Urban Tendencies - Lectures: report

Report by Nadia Palliser about the Urban Tendencies lectures

Urban Tendencies discusses the relationship between new media and urban development. The programme focuses primarily on the possibilities that are created by digital technologies for participation of individuals and groups in public processes. It elucidates artistic and cultural projects that involve media, like Internet, large-scale image projections and interactive installations. 

The Urban Strategies, Urban Agencies lecture series looks for a new understanding of the urban domain, focusing on new translocal spaces in the network society of today and their intersection with changing conceptialisations of city space.  

Acting as a preface to the series as well as to the evening, Alex Adriaansens and Andreas Broeckmann introduced the re-structuring of the urban domain with the development of new media technologies, and the work of v2 in collaborating with artists who investigate and intervene in this process. Leaving territorially defined identifications behind to embark on a nomadic, network existence, traditional boundaries lose their original meaning and the social fabric becomes increasingly heterogeneous. The traditional defining structures of the city - locality, home, the division between public and private - need serious reconsideration. How can the old centralizing and homogenizing structures of the city cohere with this contemporary way of living? Decked out with the latest apparatus for "optimal" communication and transaction, physical borderlines seem to disappear, enabling us to join any online community without passport control... is this the famous "Global Village" or do we have to redirect our perspectives? If the human feeling of locality is dated, how can we orientate ourselves in these new spaces? Must we leave the subject behind to develop new strategies for translocal space, a domain of hyperlinks possibly implying a different social outlook? 

"The invisible shape of things past", a project from 1996 by Art+Com starts with a specific historical and geographical orientation of the city of Berlin. Instead of moving topographically through the city however, the user can move spatially through time, confronted with voluminous blocks of film, visualized in both time and space. The territorial orientation shifts to an abstract web-city, made up of different blocks of film shot in Berlin at different times.The user can drift in between, seeing time and space frozen by technological devices. Other examples, given by Alex Adriaansens, were "In the Event of Amnesia" by Dennis Beaubois and "Be Here Now -Welcome to the Neighbourhood" by Michael Naimark. In Beaubois"s project, twelve sites were selected in Sydney whereby a dialogue and response were sought with surveillance camera"s. The question arises: Are we subjects or suspects, or both at the same time as the camera watches our every move, without us knowing? 

Do these examples all pursue social and political issues of urban and media vectors, or does a project like "The invisible shape of things past" dive into abstraction, leaving material social conditions behind to pursue technological visualizations of time and space? 

Knowbotic Research also shifts through these domains, looking to create new forms of social actions by building technological interfaces. Their interest in the heterogeneity of social relationships, explored through collaborative projects, and manifesting itself in micro movements that replace defined structures by transacting energies. The networked and material construction made for "Anonymous Muttering" (DEAF96) researched interactive audio-visual environments created through urban and network experience. Sound and light, coming in as structured entities, was influenced and dispersed by participants in the installation (by moving and twisting silicon mats) and online, creating a fragmented and disorientating visual and audio cacophony. Participants complained of lack of feedback (usually "feeding" the subject). The IO Dencies project (Tokyo, Sao Paolo)connected forces of local orientation with mental maps of a few inhabitants. A search engine connected those with similar activities, yet the non-linear movement of these "mental maps" caused many misunderstandings and irritations, the intensities of the relationships constructed and destroyed each other at the same time, breaking up the concept of the network as something always connected smoothly to everything. This process seems central to the interface, always bringing change into any constructed entity. The most recent project, IO_ lavoro immateriale targets some of the central discussion topics of the public sphere: work, subjectivity and social production. In contrast to the earlier project phases, it builds on an already existing local discussion about Immaterial Labour. The project IO_lavoro immateriale is developed during the Venice Biennale and offers the participants a technologically supported organisational and operational platform for their interdiscursive processes. Supported by machinic self-organisation processes. With the use of machine-based interfaces, they aim to release energies, create relevance and potential effectiveness. 

Several audience members probed the seeming erasure of the subject in the projects described by Knowbotic Research. Subjectivity, as an autonomous entity, seems replaced by a fragmented actor, and abstracted space takes over local know how. Can a form of subjectivity still exist? Does the individual become simply a sensor in the new urban/technological environments? Does territorial orientation play a part in this subjectivity, also connected to the social and does this evaporate once the translocal pervades our activities? If the domain of this new urban condition, this new connective thinking, denies representation and is not social, what is it then?

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