The 13th Istanbul Biennial Public Programme titledPublic Alchemy examines the ways in which publicness can be reclaimed as an artistic and political tool in the context of global financial imperialism and local social fracture. From February to November 2013, a series of lectures, workshops, seminars, performances and poetry readings will examine how a political, poetic alchemy is at work, both in Turkey and across the world, in which conventional concepts of ‘the public’ are being transformed.
Visions of the Now is a reconsideration of the 1966 festival and congress Visioner av Nuet, initially titled the ‘Stockholm Festival for Art and Technlolgy,’ which was initiated by Fylkingen and held at Tekniska Museet in Stockholm. This updated version takes place nearly half a century later, in a world that is fully immersed in the technology that in 1966 was still called ‘the new.’ What lies in the ‘and’ of art and technology now? Who is occupied with technology and its role in society? Which values do we want to maintain, and which ones should we challenge? Which of the gathering clouds are friendly and fluffy, and which are dark and menacing? It is time to explore these questions, transposed into 2013, to see what happens. Could these two precise moments in time, superimposed, help us better detect the present, and generate new visions for the future?
Two terms, or really, two groups of terms, seem to gather competing ideas as to how we might conceive anything like a collective, collectivity, or collective space today. The cityfigures prominently in both. On the one hand we have the set of concepts assembled around the term “public,” as in public realm, public sphere, public space, public sector, and “the public” itself. On the other we have the set of concepts associated with the term “common”: the common(s), common sense, and common wealth. The latter set resonates with communism, communal, and the like. But neither should its usage by environmentalists to debate an oft-misunderstood “tragedy of the commons” be overlooked; similarly, as the recent controversy over a potential “public option” in American health care reform showed, conventional Anglophone usage associates “public” with the welfare state and with liberal/progressive political reform more generally.
Their video showed clandestine urban “infiltration” (trespassing) at its most creative. Paris’s Urban Experiment group (UX), now in their fourth decade, have a restoration branch called Untergunther. They evade authorities to carry out secret preservation projects on what they call “nonvisible heritage.”
Being clandestine, they do not reveal their activities except for instances that become publicized in the media; then they reveal everything to set the record straight (and embarrass the media along with the authorities). In the video presented by Untergunther member Lazar Kunstmann and translator Jon Lackman, we see a hidden underground screening room and bar beneath the Trocadero in Paris’s Latin Quarter. When police discover it and shut it down, the equipment is surreptitiously removed to a site deeper in the city’s vast network of underground passages, where film showings continue to this day. One year the group’s annual film festival was staged and performed overnight in one of Paris’s great monuments, the Panthéon, built in 1790. In the video (excerpt here) we see a small boy slipping through newly crafted underground passageways, picking a lock, opening the cupboard with all the Panthéon‘s keys, and gliding on his skateboard beneath the great dome across the ornate marble floors by Foucault’s original pendulum as film enthusiasts set up a temporary theater and have a clandestine film festival—-gone without a trace by dawn.
Elsewhere in the Panthéon the explorers found a neglected old clock displaying stopped time to the public. In 2005 they decided to repair it. They converted an abandoned room high in the monument into a clock shop and hangout. With clockmaker (and UX member) Jean-Baptiste Viot they spent a year completely reconditioning the 1850 works of the clock. Now that it worked again, they thought it should keep time and chime proudly, but someone needed to wind it. They approached the Director of the Panthéon, Bernard Jeannot, who didn’t even know that the monument had a clock. At first dumbfounded, Jeannot publicly embraced the project and applauded Untergunther.
Jeannot’s superiors at the Centre des Monuments Nationaux accordingly fired him (early retirement) and brought suit against Untergunther. The court determined that fixing clocks is not a crime, and in France trespassing on public property is, in itself, not a crime. Case dismissed. Spitefully, the new Director of the Panthéon has made sure the clock remains unwound, and he disabled it by removing an essential part.
Lazar Kunstmann explained (through Jon Lackman) Untergunther’s perspective on cultural heritage, particularly “minor” heritage—-the countless objects that embody cultural continuity but don’t attract institutions to protect them. Who is responsible for such “nonvisible” heritage? The protectors should be local, self-appointed, and nonvisible themselves, because exposure of the value of the objects attracts destructive tourists. Preservation without permission works best without visibility.
Since 2005, Untergunther’s new precautions against discovery have successfully kept its ongoing preservation projects hidden. As for the Panthéon clock, that essential part the Director removed to disable it has been purloined to safekeeping with Untergunther. Someday authorities may allow the clock to tick again. In the meantime it is in good repair.
From: Stewart Brand <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [SALT] Preservation without permission (UX talk)
Date: November 15, 2012 3:01:11 PM CST
To: SALT list <email@example.com>
For example, under the headline Hyperbâtiment, the collective SYN have explored the subterranean city of downtown Montréal and filmed it as a megastructure in the heroic manner, worthy of mass investigation. Under the rubric Arrivals, photographers Arjuna Neuman and Ramak Fazel present a photographic record of their discoveries while incessantly scanning Montréal during their first encounter with the city. The Montréal-based collectiveAudiotopie have imagined Montréal as a musical composition. Their work will appear under the title Partition. Other contributors include FABG Architectes,Saucier + Perrotte Architectes, Atelier Big City and ATSA.
Communities Aren’t Just Places, They’re Social Networks
Who knew there were such die-hard swinging aficionados out there? This interactive-playground breakthrough is drawing fewer YouTube comments on its crazy design than, allegedly, the utterly pathetic technique of the swingers. They are “terrible swingers,” who look “like how a robot would try to swing,” and “the one in the red shirt clearly had no childhood.”
The New Museum is pleased to announce that the 2013 iteration of IDEAS CITY, the biennial festival created to explore the future city and to effect change, will take place in downtown New York from May 1 to 4, 2013. Formerly known as the Festival of Ideas for the New City, IDEAS CITY was founded by the New Museum as a major collaboration between dozens of downtown arts, education, and community organizations to harness the power of the creative community and imagine our collective future. This ambitious initiative is built upon the core belief that arts and culture constitute a driving force behind the vitality of urban centers worldwide. The overwhelmingly positive response led to the festival’s establishment as a unique biennial event in New York City with international satellite programs organized in intervening years.
It’s a grand plan for public art - 24 searchlights along the Ben Franklin Parkway, aimed into the night sky and moving in response to the sound of human voices.