of Palestine. DAAR’s projects suggest revisiting the largely discredited term of decolinization in order to maintain a distance from the current political language of a “solution” to the Palestinian conflict and its respective borders. The one-state, two-state, and now three-state solutions seem equally entrapped in their respective “top-down” expert perspective, each with its own self-referential logic. Decolonization, on the contrary, seeks to unleash a process of open-ended transformation toward the goals of equality and justice. It looks for and finds cracks where potential for transformation and reuse of the existing dominant structures, architectural infrastructural and legal, could be found. It is a sometimes confrontational, at other times cunning approach to the reality of occupation and dispossession. Decolonization is a counter apparatus that seeks to restore to common use, to fantasy and play, what the colonial order had separated and divided. The goal of decolonization is the construction of counterapparatuses that find new uses for the abandoned structures of domination. These uses are sometimes pragmatic and at other times ironic or provocative challenges. As such, “decolonization” is never achieved, but is an ongoing practice of deactivation and reorientation understood both in its presentness and in its endlessness. DAAR’s projects do not articulate a utopia of ultimate satisfaction. Rather they try to mobilize architecture as a tactical tool within the unfolding struggle for Palestine. They seeks to employ tactical physical interventions to open a possible horizon for further transformations.

Common Assembly III: New York

Posted: 28.02.2012

March 14 – June 2, the James Gallery – Common Assembly III

The James Gallery
The Graduate Center, City University of New York
365 Fifth Avenue between 34th and 35th Streets
New York, NY 10016

Free and open to the public
Hours: Tue-Thu 12-7pm, Fri-Sat 12-6pm

Curator: Katherine Carl
t: 212-817-2007
e: kcarl@gc.cuny
Exhibitions Coordinator: Jennifer Wilkinson
t: 212-817-2020


Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space

The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University presents Lines of Control, an exhibition of videos, photographs, prints, paintings, sculptures, and installations by thirty-three international artists that grapple with the seductive simplicity of drawing lines as a substitute for learning how to live with each other. Living within and across these lines is a messy, bloody business but also offers a productive space where new nations, identities, languages, and relationships are forged.

At its core, this exhibition investigates the historic upheaval of the 1947 partition of India that spawned the nations of Pakistan and later Bangladesh. The exhibition is part of an ongoing project initiated by Green Cardamom, a London-based nonprofit arts organization, in 2005. Expanding on the significance of partition in South Asia, Lines of Control at the Johnson Museum also addresses other partitioned areas: North and South Korea, Sudan and South Sudan, Israel and Palestine, Ireland and Northern Ireland, Armenia and its diaspora, and questions of indigenous sovereignty in the United States. The exhibition explores the products and remainders of partition and borders characteristic of the modern nation-state, and interrogates the continued impact of colonization, the physical and psychic violence of displacement, dilemmas of identity and belonging, and questions of commemoration.

Artists represented in the exhibition are Bani Abidi, Francis Alÿs, Sarnath Banerjee, Farida Batool, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Muhanned Cader, Duncan Campbell, Iftikhar Dadi, DAAR, Anita Dube, Taghreed Elsanhouri, Sophie Ernst, Gauri Gill, Shilpa Gupta, Zarina Hashmi, Emily Jacir, Ahsan Jamal, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Amar Kanwar, Noa Lidor, Mario Mabor, Nalini Malani, Naeem Mohaiemen, Tom Molloy, Rashid Rana, Raqs Media Collective, Jolene Rickard, Hrair Sarkissian, Seher Shah, Surekha, Hajra Waheed, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, and Muhammad Zeeshan.

