The Mac at Place Ville Marie Launches its First Exhibition, Terror Contagion, by Forensic Architecture with Laura Poitras

In Terror Contagion, FA used the condition of global lockdown to turn its gaze to the digital violence of cyber-weapons. Contagion is the operative metaphor for this ongoing investigation of Israeli cyber-weapons manufacturer NSO Group, and the much-discussed abuses enabled by its malware Pegasus, sold to governments across the world. A powerful cyberespionage tool, Pegasus can be covertly installed on mobile phones and other devices, enabling operators of the tool to read text messages and emails, track calls and location, collect passwords as well as activate microphones and cameras. The 2021 Pegasus Project revelations rattled the world as a list containing thousands of potential “infections” of human rights defenders and high-profile individuals was leaked.

The investigation, Digital Violence: How the NSO Group Enables State Terror, led by Forensic Architecture director Eyal Weizman and researcher-in-charge Shourideh C. Molavi, along with team members Nathan Su, Lola Conte and Zac Ioannidis, examined dozens of targets of state surveillance—fellow investigators, journalists, opposition figures and activists, including the group’s friends—to map the terrain of a new digital battlefield in which the state wages war against its own people.

Hundreds of Pegasus infections and the corresponding physical violence are mapped in the installation presented at the MAC. We are brought into the workings of an ever-expanding digital platform visualizing almost two thousand data points documenting digital infections and physical attacks, as well as other related incidents. A sense of pervasive menace is heightened by an accompanying data sonification, a collaboration with renowned musician and producer Brian Eno.

Collectively titled The Pegasus Stories, the video testimonials are narrated by Edward Snowden, who exposed the largest US state surveillance project, anchoring the investigation in the lives of human rights defenders and their grounded struggles.

The exhibition also features a new short film by acclaimed documentary filmmaker and artist Laura Poitras, a long-time collaborator of FA, who accompanied the research agency throughout the investigative process. Poitras’s film is a…