I recently caught up with my friend Michael Adams, a Kansas City-based economist and amateur historian/genealogist, whose current area of interest centres on Missouri’s African-American community. Zeroing in on Wheatley-Provident Hospital, our discussion revolved around the indirect role Civil Rights legislation played in its eventual dilapidation.
What are the implications of media in today’s so-called post-truth society? Mediating technologies permeate everyday life, and rather than serving an emancipatory agenda, they tend to reinforce baked-in prejudices and ideological assumptions. Global media corporations like Google and Facebook extract billions of dollars of surplus value by exploiting their users’ self-generated, cultural and biometric information. […] Does agency lie in the human, the machine, or the mediation in between? Agency can be staked out in two concepts of freedom: a negative freedom-from (a refusal of things as they are) and a positive freedom-to (a refusal and simultaneously future-building project). The former entails resistance, even a claim to purity by refusing to participate in an unjust system. The latter entails refusal, but it also contains a recognition of contingency (‘there is no outside’) as a means to construct an alternative future from within the entangled complex of the present. Transmediale, Berlin’s festival for art and digital culture, makes a case for the latter.
The black box gives commands outside the performers’ control, but of course within the execution of those commands there is an element of discretion…If the algorithm cannot know that skin is soft and glass is sharp, can it be malicious in creating the circumstances under which that violent incident occurred? Did the choreographers intentionally accelerate the speed of the cues to push the dancers to the brink, to provoke that failure vis-à-vis human error?
I had the pleasure of interviewing Omsk Social Club Feat. PUNK IS DADA on the occasion of her work “Scene Afterform: Bona-fide Sites and the Meta Community,” presented at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich. The artist spoke about her motivations for creating this work inside the space of the institution, her interest in larp, and the constitution of a “meta-community” that intersects the real and the unreal of our social, cosmic, and unified selves.
Who does urban development really serve? I had the opportunity to go to Quito in October to participate in the transdisciplinary residency/exhibition “Mapear no es Habitar,” which was set in opposition to the approach of the official Habitat III conference. I wrote a critique for Failed Architecture, which exposes some of the underlying contradictions of global governance within the UN system regarding habitat production.
Last year’s popular book Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams set forth three interwoven political demands: full automation, universal basic income, and the future. However, the question of care work and its role in a fully automated post-work society remained largely unaddressed. In her forthcoming book After Work: What’s Left and Who Cares? (Verso, with Nick Srnicek), Helen Hester examines in depth the implications of automation for reproductive labour, its limits and its possibilities. I interviewed Helen on about work, technology, and domestic space.
Reflecting on Henri Lefebvre’s “spatial triad” and Expulsions, Saskia Sassen’s recent analysis of the global economy, I wrote about the project space as a space that projects. Positioned between center and periphery, the project space is a site for dissensus.
My article “Reclaiming Public Space for the Collective Imaginary” has been published in the second issue of Raumzine, a journal produced by M.A. Raumstrategien students and faculty at Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee. The article is part contextual analysis and part reflection on my recent Munich exhibition POINT BLANK together with Evangelos Papamatthäou-Matschke.
I’m pleased to announce the 31st issue of OnCurating journal, “Spheres of Estrangement: Art, Politics, Curating,” which I edited together with Jonas Becker, Matthew Hanson, Penny Rafferty, and Paul Stewart.
In the last keynote conversation of transmediale 2016, Hito Steyerl presented a perplexing image to the audience. The classified material leaked by Edward Snowden seemingly presents little more than static, or noise. Encrypted, the image would traditionally require machine decryption to be read. But instead of revealing the photograph concealed behind it, Steyerl referred to an internal NSA website posting, where an analyst describes a sea of data in which she is afraid she might drown. In an act of apophenia – or active misrecognition refusing to see the obvious – Steyerl argued that the noisy image does not require decryption to reveal its signal: the noise is the signal. It depicts precisely the sea of data in which we are all drowning. Divided into four streams — Anxious to Act, Anxious to Make, Anxious to Share and Anxious to Secure — transmediale/conversationpiece confronted post-anthropocene complexity to explore ways of moving through the information overload: the sea of data.
Wohnungsfrage, translated as “housing question”, is the title of the first major event within the long-term 100 Years of Now project at HKW Berlin. Bernd Scherer, director of the HKW, introduced the housing question as a kaleidoscope through which the world’s greatest problems become visible. Meanwhile, an unprecedented 60 million displaced persons worldwide have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere, raising the question of housing as such. Considering this fact, displaced people and the whole of the Global South are curiously underrepresented by the multifaceted project. Despite this glaring absence, Wohnungsfrage opens a space for questioning contemporary preconceptions about housing in general by focusing in part on the practices of four groups of social protagonists, represented in the exhibition by architectural constructions. By incorporating their diverse perspectives on the housing question, the project allows visitors to imagine the possibility of challenging the dominant economic system through alternative models of housing practice.
My article “Permanent Temporariness: A Container Home for Refugees in Berlin-Buch” has been published in the first issue of Raumzine, a journal produced by M.A. Raumstrategien students and faculty at Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee. Supported by my investigations and documentary photography, the article analyzes self-organized and deterministic housing typologies that have arisen in Berlin in recent years, focusing especially on a newly constructed container home for refugees recently granted asylum.
The stark Corbusian modernism of Berlin’s Tierheim – “animal home” – may seem a strange stylistic choice for a building meant to shelter homeless pets. Benjamin Busch visited the structure (actually built 2002, rather than 1962), to see how its uncompromising forms have fared with use, and found the solid monumental architecture with its programmatic distinctions and relationship to the natural landscape perfectly suited to its task: maximum cosiness for the animals, and convenience for caretakers and potential new adopters.
Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin wall, the peripheral landscape of former East Germany remains littered with Cold War junk. The decaying architecture of Soviet military hegemony persists silently in nature. I recently investigated the abandoned garrison in Vogelsang, near Berlin, for uncube. Drawing from my recently published photo essay in Horizonte No. 9 Ruine documenting murals in Vogelsang, the article further speculates on the value of such sites in contemporary society.
By considering the ruin to be the carrier of discourses and moving away as far as possible from ruin lust, i.e. the fascination of decay, we believe to find an access that avoids the obvious and sentimental. Only through this indirect approach we might form a perspective that not only focuses on the object but also on the ambiguity it releases. Concepts of present and past, nature and culture, memory and consciousness, clarity and transfiguration, thoughts and perception – become blurred and overlap. New opportunities to approach them and to see them as opportunities themselves emerge. A new consciousness beyond the linear narrative historical narrative shines through – the ruin reflects its decay and blurs its condition. Our fascination for the ruin becomes a fascination for disintegrating concepts. The absence of sense should not be seen as loss, as defect, as uncertainty. The subversive and constructive potential of the ruin lies in the ability to reinterpret those connotations.
The freshly printed volume Horizonte No. 9: Ruine contains my photo essay “Vogelsang Murals,” which questions the value of forgotten artworks of the Soviet era. Considered in the context of Socialist Realism, various murals at the abandoned Soviet garrison in Vogelsang are analyzed in writing and reproduced in vibrant color.
Extracting content from my photo books Palimpsest and Material Senescence, my article “Unstable Architecture” demonstrates the possibility of architecture and environment as an integrated whole. In the article, I make a case for the persistence of architectural failure. Not only do modern ruins and urban decay give us a sense of historical context, they also show us a variable image of the Anthropocene yet to be determined.