Sunday, 8 March 2015

Urban Studies and Contemporary Art

This lecture will focus on the "and" of urban studies and contemporary art: where do they meet, why, how, what do they hold in common. I will concentrate on works that see the city and the urban as the human form of life, a thing and dimension simultaneously material and meaningful, produced by human beings at the level of everyday practices, and, producing us as human beings. I'll look at few basic and fundamental themes. All main references can be found here in this blog.

1. What is space?

Gordon Matta-Clark: Building cut 1970ies
Eyal Weizman: Walking through Walls

“This space that you look at, this room that you look at, is nothing but your interpretation of it. Now, you can stretch the boundaries of your interpretation, but not in an unlimited fashion, after all, it must be bound by physics, as it contains buildings and alleys. The question is: how do you interpret the alley? Do you interpret the alley as a place, like every architect and every town planner does, to walk through, or do you interpret the alley as a place forbidden to walk through? This depends only on interpretation. … Urban warfare increasingly depends on technologies developed for the purpose of “un-walling of the wall,” to borrow a term from Gordon Matta-Clark." Eyal Weizman, Walking Through Walls

2. Space and Power

"Discipline is an art of rank, a technique for the transformation of arrangements. It individualizes bodies by a location that does not give them a fixed position, but distributes and circulates them in a network of relations." Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish

Stefano Boeri & Multiplicity: Road Map 2003
Atelier Van Lieshout: Slave City 2005 -

"If it is true that the grid of "discipline" is everywhere becoming clearer and more extensive, it is all the more urgent to discover how an entire society resist being reduced to it, what popular procedure (also "minuscule" and quotidian) manipulate the mechanisms of discipline and conform to them only in order to evade them". Michel De Certeau, the Practice of Everyday Life

3. What is the city?

"cities are, by definition, full of strangers." Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American cities

Marjane Satrapi: Persepolis 2000 - 2003/ 2007
Guy Debord/ International Situationists: Psychogeographic Guide of Paris 1957

"ONE OF THE BASIC situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll. …
The ecological analysis of the absolute or relative character of fissures in the urban network, of the role of microclimates, of distinct neighborhoods with no relation to administrative boundaries, and above all of the dominating action of centers of attraction, must be utilized and completed by psychogeographical methods." Guy Debord, Theory of the Dérive

Robert Doisneau: The Kiss 1950
Albert Lamorisse: Le Ballon Rouge 1956
Banksy: With Syria - There's always hope 2014

"Shock as poetic principle in Baudelaire: the fantasque escrime (fantastic duel) of the city of the tableaux parisiens which is no longer home. It is a showplace and quite foreign." Walter Benjamin, Central Park

Tea Mäkipää: Atlantis 2007
Francis Alys: The Modern Procession 2002
Shunji Iwai: Swallowtail Butterfly 1996

"One vast reservoir of common wealth is the metropolis itself. The formation of modern cities, as urban and architectural historians explain, was closely linked to the development of industrial capital. The geographical concentration of workers, the proximity of resources and other industries, communication and transport systems, and the other characteristics of urban life are necessary elements for industrial production. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the growth of cities and the qualities of urban space were determined by the industrial factory, its needs, rhythms, and forms of social organization. Today we are witnessing a shift, however, from the industrial to the biopolitical metropolis. And in the biopolitical economy, there is an increasingly intense and direct relation between the production process and the common that constitutes the city. The city, of course, is not just a built environment consisting of buildings and streets and subways and parks and waste systems and communications cables but also a living dynamic of cultural practices, intellectual circuits, affective networks, and social institutions. These elements of the common contained in the city are not only the prerequisite for biopolitical production but also its result; the city is the source of the common and the receptacle into which it flows." Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri, The Commonwealth

4. Building the city

Anri Sala: Dammi i colori 2003
Anne Salmela & Anna Tuominen: Valolinna 2014

"A REVOLUTIONARY ACTION within culture must aim to enlarge life, not merely to express or explain it. It must attack misery on every front." Guy Debord, Report on the Construction of Situations etc.