Selected works by Wafa Hourani

Wafa Hourani
Qalandia 2067


Mixed media, in 5 parts

400 x 700 cm

56 x 81 x 80 cm

Check Point and Bar:
56 x 80 x 73 cm

Qalandia Refugee Camp 1:
50 x 77 x 170 cm

Qalandia Refugee Camp 2: Base size: 81 x 50 x 110 x 7 x 127 cm Height: 55 cm

Wafa Hourani is a Palestinian artist living and working in Ramallah. Combining photography and sculpture his Future Cities projects deal with the social, political, and economic realities of Palestinian life to develop grim and apocalyptic predictions for the residents of the West Bank. Qalandia 2067 takes its name from the main check point crossing through the West Bank Security Fence which divides the cities of Ramallah and ar-Ram; it is a site of political unrest and human rights concerns. Dating his piece 2067 – one hundred years after the Arab-Israeli 6 Day War – Hourani has constructed 5 scale models envisioning the future of a refugee camp where time seems to have regressed rather than evolved. Basing each segment on an actual site – the airport, border crossing, and 3 settlements – the buildings are rendered as war-ravaged and crumbling, crowned by implausibly archaic remnants of TV antennae. Each building is a miniature light-box illuminating glimpses into the private lives of the residents through film strips placed in the windows, an unnerving reminder that this science fiction horror is, for many, an everyday experience.


Heterotopia as the process of art

Curator Catherine David discusses the First Contemporary Art Biennale of Thessaloniki

By Iota Myrtsioti - Kathimerini

Almost every major arts and culture venue in Thessaloniki is hosting some part of an enormous, ambitious art exhibition this summer. Titled "Heterotopias" and featuring 77 artists from 41 countries, the First Contemporary Art Biennale of Thessaloniki addresses the issue of "center versus periphery." Inaugurated at the State Museum of Contemporary Art on May 21, the exhibition is about locating "heterotopias" (misplacement or displacement) in global art and juxtaposing the real world with that of art.

The philosophy behind organizing yet another international biennale of contemporary art is explained by the acclaimed art historian Catherine David, former director of the famed Documenta art expo in Kassel, Germany, and currently one of the three curators responsible for the Thessaloniki event. The French curator was invited to recommend works by artists from the Middle East. Contemporary Art Museum director Maria Tsantsanoglou is curator of art from Central Asia and from the countries of the former Soviet bloc, while Jan-Erik Lundstrom � director of Sweden's Bild Museet in Umea - recommended artists from Africa and Latin America.

David's recommendations reveal a generation of artists who worked according to their own rules, under particular political circumstances, and who transformed reality in a truly essential manner. For many of the artists this is the first time their work will be on display at an international event.

What can yet another biennale offer?
I don't feel as though we are starting from zero, because the State Museum of Contemporary Art already has a world-renowned collection (the Costakis Collection). The event, furthermore, will offer an opportunity for the public and critics alike to become acquainted with works of art that are not normally represented in conventional international biennales organized in Europe.

Does this event have a possibility, in your view, of eventually becoming on a par with the major biennales (Venice, Sao Paolo, Sydney, Berlin)?
There are biennales that are held mechanically and artists who show their works as decor. A very interesting event in my opinion is that at Sao Paolo, because it expresses the social environment through dialogue. Berlin's, even though it has been held six times already, has failed to create a particular profile. I think that for a biennale to survive among others, it must have an identity. Of course, once the Thessaloniki event is over we will see what the city can do to promote and support it. But it is very important not to become restricted to the two dozen artists who recycle contemporary art.

Do you see any early indications as to the identity of the Thessaloniki event?
All the curators are working with artists who in the main don't belong to the so-called Western world. Our objective is not to present an exhibition that is exotic, but to present work by unknown artists who will initiate a dialogue with the so-called Western world. What is certain though is that we are not looking at their art through a protectionist or colonialist perspective.

