Monday, November 06, 2006

FAQ 9: Sarcha’s current activity? Τρέχουσα δραστηριότητα της Sarcha?

Sarcha representative Maria Theodorou is making a number of public presentations to communicate the aim and analyse the context in which sarcha was created. The venues in Europe for November 2006 are:
Utrecht, Netherlands, 10 Nov., ‘Camp for Oppositional Architecture 2006’ international conference,
Athens, Greece, 11 Nov., ‘City, Culture and the Political’ international conference,
Edinbourgh, UK, 17 Nov., Architecture Research Seminar, School of Arts Culture & Environment,University of Edinburgh,
Ως εκπρόσωπος της sarcha, η Μαρία Θεοδώρου πραγματοποιεί μια σειρά δημόσιων παρουσιάσεων για να επικοινωνήσει το στόχο και το πλαίσιο στο οποίο δημιουργήθηκε η sarcha. Οι τόποι παρουσιάσεων στην Ευρώπη για το Νοέμβριο 2006 είναι:
Ουτρέχτη, Ολλανδία, 10 Νοεμβ., ‘Camp for Oppositional Architecture 2006’, διεθνές συνέδριο, ,
Αθήνα, Ελλάδα, 11 Νοεμβ., ‘Πόλη, Πολιτικό Πολιτική’, διεθνές συνέδριο,
Εδιμβούργο, Μεγ. Βρετανία, 17 Νοεμβ., Σεμινάριο Αρχιτεκτονικής Έρευνας, Σχολή Τεχνών, Πολιτισμού και Περιβάλλοντος, Πανεπιστήμιο Εδιμβούργου,

1 comment:

Markus Miessen said...

Read below a review of the camp of oppositional architecture by Markus Miessen:

Being political without producing politics. Camp for Oppositional Architecture, Utrecht, 2006

The moment I stepped out of the baggage lobby and entered the shopping mall at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, I felt a huge relief. I had arrived in Old Europe, with nothing but a small black pouch and a lot of nostalgic baggage of the continent. Not that there wasn’t enough of a similarly gentrified commerce in the city that I had just arrived from, but the economic pressure–the need to produce matter–had temporarily vanished.
One level below, I got on the convenient intercity to Utrecht where the charming director of Casco–the institution that hosted this year’s Camp for Oppositional Architecture to which I had been invited to present a paper–picked me up. The Camp, organised by the Berlin-based group AnArchitektur, is a biannual conference at which possibilities of resistance within the field of architecture and planning are debated. Under the conceptual heading of “Theorizing Architectural Resistance”, the conference set out to focus on analytical approaches that invent, explore and reflect on means to “withstand the demands
of a capitalist production of space”. The hosts had chosen both a relevant and appropriate site: as part of the Vredenburg Music Centre by Herman Hertzberger, Expodium–an exhibition space and platform for contemporary art–was accessible from the surrounding train station’s shopping arcade. Up to that point, the environments through that I had manoeuvred hadn’t changed since I had left the taxi outside London’s City Airport.
The enticingly warm welcome and casual atmosphere made everyone feel at home right from the start.
After a short introduction by Casco and AnArchitektur, the invited contributors, who were ranging from Zurich’s Elisabeth Blum and Ole W Fischer to Athens’ Maria Theodorou and New York’s Craig Buckley,started to present their papers, interspersed by brief roundtable-discussions. Other contributors to the
camp included Sheffield’s Jeremy Till and Tatjana Schneider, Madrid’s Alexander Levi and Amanda
Schachter, Rotterdam’s Miguel Robles-Duran and BAVO, and myself. While the first day was
characterised by a stimulating presentation on Tbilisi by Maria Theodorou (the most coherent speaker of the event), the evening was eclipsed by Miguel Robles-Duran’s series of bitter (but surely trendy) architectural celebrity dissing. The day ended in a state of confusion, which was made up for by the fact that everyone moved on to the opening of Anarchitektur’s show at Casco, which was a dazzlingly focussed alternative to the kind of shows a la Venice that we have all become used to. On Saturday, the more interesting contributions were that of Craig Buckley, who presented the French 1960’s journal
Utopie as a form of alternative practice, while Ole W Fischer called to unite and produce discursive alternatives to post-critical debate, shifting meaningful practice back onto the radar screen.
Once I had made my way to the hotel, I was puzzled. Thanks to presentations that concentrated on
potentialities of discourse and practice, the event had its moments of clarity. However, I couldn’t help but feeling the inevitable: that it lacked focus. Rather than discussing blueprints for change that might leave behind what we criticise as outmoded concepts, we were regurgitating leftist claims. There was a
general negativity that, maybe because I had only arrived from London, I couldn’t quite follow. It seemed that we were in serious need of some criticality towards what one is actually putting ‘on’ the table.
Whereas the so-called ‘capitalist enemy’ is constantly cooking one dish after the other, the Camp was
too scared to even get ingredients out of the fridge. Money and economic realities were never mentioned. The fact that all contributors were essentially
Middle Class theorists or practitioners was being left behind at the gates. And so was ‘the enemy’. It wasn’t too hard to tell that some of the participants had just arrived from Berlin, a city that manages to
exist in an economic vacuum in which everything seems possible (culturally) while nothing is happening (economically). Since this second Camp was no longer based in Berlin but Utrecht (and drew a much more international crowd), it would have been helpful to differentiate between the economic realities across the EU, especially when talking about education and how this is part and parcel of an economy (both in terms of while one is studying and after, and how that economy consequently has an effect on
the calibre of practitioners it churns out).
Two idioms, which were already manifest in the event’s title, did not help: ‘camp’ and ‘oppositional’. While the former defends a delineated territory, which essentially caters for an insular conversation, the latter clearly distinguishes itself from something that has to be named (the coalition) while rarely offering operational modes of action, but rhetoric. It seemed to me that especially today, where capitalism will appropriate your disaffirming move before you have even made it, the idea of the ‘oppositional’ needs to
be rethought. At the same time, it needs to be pointed out that the goals of the Camp (“Theorizing
Architectural Resistance”) have been met. Theorizing worked. But then what? Architecture?
For a start, it would have been helpful to invite polar opposites to join the discussion. Why not invite a shopping mall developer, a bureaucratic council planner, and a speculative mass-housing broker? It could deliver an insight into the other end of the spectrum as well as stimulate a discussion about what one seemingly opposes to. In such setting, conflicting practice would act as a mode of creating an arena of alternative dialogue. It is precisely at this moment (when those who usually do not get gained access to participate can enter the zone of conflict) that politics, not through representational models, but
through practice, is being produced. This moment–the ‘becoming visible’, the moment of rupture– presents the point at which one starts to produce political space. But since we were all nodding at what each other were saying (there was the occasional disagreement!), it was all taking place within an arena
of like-minded discourse. How does one turn an identified problem into a discursive strategy that
becomes operational rather than self-referential within the limits superimposed by its own system? If we loathe the production processes of the capitalist market system, then what are the forms of valorisation that we welcome or propose? It is precisely how conflict is being produced that future camps need to address. Now, in order for this debate to take place, it is crucial to devise methods to get ‘the enemy’ to
join such events.
With this second camp, AnArchitektur have successfully continued their commendable exploration into alternatives and have organised an event that brought up an array of interesting issues, speakers, and
discussions. It remains to be proven whether future conferences will manage to turn these discursive events into operational recipes. Although this review could be interpreted as an ‘opposition to opposition’, what I would rather like to propose is a project-based model for a future symposium: one in which concrete situations are being discussed, projects are being analyzed, and alternatives are being brought forward.
© Markus Miessen