Andrew Herscher


On his book Violence Taking Place: The Architecture of the Kosovo Conflict

Cover Interview of August 01, 2010


We’re surrounded by the images and remains of destruction—from the targets of so-called “terrorism” to those of technologically-sophisticated warfare.  This material suggests that architecture is no longer what it once was, or at least what it was once said to be—in Walter Benjamin’s famous words, “the prototype of a work of art the reception of which is consummated by a collectivity in a state of distraction.”

Indeed, the intensively visualized NATO air war marked a key moment in the formation of architecture as a privileged mediation of violence and thus, into an object of scrutiny for a public guided by military image capture and aesthetics.  In times and places of emergency, in other words, architecture is no longer the object of a distracted perception, but rather a perception that tracks violence, whether with fear, regret, satisfaction, confusion or unease.

During and since the NATO air war, then, a militarized public attention has been fixed on architecture, on buildings whose destruction is threatened, imminent, in process, complete, or anticipated.  These buildings are not only destroyed by violence; they also comprise decoys, lures or ruses, substituting for or repressing other sites and sights of violence.  There’s no time like the present, then, to scrutinize destruction more closely.

Violence Taking Place tries to suggest how this scrutiny might proceed and, in so doing, reframe our understanding of the violence that destruction often mediates.

© 2010 Andrew Herscher