January 14, 2021

Miami Dade College Museum Accused of Censoring Forensic Architecture Exhibition

Miami’s Freedom Tower, which contains the Miami Dade College Museum of Art and Design.

MIAMI, FLORIDA—Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art and Design faces allegations that it censored the work of London-based research group Forensic Architecture (FA), whose major exhibition “True to Scale” opened at the institution in February, according to the New York Times. The Florida museum is additionally alleged to have failed to renew the contract of the exhibition’s curator, Sophie Landres, as a punitive measure.

The controversy centers around Forensic Architecture’s stated goal of investigating, as part of its exhibition, the Homestead Emergency Care Shelter, a detention center for migrant children that is forty miles from the museum. Until August 2019, the federally funded for-profit private facility received $1 million daily to house the children, and had been called out in federal court for its cacophonous and crowded conditions. FA’s intended investigation was consistent with its oeuvre, which involves the investigation of possible human rights violations and similar events through 3D renderings of structures and streetscapes.

According to the Times, the museum, under the aegis of executive director and chief curator Rina Carvajal, who initially proposed inviting FA to exhibit, grew concerned when FA founder Eyal Weizman was prevented from obtaining a visa allowing him entry to the United States for the exhibition’s opening, owing to what authorities said was an algorithmically discovered “unspecified security threat” relating to him. After a statement by the absent Weizman proclaiming the exhibition “an occasion to launch a joint investigation with local groups into human rights violations in the Homestead detention center” was read at the show’s opening, the museum greatly scaled back programming related to the investigation, claiming that it had not been notified of FA’s intentions in this regard. The Times, citing documents it had accessed via a Freedom of Information request, noted that evidence shows that the museum was made aware of FA’s plans months previous, and of Weizman’s text the day prior to its public delivery at the opening.

In March, “Forensic Architecture: True to Scale,” which additionally featured FA’s investigations of violent events in Chicago and the West Bank, closed owing to the Covid-19 crisis. The museum did not move the show online, contending that its “complex elements” made doing so difficult, and instead directed some of the exhibition’s funding toward a digital experience called “I Remember Miami,” which featured people’s memories of the city. The museum reopened to the public in November with a group show themed around human relationships to technology.

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