In an increasingly globalizing world, the aesthetics of Dubai have become potentially available even for impoverished, peripheral cities such as Belgrade. With the explicit rhetoric of finally achieving a “global profile” for the city, the Serbian government has hired an Emirati company to build a “world city” in a centrally located district of Belgrade. The rationale for the development is explicitly aesthetic, and the high-rises planned articulate the globally recognizable aesthetic vocabulary of superlatives and (generic) modernity. The tall buildings suggest economic growth while forming a façade against which Belgraders play the role of extras. This paper builds on Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s notion of the body schema as well as James J. Gibson’s notion of affordances and recent contributions to architectural aesthetics that grew from it, to outline an alternative, embodied ideal of urban aesthetics. The paper presupposes that the common world is to be understood as a task to be achieved. The city, understood in its material form, as urbs, as well as in terms of social relations, as civitas, is the place where the common world can potentially be tangibly experienced. Its architecture narrates, but also affords and prohibits social change, and reversely social and political relations influence the making of the material city. The paper argues that a city’s place in the world is not a matter of gaining access to a supposedly pre-existing reality by displaying the right look, but of engaging actively in the making of the common world.
There will be keynote lectures by Jonathan Wolff (Oxford), Harini Nagendra (Bangalore), Annabel Brett (Cambridge), as well as numerous exciting inputs from researchers and artists like Sanna Lehtinen, Jonas Gillmann, Seraina Dür, Nitin Bathla etc.
Currently exploring entanglements with non-human agencies (particularly pigeons!) together with performance artists Jonas Gillman and Seraina Dür, as well as with the designer and ecologist Flurina Gradin.
We are planning a guided tour of the central train station in Zurich during the Otherwise festival at Gessnerallee in Zurich, as well as during my upcoming workshop “The City and the Wild” (more infos coming up!)
Have you ever attended a 24 hours long conference? One of the perks of the current tragic crisis is that this is now possible (I call it a perk because I love conferences; you might think it’s a curse). I have just attended a 24hrs conference on philosophy of the city. It was kicked off by our colleagues in Japan and closed by our friends in the Americas. My own presentation was on transcultural perspectives on the city and the wild, with a focus on Indian cities.
Elon Musk has some pretty concrete plans for the Red Planet. However, he mostly discusses technological and financial obstacles. I’m more interested in psychological and political challenges to living on Mars. And I found most insightful considerations from an unlikely source: Plato.
Plato’s Laws is about starting a new colony, the fictional city of Magnesia, on an isolated Cretan island. Many of the psychological and political difficulties that Magnesians would face can be juxtaposed to potential settlers on Mars.
The latest video on my YouTube channel is on possible cities on Mars.
I was extremely fortunate to have been able to take part in the Human-Technology Relations conference last weekend. What was most mind-blowing was the keynote lecture given by Prof. Ashley Shew (Virginia Tech). She talked about human-technology relations from the perspective of a technologically enabled disabled person (Prof. Shew’s lower leg has been amputated and she relies on wheelchairs and prosthetics). She dispels many of the common myths around disabled people such as that they spend all their time wishing they could be cured or enabled to walk again – an assumption Shew calls ableism, or that all disabled people should play along in the narrative of being an inspiration for perseverance and high achievement for the non-disabled.
Shew identifies as a cyborg. She draws attention to the fact that it is precisely the disabled who have immense experience with the interface between the human and the technologicized, since they deal with it in almost every moment of their life. Ironically, their perspective is almost never included in these discussions!
My contribution was on the way the city as a technology mediates to the wild. Both notions of the city (as the locus of the civilised) and the wild are historically shifting and constructed with various ends in mind and therefore require careful reflection. A video of my presentation is available here.