[What follows is our initial idea of what the theme of a subjective guide on Warsaw could be, and the research lenses with which we could enagage this theme and the city. We welcome critique, enrichments and problematizations. You can also download it as a PDF
!: Please note that the workshop starts at 5 November. not 3 November as stated in the PDF]
Cities are notoriously difficult to navigate. They are too dense, complex and synergetic to grasp as a whole. In these strange and emergent places the only recourse left is to trust the subjective. A subjective compass does not only make the metropolis more understandable, and approachable, it will make it yours.
THE NOTION OF HOME
Humanity is increasingly surrounded by herself and her own fabrications.
In 2001 it was estimated that 9 in 10 children born in the United States or the European Union will never see the Milky Way, the galaxy we life in, in its monumental and nocturnal glory. They will never have the experience of reading a book by starlight, something that is possible when there is no moon, no clouds and no artificial lights. Just with the shine of billions upon billions of neighboring stars. The Modern project of mental and physical enlightenment has obscured the mystery of the night’s sky.
Since 2008, for the first time in history, more people live in cities than in villages and somewhere in 2011, the seventh billion person was born. In 2014 four-and-a-half billion people were electronically connected to each other via mobile phones, of which one in five is a Smartphone with GPS. Increasingly we navigate our social and physical surroundings through an electronic prism. Day-to-day human experience is rapidly becoming more urban, more technological – more artificial. Mankind seems to be slowly retreating inside a controlled environment.
This is a transformative development for the human experience. We navigate an increasingly artificial surrounding that is full of purpose, in the sense that a bridge has purpose while a mountain has not – it’s just there. This sense of purpose is as multi-layered as our cultural realm is deep. It consists of countless claims of numerous stakeholders. Everything in a city – from street curbs, zoning laws to a stray bicycle – is emotionally, scientifically, creatively, politically, economically, judicially and technologically claimed by people. People who made it, people who use it, people who claim it. Our ever-growing urban environment is also increasingly abstracted and fragmented. This sense of purpose is not only present in our physical surroundings but it also affects our collective and personal ambitions and memories. Who, in these days of purpose, wants to wander aimlessly through life?
“(…) Manhattanism, whose program – to exist in a world totally fabricated by man, i.e., to live inside fantasy – was so ambitious that to be realized, it could never be openly stated.” — Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York (1978)
The urban condition increasingly takes place in our own imagination – a place where natural limitations and benchmarks are of less and less interest. Cities increasingly feel like endless interior spaces. But what does it mean to experience something in an environment where everything is conceived, created, marginally tolerated, moved, packed, or contested? To know that everything you do, will contribute to the man-made totality?
“SOUS LES PAVES, LA PLAGE!”
The concern for our increasingly artificial lifestyle isn’t new. In the fifties and sixties situationists and psycho-geographers, such as Debord, Vaneigem and Nieuwenhuys, criticized the mediation of human relations by objects. They held capitalism responsible for the shift of deeply felt individual experiences and expressions towards ritualistic and consumerist second-hand experiences – the modern spectacle. They purposed the ‘derive’, the subconscious wandering and adventuring, to shed oneself of preconditioned attitudes and habits. Basically, they wanted to replace the consumerist spectacle with a sensory one. And they were not the first (nor will they be the last). For more than two hundred years romantics and bohemians – from lonely William Blake to crowded hippie subculture – have tried to heal the increasingly rational, efficient and thus fractured urban world.
With our Guide Projects we consider ourselves a part of this movement.
With the guides are trying to develop subjective narratives that can serve as instruments that enable the user to navigate and appropriate the ever chaotic and emergent urban environment. Not to make cities more understandable or approachable, but to make them yours – to make them home. The underlying fascination in our efforts is undoubtedly this strange paradox that is hidden in the human condition: The more we are able to shape and control our environment, the more we feel alienated from it. It is the burden of consciousness, or, in more Catholic terms; the fruit we picked from the tree of knowledge.
THE WARSAW CONTEXT
Warsaw has had little time of its own. Its inhabitants consider themselves unlucky to have been occupied by outsiders, may they be Prussians, Tsarists, Nazis, Sovjets, Catholics or Neoliberal Multinational Scoundrels. According to Krzysztof Pijarski, the last transition made them feel like immigrants, moving through new cultural realms without changing place. Like most immigrants they long for home, an idea of belonging somewhere – a place they are part of and feel ownership over. We also feel this longing in the omnipresent Right to the City movement, to which most of the people we met could relate.
Homemaking is first and foremost an internal process, on both the individual as the cultural level. From this internal process one can draw strength and legitimation to expel any invaders.
[October 2nd we did a first brainstorm/exploration together with a group of about 25 participants on the ‘home’ theme and the suggested research lenses]
These research lenses, or urban layers, are open categories that we can use to measure, probe, scan, observe, navigate and reshape our environment. In one way or another these research lenses expose or approach certain elements that are important in the making of home.
CITY OF TOOLS — Our man-made world is a world of technology, technology for consumption or technology for production, and often both. Hands and minds make everything around us. More then anything else – like ideologies or philosophies – technological innovation is driving cultural change. Technology is omnipresent. It is the solid roof over our head, the clean water that comes from our tap, the food on our table, the language we speak, the memes that shape our thoughts and the laws we obey (or not). What do tools mean for our notion of home?