Read the entire article here

Qalandia 1948-2087

By Wafa Hourani, Photolife, 2009

1948 | Israelis took over Palestine and ethnically cleansed hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns. Palestin- ian refugees were forced to settle in many camps in the surrounding region. Qalandia camp was located in a piece of land between North Jerusalem and South Ramallah became home to thousands of refugees. ( Qa- landia was named after a nearby airport by the same name. )
1967 | The Israelis occupied the rest of Palestine, and Qalandia airport became a lonely military zone, except for the fact that it was located at the entrance of Ra- mallah, where many visitors from Jerusalem passed.
1987 | The first Intifada erupted and the airport became a line of confrontation between Qalandia’s residents and Israeli soldiers.
2001 | The second Intifada broke out. The Israelis built a massive checkpoint next to the airport which overshad- ows the camp. Qalandia checkpoint became the main crossing between Northern and Southern Palestine.
2003 | The Israelis built the notorious apartheid WALL to exclude the Palestinian population in the occupied West Bank. Qalandia became even more isolated from its surroundings by giant concrete blocks.
2005 | Yasser Arafat died in a hospital in France and the Palestinian people are left to fill the void left behind by this icon of their national liberation struggle.
2016 | A Palestinian from the camp by the name of Abu Jamil missed the sea and the fish so much, he dug a pool beside his home and brought a golden fish to swim in it. People in the camp say that Abu Jamil brought us the sea. The fish loved the camp so much,
she got used to the people visiting her laying in the sun and having barbecues in her pond. Soon Abu Jamil’s golden fish became a local attraction for the refugees.
2019 | After many years of living in what became an overcrowded open air prison, the Palestinian Mirror Party ( PMP ) decided to cover the WALL with mirrors to create the illusion of more space and seeing their re- flection everywhere, people began to wonder how they got in there.
2020 | Qalandia School changed its name to Impossible School. And the students closed the basketball rings. No goals in the game.
2023 | An Israeli company for tourism built near the checkpoint a discothèque bar with an aquarium and one golden fish. They called it Checkpoint Bar to en- courage trippy-political tourism.
2025 | Palestine made the Guinness Book of World Re- cords for the biggest mirror in the world that caused many tourists to come and visit Palestine.
2028 | Checking in the checkpoint changed from palm scanning to an audiovisual-check. As you look into the blue light you say Weehaa.
2030 | The Israelis fixed laser lights on the holes of the WALL to tighten security. The Palestinians were furious as the holes were meant to help remove the WALL, not to fix laser points in it.
2033 | The Palestinians start talking about the revolu- tion again. They build the STONE GARDEN for the 50th commemoration of the first popular Intifada in 1987.
Qalandia 1948-2087
2037 | The Fish died, all the camp cried and said the fish died, the sea died. They took out the water and bur- ied the fish and called it the FISH TOMB. Then the visits changed from picnics, singing and dancing to a Mar- tyr’s memorial, where flowers are laid and silence kept.
2044 | The Palestinians improved their economic situ- ation after a complete boycott of Israeli products. This prompted many investors to move from Dubai to Ra- mallah.
2047 | The Palestinians built a garden in the camp and called it the “Flower Garden”. It became a romantic space for young and old lovers from the camp.
2049 | Students at Qalandia School opened their bas- ketball rings but they made it very big.
2052 | Palestinians refuse to say “weehaa” while pass- ing the checkpoint.
2058 | The Israeli government shut down the Mirror Party offices in Jerusalem as the police launch a cam- paign against anyone possessing a mirror.
2060 | The Israeli company for tourism changed the golden fish in the Checkpoint Bar to shark fish to pro- vide more adventure for the tourists.
2061 | The Mirror Party reopened their office in Jerusalem. 2063 | Palestinians use the mirrors on the wall as an
electricity power plant.
2067 | Three candidates from the Mirror Party won seats in the Israeli parliament.
2069 | The Mirror Party celebrated their 50th Anniver- sary by creating “The Mirror Garden” – a garden with a big hand mirror where people can look at themselves that came with removing the lasers lights from the WALL after the International Criminal Court rules in their favor.
2072 | Students at Qalandia School made their basket- ball rings smaller to match the size of the ball exactly, for more precise aims.
2075 | Cinema Dunia opened along with the Qala Mod- ern – the first modern museum in Qalandia.
2081 | Someone from Jerusalem buys the Checkpoint Bar from the Israeli tourism company that owns it and converts it to AL Ajami Restaurant - Bar, featuring five golden fish in the aquarium.
2085 | The new Israeli government removed Qalandia checkpoint. The Palestinians kept the mike left be- hind and change the checkpoint to Speechpoint, a free speech area where people can say or sing what they like.
2087 | One hundred years after the First Intifada, Qa- landia’s residents celebrated in the Stone Garden after the Mirror Party’s historic agreement with the new Is- raeli government, which gives the Palestinian the 1967 lands ( the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem ) along with the right of return for all refugees.
They remove the cement from the wall and fix mirrors on the other side. For some it becomes known as the Mirror Wall, while I call it Maya Wall.

