Architectural Dissidence

CELLTEXTS [Ines & Eyal Weizman, 2008] is an archive of texts, love letters, philosophical statements, letters to mothers, songs, treatises, political manifestos, and novels… written from incarcerated dissidents all around the world. The library uses the writer’s time spent in prison (1 day to 45 years) to organise an amalgam of published knowledge. This makes the cell be read as a space enhancing mental freedom:


< […] The cells are thus revealed as sites of intellectual production, marking the limit condition of writing. The collection is assembled in recognition that spatial confinement and isolation may induce a process of creative, imaginative, sometimes spiritual, cultural production. The individual’s impulse to survive through texts, through reclaiming her own voice against the imposition of others, creates an autarkic realm in which practices of dissidence, political and personal, could be reinstated. Commissioned and designed by and for the state, prison cells acquire a potential subversive content, becoming critical spatial apparatuses. Paradoxically, imprisonment emerges as an active practice of citizenship a mechanism of political opposition that call for a confrontation or intolerance with certain forms of government.


For many prisoners, the prison could offer a period of reflection, scholarship and education as well as a resonating chamber for political dissent. Regis Debray described the Prison as “the dissident’s second university”. Antonio Gramsci was forced to write in code to bypass the constraints of the prison and its censorship. Ezra Pound learns from the Chinese Encyclopedia which he smuggled into his Pisan cage. For Antonio Negri it was the routines of the prison that represented the principal form of punishment in a capitalist society. Auguste Blanqui formulated in the middle of the 19th century, a detailed guide for the armed uprising of the revolutionary multitudes which included sketches and street maps with exact details of barricades. Many writers are fascinated with insects and animals coming into their prison cells. […] >

[Excerpt from Ines & Eyal Weizman’s statement. Read full text]


In the same line, Architecture and the Paradox of Dissidence Symposium [London, 15-17 Nov 2012] will examine new forms of critical spatial practice within political regimes.

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