At the beginning of the meeting, Jan Duursma and Liesbeth Levy introduced the overall curatorial concept for Rotterdam Cultural Capital 2001, and explained their specific individual fields. Duursma is responsible for the "Material Domain" (incl. architecture, urbanism, public space, etc.) and for the Transparent City and the Home City. Levy also works with Zaal De Unie where she organises cultural debates, and she is responsible, amongst other things, for the Spiritual City. Reference was made to the motto "Rotterdam is many cities" (based on Italo Calvino"s story about the "Invisible City") and to the descriptions of the 18 different conceptual cities that have been defined (these descriptions can be found in the NRW.NL.Media Logbook, and on the RCH2001 website at http://www.rotterdam01.nl ).
The choice of the 18 cities was the result of extensive discussions and is based on both the thinking about "what the city is currently about", and on an analysis of existing cultural practices and project proposals for 2001. According to Duursma, the 18 cities represent 18 approaches to the identity of Rotterdam; they are a means of telling and testing what exists, lives, is important in Rotterdam today. The interaction of individuals and groups plays a central role. The basic curatorial concept for RCH2001 is not to define the programme, but to seek out the activities in the city and to tease them out on their own terms. The programme emerges from the concrete project proposals that are made from the different groups and institutions in Rotterdam. In assessing and developing these projects, their adoptability beyond 2001 is an important, though not exclusive criterion.
Several points were then raised in discussion. A. Broeckmann suggested that the motto for RCH2001 needs to be read in a radical way: rather than looking at "the city" through a variety of different lenses, the city has to be understood as a construction; to read Rotterdam as "a city" is a strategic move, and to read it as "many cities" is a strategic move as well. It implies that Rotterdam is viewed as a multiplicity of constructions. M. Schwarz added that the same issue arises when we try to define the "borders" of the city, something that seems practically impossible in a globalised and networked situation like today. Discussing and defining the borders becomes a strategic operation which has to be conducted very consciously. And is Rotterdam is viewed as a multitude and a heterogeneous field of separate, interconnected cities, then we have to look at the productivity of the friction and the clashes between them, as much as we look at the synergetic effects.
H.U. Reck remarked that the notions of recognition and identification sounded awkward to him in relation to the city. Unlike the village, the city, the site of urbanity, is characterised by chance encounters with strangers, with aliens, with the unexpected. Cities are what they are because of these encounters and clashes with the unknown. This means that the cultural programme of a city cannot simply aim for "identities" and their musealisation, but it has to engage with a heterogeneous field of living transformation. (Somebody suggested that maybe the motto should be changed to "Rotterdam is many villages and some cities".)
Jan Duursma pointed out that many of the metaphors we were using in our questions and comments were related to spaces, whereas the conceptual thinking for RCH2001 was strongly influenced by the thinking about "narratives". Rotterdam is read as many parallel narratives, not really as complex, intersecting spaces. The goal is that the emerging relations between the different projects become so strong that the narratives become implicitly apparent.