Co-organized by Green Cardamom and the Johnson Museum, the exhibition is curated by Hammad Nasar, Iftikhar Dadi, and Ellen Avril, with assistance from Nada Raza. Major funding for the exhibition, catalogue, and accompanying programs is provided by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the Jarett F. and Younghee Kim-Wait Fund for Contemporary Islamic and Middle Eastern Arts, the Jarett F. and Younghee Kim-Wait Fund for Korean Arts, Gandhara-Art, the Mondriaan Foundation, and Ali and Amna Naqvi. Additional support for the symposium, catalogue, and film program was provided by Cornell University’s Institute for Comparative Modernities; the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning; the Minority, Indigenous, and Third World Studies Research Group; the Department of Art; the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies; the Department of the History of Art; Cornell Cinema; and the South Asia Program.

Lines of Control: A Symposium
Saturday, March 3, 4:00–6:00 pm, and Sunday, March 4, 9:00 am–5:00 pm, at the Johnson Museum
Artists, scholars, and curators will address topics relevant to the exhibition (details to be announced). Seating is limited; registration is free. To register, call 607 254-4642 or e-mail

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
The Johnson Museum has a permanent collection of over 35,000 works of art from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. The museum building was designed by I. M. Pei and opened in 1973, funded by Cornell alumnus Herbert F. Johnson, late president and chairman of S C Johnson.

Cornell University
A Green Cardamom Project
January 21–April 1, 2012

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Tuesdays–Sundays, 10 am–5 pm
Free admission

Press contact: Andrea Potochniak,


Common Assembly II: Nottingham

Posted: 14.02.2012

Exhibition: 28 Jan 2012 – 15 Apr 2012

The centrepiece of DAAR exhibition is a life-sized section through the abandoned Palestinian Parliament in a suburb of Jerusalem – a parliament that has never been used. Construction started during the 1996 Oslo Accord when peace seemed possible and was halted in 2003 after the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, marked the failure of the political process.

The project began with the discovery that – mistakenly or intentionally – the building was constructed on Israel’s unilaterally declared border within Jerusalem. The parliament is partly within Israeli territory and partly within Palestinian controlled land – a small strip, no wider than the border line, is in legal limbo.

DAAR has build the section of the abandoned Palestine Parliament that the border line crosses in three dimensions. This suspended and elongated structure will act as a forum for debate on the future of Palestine during the exhibition.

How can political participation be organised for a partially exiled and geographically dispersed people? Palestine’s complex and developing nationhood offers the opportunity to think beyond the nation state.

Common Assembly is a project by Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, Eyal Weizman, Nicola Perugini with Yazeed Anani, Nishat Awan, Ghassan Bannoura, Benoit Burquel, Suzy Harris-Brandts, Runa Johannessen, Zografia Karekou, Cressida Kocienski, Lejla Odobasic, Carina Ottino, Elizabeth Paden, Sameena Sitabkhan, Amy Zion.

more info
Nottingham Contemporary

For the occasion of DAAR’s exhibition — A Common Assembly — this one day conference will deal with new forms of political action and association – collective protests — in the Middle East and around the world.

The term Common Assembly comes to name a radical form of political participation and collective actions that has been used, in different variations, within different contexts of revolutionary protest from Cairo’s Tahrir square to the stairs of St Paul’s cathedral.


DAAR, Introduction
Lieven De Cauter, The Place of the Common: Revisiting Heterotopia from the perspective of the Commons
Lorenzo Pezzani, The red castle and the lawless line
Nishat Awan, Notes on extraterritoriality
The Berlage Studio, Returns to Jaffa/Tel Aviv


Sari Hanafi, An Extraterritorial Nation-State
Rasha Salti, Imagining the Revolution

Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri, The Base of the Air is Common

Los Angeles Times 2011 year in review: Best in Architecture “Decolonizing Architecture”

Posted: 31.12.2011

It was a year in which American architects despaired that the economy might never really recover. It was also a year in which they produced a few small gems. And the profession as a whole continued to move past the flashy formalism of the last decade to seek new, genuine kinds of engagement with cities and people.

“Decolonizing Architecture.” At REDCAT, an exhibition by architects Eyal Weizman, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti offered a rare look at the architecture and infrastructure of Israeli settlements and their potential future.