Fatal Strategies

By Greer Crawley

The analysis of miniature objects and of secrecy con- verges round questions of what can be seen, by whom and in what circumstances. It may also manifest itself in the form of what is conceived as exceptional sight- edness. ( Mack 2007: 119 )
Abstract | My research is located in the theatre of war and is concerned with the military use of terrain models, camouflage and decoys to create strategic scenarios. This study forms the context for an exploration of the de- ployment of similar scenographic strategies in contem- porary artistic practice. Drawing on my research into the use of simulation and deception in the target landscapes of modern military conflict, I discuss how artists are representing the distortions, disinformation, the carto- graphic omissions, the black worlds, and the silences of erasure and re-location; annihilation and elimination.
By addressing the myths and narratives of dis- closure, secrecy and invisibility, their projects present a challenge to the ascendancy of military procedures and work to reclaim the real.
For something to be meaningful, there has to be a scene, and for there to be a scene, there has to be an illusion, a minimum of the real, which carries you off, seduces or revolts you. Without this properly aesthetic dimension, mythical, ludic, there is not even a political scene where something can happen. ( Baudrillard 1999: 1 )
The Palestinian artist Wafa Hourani’s work rep- resents the scenographic and often fatal strategies for staging the political. Through the optical and meta- phorical forms of his models dioramas the political scene is set and the narratives of appearances and disappearances,inclusion and exclusion, observation and control are told. His work illustrates the Baudril- lardian illusion – the tiny distance that makes ‘the real play with its own reality’ ( Baudrillard 1999: 173 ).
Hourani speaking of his installation Qalandia 2047 has said: My artworks are politically strategic. I fixed the mirror on the wall from the Palestinian side as a sug- gestion for a new political party, the Mirror Party that appears in the future in Palestine after Fatah and Hamas. This kind of complex conflict needs long term projects and strategic way of thinking. Each Palestin- ian needs a mirror so that they can see themselves. ( Hourani 2009 )
Qalandia is the story of a refugee camp estab- lished in 1948. It tells how the airport nearby changed from Qalandia airport to a military zone and then there was a checkpoint and then the separation wall. Origi- nally working as a documentary filmmaker, Hourani stopped ‘filming reality’ and began to think how to use the details he had been recording inside the images in another scenario. He decided to make Qalandia 2047 as a model using the photographic images from the camp. By inserting the ‘real images’ into the model, Hourani created a representation of a world within a world.
Susan Stewart notes in On Longing how in the tableau ‘we see the essential theatricality of all min- iatures; the miniature becomes a stage on which we project, by means of association or intertextuality, a deliberately framed series of actions’ ( Stewart 1993: 54 ). Qalandia demonstrates Stewart’s observation: That the world of things can open itself to re veal a secret life; this is the daydream of the microscope: the daydream of life inside life, of significance multiplied infinitely within significance. The state of arrested life we see in the tableau [...] always bears the hesitation of a begin- ning. ( Stewart 1993: 54 )
In Hourani’s models, the viewer walks pass the checkpoint and the wall, listening to the sound inside the houses with the antennas on the top, peering into the three colourful future gardens – Fish Garden – Stone Garden – Flower Garden. The city is built from people and real-life situations. The decision about what and when to include a particular feature is care- fully considered. ‘The mirror came after there was a wall to hang it on [...]. The gardens came after there was no space to build gardens in the refuge camps. The antennas are how they received information’ ( Hourani 2009 ). Hourani incorporated more and more details to be sure that the audience could ‘feel’ the camp and understand his message to think about the future of this place. It cultivates our empathy and according to the philosopher Robert Vischer, it is through empathy that we have the ability to ‘think’ oneself into the ob- ject: When I observe a stationary object, I can without
