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!)
What makes environments beautiful? What distinguishes the beauty of the city from that of a meadow? How do technologies like self-driving vehicles and 5G shape our aesthetic experience of the city? These are some of the questions I discuss in an interview with the Finnish philosopher Sanna Lehtinen.
What is the difference between a travel influencer’s and an artist’s approach to capturing pictures of cities? I address this and many other topics in my interview with the fine art photographer Lance A. Lewin.
Asian cities are usually seen as chaotic. However that is because those of us who grew up in Europe and North America are accustomed to linear orders of things, be they buildings or written words. In my new video I talk about the logic behind Asian urban aesthetics.
Urban aesthetics is a marginal, though emerging field. This is surprising since it addresses a fairly common intuition that cities can be breathtakingly beautiful, and in a different way than paintings are beautiful. In my new video I talk about recent developments in the field and suggest that cities are not only beautiful because of their looks but also because of the dreams they allow us to dream and the stories they afford for our life.