“OMA /Progress.” This exhibition at London’s Barbican Centre on Rem Koolhaas’ firm — curated by Rotor, a young and talented design collective from Brussels — is big, sprawling and messy. But it gets with surprising efficiency at the complex heart of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture’s practice, which ranges from research to books to buildings.

“No More Play: Conversations on Urban Speculation in Los Angeles and Beyond.” Architect Michael Maltzan interviewed architects, academics, artists and writers for this nuanced, surprisingly upbeat portrait of Los Angeles, where rising density has brought the city to a “pivotal moment” in which “L.A.’s new identity is being determined.”

HL23. Neil Denari, the 54-year-old L.A. architect, waited a long time for his big break. He got it in Manhattan of all places, where his sleek 14-story luxury condo tower bends memorably over the High Line elevated park.

“Manifest Destiny: A Guide to the Essential Indifference of American Suburban Housing.” In 58 very short chapters, Jason Griffiths, a British architect who teaches at Arizona State, miraculously finds new language to describe the eternally affectless qualities of gated communities and tract housing.

West Hollywood Library. Designed the Culver City firm Johnson Favaro, the new library is a stirring reaffirmation of the power of civic architecture that came through the punishing low-bid public construction process with its lively spirit fully intact.

The Carmaggedon debate. Shutting down the 405 Freeway for a summer weekend turned out to be the traffic disaster that wasn’t. But the debate it prompted — about mobility, transportation and the primacy of the freeway in L.A.’s collective imagination — was overdue and productive.

The Sadik-Khan influence. New York transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has made plenty of enemies by carving out new bike lanes in the city and pushing for congestion pricing. But her message is being heard nationwide: Just look at the new, bright green bike lanes on Spring Street in downtown L.A.

New World Center. Frank Gehry’s Miami Beach building for Michael Tilson Thomas’ New World Symphony looks a plain stucco box from the street. But inside is a whole village of spaces for playing and practicing music, not to mention a breakthrough in exploring the relationship between technology and live performance.

“Open City.” Teju Cole’s debut novel, whose protagonist is both an unreliable narrator and a tireless flâneur, contains memorable descriptions of architecture and urban form on nearly every page; imagine W.G. Sebald describing multicultural, post-Sept. 11 Manhattan.

The worst: Downtown megaplans. With Farmers Field and a revamped, expanded Union Station, Los Angeles is planning megaprojects at both the south and north ends of downtown. Both sadly are shaping up as business as usual, thanks to disappointing designs for the stadium and a cautious, even timid, shortlist for the Union Station master plan.

los angeles times

COMMON ASSEMBLY I: Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Posted: 27.10.2011

Common Assembly: Deterritorializing the Palestinian Parliament is a long-term
project to think through and conceive spaces for political participation, decision
and action for all Palestinians. This autumn, the United Nations will vote on whether
to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state and a member of their assembly. This
event’s arrival on the heels of other liberation struggles throughout the Middle East
makes it a historic moment with great potential. Whatever the vote’s outcome,
Palestinians must deal with a significant spatial problem: how can political
participation be organized for a partially exiled—and therefore, geographically

Where different revolutionary initiatives launched by Palestinian academics and
various factions seek to address this problem on the political and institutional level,
DAAR is committed to thinking through this problem on the architectural, territorial
and (extra) territorial levels. The studio has been granted access to the Palestinian
Parliament building in Abu Dis. It was constructed with international donations during
the Oslo years but the project was abandoned before completion. Now the Wall cuts
the building off from Jerusalem. The building stands as a monument to the collapsed
peace process but this condition of local impossibility allows for a political imaginary
to arise. Thus, the building becomes a starting point to imagine new types of political

DAAR decided to use the building both as a site of intervention as well as a site of
architectural speculation. DAAR’s goal is to work through an understanding of the
relationships between territory, population and political representation. In Palestine,
the population cannot be represented by a single parliament building, as it would
serve only a people within imposed borders that fragment all those who see
themselves as Palestinians; it must operate through disassociations in which the
people, the building and the territory are categories in constant motion in relation to
each other.