difficulty place myself within its inner structure, at its centre of gravity I can think my way into it, mediate its size with my own, stretch and expand, bend and confine myself to it. ( Vischer 1983 / 1994: 89-123 )
Hourani’s city resonates with the ‘enigmatic situations’ the architect Stephen Parcell attributes to the diorama. In its metaphoric architecture, Parcell says: We may imagine our own immersion in these situations: different vital states ( coma, paralysis, ec- stasy, death ), different social situations ( imprisonment, quarantine, stardom, freedom ), different atmospheric conditions ( liquid, gas, intense cold, vacuum ), and different temporal conditions ( slow motion, ancestry, deja vu ). ( Parcell 1996: 198 )
In Qalandia, the lights and sounds give a sense of duration and time passing. Unlike other architectural representations which are designed for visual con- sumption and are inanimate and devoid of haptic expe- riences, Hourani provides us with the sensual evidence of presence. We study his models closely, exploring with our eyes but also through our ears; seeking out aural and visual details. Ralph Rugoff writes in Homeopathic Strategies how: tiny artworks force us to draw closer and this forward movement parallels a mental process;
the more closely we examine minute details, the less we notice the gulf in size that separates us. The act of paying attention is in itself a kind of magnifying glass [...] this charges our experience of the object, imbuing it with an almost hallucinatory acuity. ( Rugoff 1997: 14 )
Event filled works like Qalandia reveal so much more than location. They have a spatio-temporal con- sciousness lacking in more supposedly ‘sophisticated’ maps. But as Paul Carter argues if such mappings ex- ist at all in mainstream consciousness it is ‘as aes- thetic toys, art objects, the mythic residue of collective dreams’ ( Carter 2009: 17 ). The toy model with its as- sociations of craft, nostalgia, and infantile desires of control is commonly perceived as an enclosed world set apart from the ‘real’ – a diminutive elsewhere. Stew- art, however, gives us a more generous interpretation of the toy’s purpose and meaning. She describes how the toy is ‘a device for fantasy, a point of beginning for narrative. To toy with something is to manipulate it, to try it out within sets of contexts’. By her definition, Ho- urani’s toy world is ‘a miniaturised real world in which the relationship between materiality and meaning are tested’ ( Stewart 1993: 58 ).
Wafa Hourani employs the strategies of humour that the philosopher Simon Critchley recommends in dealing with ‘tragic fate’. According to Critchley, ‘In the absence of Aristotelian happiness, in a world where happiness has been reduced to the maximum satis- faction of transient inclinations, it is in practices like humour that we find an experience of non-delusory, non-desultory and non-heroic sublimation’ ( Critchley 2007: 82 ). Through the use of humour Hourani’s models perform an important and powerful critical function. They charm and amuse us with their joyous and exotic depictions of life elsewhere but we go away disturbed by the presence of the ‘other’ and the realisation that there is this place somewhere.
These models are not the sophisticated uninhabited architectural presentations used to promote a devel- oper’s or a politician’s utopian visions that are more frequently dystopian in their omissions. In contrast, Qalandia is a shambolic construct full of colour and presence. As the writer J. B. Jackson noted in The Ne- cessity of Ruins: This is how we should think of land- scapes: not merely how they look, how they conform to an aesthetic ideal, but how they satisfy elementary needs: the need for sharing some of those sensory ex- periences in a familiar place: popular songs, popular dishes, a special kind of weather supposedly found no- where else, a special kind of sport or game, played only here in this spot. These things remind us that we be- long – or used to belong – to a specific place: a country, a town, a neighbourhood. [...] above all a landscape should contain the kind of spatial organization which fosters such experiences and relationships; spaces for coming together, to celebrate, spaces for solitude, spaces that never change and are always as memory depicted them. ( Jackson 1980: 16 )
