DAAS Living Room for Palestine

Royal Institute of Art

 

Ahmed Al-Nawas, Beatrice Lopez, Sveva Crisafulli, Sarah Herfurth, Andreea Midvighi, Martha Pagliuca Pelacani, Ravenna Westerhout, Nera Jelaska, Andy Allen-Olivar, Stefan Fuchs, Herman Hjorth Berge, Robin Dingemans

In October 2023, Decolonizing Architecture Advance Studies (DAAS) participants brought carpets, sofas, bean bags, plants, a book shelf, books, pillows, makeshift tables and two large light boxes displaying images of Palestine – to the entrance foyer of the Royal Institute of Art. There was no official permission to use the space, and no consent of the management, staff and other students from the university, but DAAS participants were acting on a desperate physical need to process an extremely difficult moment not in the isolation of the classroom but rather in contact with the wider public that make up the institution. As Israeli aggressions on civilians in Gaza were resulting in rapidly increasing and unthinkable numbers of casualties, the students felt they could not participate in a course claiming to engage in “decolonizing” without doing something that would directly and in an unavoidable way challenge the claim of “neutrality” that the Royal Institute of Art makes in relation to this ongoing genocide. The students had previously formulated a public statement that the school, due to its position, would not condone or share on its open and external platforms. The ‘DAAS Living room for Palestine’ was a way to go beyond the writing of statements and arguments over semantics, and instead invite those needing a place to process, mourn, educate, discuss and confront to participate in meetings and conversations. The space resisted the idea that one can simply assume a position of neutrality, and instead invited everyone to bring their positionality into question and participate in dialogue. The ‘DAAS Living room for Palestine’ became a space for mourning, holding, learning, caring, commoning and solidarity. Among the guests we invited to join us for reflection and conversations were photographer and activist Shachaf Polakow, filmmakers Matt Peterson and Malek Rasamny, RIA Vice-Chancellor Sanne Kofod Olsen and many other invited and uninvited guests who joined our meetings and inhabited interacting with the space even when DAAS participants were not present.