SPECTRAL CITY — Not everything that is man-made is tangible. Most things that are part of culture are virtual or mental projections. Imaginations. Unseen things that guide us and make us feel welcome, or not. Unseen things that emerge and stretch forward in time like our ambitions and expectations and those unseen things that stretch backwards like memories.
SERENDIPITY CITY — Do we need luck or can we make our own future? Our intuitive attitude to these questions must have some impact on our sense of comfort with the world and how we deal with uncertainty? Lucky City addresses the layers of fatalism versus free will, determinism versus chaos, consciousness versus innate materialism. Our position towards these answerable questions says perhaps a lot about our position towards our bossy managers, annoying neighbors and demanding boy- or girlfriends.
CITY OF LOVE — Warsaw is changing and shifting, charming and ruthless. Warszawiacy lovingly or hatefully follow her without really questioning her, sometimes cursing their destinies of being guided and bound by an immense love for their mythically unreasonable Sirenka. This river of love is too discrete for the eye to see and it’s by listening and following people as they roam around the veins of their city that we will unravel the unseen thoughts about those who will never come back but also the thoughts on the ones who are present and who fill the air with the warmth of their passion. To all and by all the lovers, mothers, poets, romantics, sex-flyers and dreamers of an 8th day of the week. Home is where the heart is.
“When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams,
as the north wind lays waste the garden.”
— Gibran Khalil Gibran “The Prophet”
CITY UNDER OCCUPATION — Sometimes claiming your freedom means the limiting the freedom of someone else, pathologically, economically, politically or socially. Other times you find yourself limited, blocked or trampled upon by others. By the ambitions or the worldview of parents, the narrow ideas of friends, or the economic restraints of shitty jobs. Or by larger, more powerful actors, like by the aspirations of religious and ideological movements, or by the secret maneuvering of economic and political bandits, or by unexpected street action of mindless hooligans. Or perhaps by the arrival of harsh winter. When do you feel under occupation, or blocked? When do you feel safe? What are your strategies?
WORK — Through work we shape the world. Through work we make sense of the world. Through work the world makes sense of us. What we do provides us with meaning and social status. Work is the whole of tasks that we deem necessary, may that be inside a family, a professional, or in an amateurish framework. We work when we bring our children to school, when we do the dishes, when we plant vegetables in our allotted garden, when we build a cupboard, or when we do the things we have to do to earn a bug. Work is done with hands, feet and minds. And through them we shape the city.
HOUSES — Where do we go when we want to be left alone? Where do we go to sleep? Where and how do we create our own little kingdom? And with whom do we do this? What do we do when we are at home? Is it a place to meet with friends? To have diner parties? Or is it a place to be alone? How do we decorate? What are our options – money, lifestyle – when we want to life in Warsaw?
METHODOLOGY OF GUIDE MAKING
The subjective guides to Beirut, Amsterdam and Tokyo were all based on a mix artistic and academic practices that involved mental geography, deep mapping and other subjective and objective appropriations of the city. The data was gathered during workshops of respectively, a week (Beirut), a weekend (Amsterdam) and two weeks (Tokyo). Then the participants took their impressions home and made their contributions to the guide. In attendance were basically all who cared and had the time: writers, academics, designers, filmmakers, photographers, architects, social engineers, urban planners, etc., etc.
For the Warsaw Guide we propose a couple of things:
Lets turn the Porthos-Space into a temporary laboratory of guide making. Like a city-sponge that absorbs all vibrations, movements and thoughts in the city. Like an Urban Reconnaissance Satellite, hanging stationary above Warsaw. A Soft Machine, of sorts. In this space we can organize lectures, tours and movie nights. People can join us for discussions, talks or just a place to work. It will be an open workplace. We’ll have coffee, beers and conversation.
The program is open-ended and we welcome plug-ins, interventions, suggestions and alterations by who wants to participant. So far this is the rough draft. Still tentative and loose. Also check out the Facebook event page.
— 1 keynote-lecture on the Notion of Home by Monnik and Rani al Rajji, held in the Porthos-Space.
— 5 keynote-lectures and tours. These keynote lectures and tours resemble the 5 subthemes.
— 2 lectures on the practices of respectively Monnik & Rani al Rajji.
— A Warsaw Guide Blog where all content is made accessible.
— Many maps of Warsaw on the wall where all stories are compiled with post-its, etc.
— Screening of films and documentaries on Warsaw
— If people sign up and commit to a contribution they can have a free workplace, with coffee, and free access to the lectures.
— If people daily submit to an interview or survey by one of the contributors they may also have access to the free workplace and lectures.
Fase 3 Workshop (5 – 16 November | Porthos Space)
- 5 November 2014: Tours by Students + Open Workspace
- 5 November 2014 Screening night 1
- 6 November 2014: Keynote Lecture (& Tour) 1 + Open Workspace
- 7 November 2014: Tours by Students + Open Workspace
- 7 November 2014 Party 1
- 8 November 2014: Keynote Lecture (& Tour) 2 + Open Workspace
- 9 November 2014: Tours by Students + Open Workspace
- 9 November 2014 Screening night 2
- 10 November 2014: Keynote Lecture (& Tour) 3 + Open Workspace
- 11 November 2014: Tours by Students + Open Workspace
- 11 November 2014 Screening night 3
- 12 November 2014: Keynote Lecture (& Tour) 4 + Open Workspace
- 14 November 2014: Presentations + Open Workspace
- 15 November 2014: Final Presentations
- 15 November 2014 Party 2