J. B. Jackson was drawing on his experiences in combat intelligence during World War II, and was spe- cifically referring to the military landscape which he felt could provide an example for post-war planning. For Jackson ‘the military landscape revealed two as- pects of humanity: Those urgent, unremitting efforts to establish communications, the trailing wires and signs and symbols and coloured lights, foreshadowed our present groping for new kinds of community’( Jackson 1980: 17 ). But he went on to warn that the other aspect
– the desire for territory and power would continue to ‘mutilate’ the environment. Writing twenty years later, the cultural geographer, Denis Cosgrove, found that the modern landscape has already adopted the ‘spatial divisions, uniform vision and exclusionary practices’ of the military landscape ( Cosgrove 2000: 262 ). The threat
of terrorism and global warfare has extended the com- bat zone; the garden itself has become strategic as the war of terror is fought in homes and backyards of the enemy. As the human geographer and social scientist, Nigel Thrift observes ‘The image of the complete battle separate from the civilian life around it, is antiquated, unreal [...] elsewheres increasingly do not exist’ ( Thrift 2007: 263 ).
When the military project their desire onto a landscape they introduce violent transformations, changing citizenship into estrangement. The architect and philosopher, Rubió Ignasi Solà-Morales has argued that through the violence of war, the urban landscape becomes a terrain vague and ‘the strange, the inde- scribable, and the uninhabitable are brought to the surface’ ( Solà-Morales 1995: 123 ). Qalandia ‘attempts to name what cannot be classified’. As Paul Carter has argued, names like this both ‘mark a presence and its absence, they both order the chaos and admit it’. For Carter, such names should be understood as ‘com- pressed poems’ or ‘compacted myths’ ( Carter 2009: 25 ). Carl Schmitt wrote in The Nomos of the Earth ( 1953 ) that ‘Who dictates the law of the land, gets to name the land’ ( Mendieta 2004: 9 ). According to the sociologist Mitch- ell Dean, Schmitt usage of the word nomos means more than its usual translation as traditional or customary law. The action and process of nomos is given by the Greek verb nemein meaning to take, to allot and to assign, which in turn is the root of the German words, nehmen and Name. Schmitt himself uses the term Landnahme meaning ‘land-taking’ or ‘land-appropri- ation’ to capture this primary sense of the term. For Schmitt, Nomos is a “fence-word”: it creates territory, defines locality, marks places, separates backyards and defines households. ( Dean 2006: 4 )
Dean points out that from Schmitt’s perspective, when political thought ‘becomes “a-topical”, that is,as something whose ideal lies nowhere, or, even more strongly, which is driven by a Utopia, a “notplace”, the abstract universal individual is not simply a deterrito- rialized individual but a disoriented one’ ( Dean 2006: 7 ). It is our position as outsiders excluded from the systems of power and activity that Solà-Morales claims
‘constitutes both a physical expression of our fear and insecurity and our expectation of the other, the alter- native, the utopian, the future’ ( Solà-Morales 1995: 121 ).
The cultural geographer Kevin Robins observes in Into the Image ‘The utopian destination is imagined in terms of a place that is beyond disappointment and disillusion, and the utopian desire is to be in unity, at one, with such an environment.’
But he goes on to ask; ‘What is this desire that constantly seeks the “other” of any place ( and which cannot be satisfied by any real place )?’ Is it the desire for transcendence – to create an ideal new order or a flight from reality? ( Robins 1996: 16 ) Robins suggests that it is the latter. For him it is an inability ‘to come to terms with the condition of situated and placed exis- tence: an unwillingness to confront and deal with diffi- culty and disappointment, a reluctance to acknowledge and accept the limits and constraints of real situations’ ( Robins 1996: 16 ). The utopian model can encourage this dislocated view. The detached spectator is situated at a distance and as Smith points out in his discussion of spatial displacement this ‘Olympian position rewards its spectator with the pleasures of detachment and the personal inconsequence of all that they survey’ ( Smith 1993: 79 ). This is not, however, Hourani’s position. By positioning his models at a height that does not privi- lege the overview, he allows the spectator to become engaged with the spaces at eye level. Coming ‘face-to face’ with the occupants of these houses, the viewer experiences moments of recognition and identification. This is the view hidden from the military observers
who rely on the ability to survey the terrain from a
high vantage point. Their ( mis ) understanding of the ‘ground truth’ 1 is based on ‘topographical command and control’ methods which require an elevated posi-
tion ( Weizman 2006: 166 ). The cultural theorists, Ryan Bishop and John
Phillips in The Slow and the Blind tell us that in its ear- liest manifestation, the skopos ( from the ancient Greek target ) was one who watches out for and is the guard- ian for the community, a kind of epi-scopus or overseer [...] later the word skopos became associated with the military and referred to a spy or scout who seeks out and marks the target [...] an intelligence gatherer and surveyor of the battlefield. Bishop and Phillips con- clude that ‘In these senses, then, the scopic can both mark and target, as well as merge into the episcopal functions of governance and an overseeing of the na- tion and its interests’ ( Bishop / Philips 2010: 21 ). Houra- ni has taken on the role of the skopos as epi-scopus and through his narrative constructions is challenging the militaristic initiatives that attempt to bring about erasure. He is demonstrating through the model the scopic conditions of surveillance and resistance.
Hourani has set no time limit on development of his projects. In theory, Qalandia could be endlessly modified. Although he refers to photographs and his direct experience of the locations represented, the mimetic relationship between the model and its refer- ents is selective. The challenge for Hourani is to create a fictional world which can persuade the viewer of its validity as a location. At the same time, his projects resist the norms of cartographic representation what Massey calls ‘the claims to singularity, stability and closure’ ( Massey 2005: 109 ). They are ongoing stories. It is through metaphorical and mythological specula- tions that these models make visible the ‘real’. In Carl Schmitt’s ‘political mythology of world order,’ it is the poetic, mythic and symbolic elements – as opposed to more rationalized forms of discourse – which help make the world thinkable, map-able, and thus form conditions of certain forms of ‘global’ political action ( Dean 2006: 1 ).
The architect and author, Eyal Weizman observed in Temporary Facts, Flexible Lines how during the war of 1948 the land registry maps of the West Bank were used to plan attacks against the Palestinian villages
‘they were initially conceived to serve, and helped the process that erased them from the ground only a few years after they were first recorded on paper’ ( Weizman 2006: 161 ). Paul Carter calls this annihilation of space, a ‘spatial sleight of hand’ a ‘geographical conjuring trick’, which ‘erases from collective memory [...] every trace of elsewhere in either time or space’ ( Carter 2009: 17 ). These are the gaps in representation – the erasures, the blind spots on the maps that Hourani addresses in his work. He constructs a strategic and scenographic response to the militaristic occupation and determina- tion of space by re-imagining the territory. Through his actions – acted out in the staged space, they engage in what Leach describes as the ‘transitory and fluid dis- course of territorialisation’ ( Leach 2006: 181 ). Qalandia is an imaginative demonstration of the ‘politics of de- sire’ and the possibilities of place making. Hourani’s models project into the future and address what might be. They are discursive and speculative representations of elsewheres that are no longer nowhere.
1 Ground truth is defined as the actual or ‘true’ battlefield situation. It serves as the basis of comparison for what the subject perceives the situation to be. ‘Toward a Methodology for Evaluat- ing the Impact of Situation Awareness on Unit Effectiveness of Dismounted Infantrymen’, C. Blackwell and E.S. Red- den, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Ft. Benning, GA, 2000
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