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Walking the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall of the new Creative Berlinᵀᴹ

The Berlin Wall of the new Creative Berlinᵀᴹ

One cannot have failed to notice the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall over the weekend. Coupled with Remembrance Sunday, it has created a milieu of memorialisation over the weekend that has invoked process of grief, global strife, hegemonic power, activism & resistance, personal loss and spirituality. There has been a lot of pontification and media chin-stroking about the geopolitical wrangling and consequences of the fall of the Wall in the lead up to the anniversary, but what has always been present in the urban studies literature is the way in which the Wall acts very much within the urban geography of Berlin. I was lucky enough to visit Berlin last month for a very interesting and enlightening Workshop on Controversies of the Creative City, and given the content of my talk (which was, in a nutshell, a 20-min dash through the themes of my book) the inventible question I always seem to be asked is ‘what is the alternative’? If neoliberal capitalism is unjust, damaging and polarising, just what is the answer?** Given that we were in the city that symbolically saw the collapse of one viable ‘alternative’ it seemed like an apt arena in which to have the debate. With the workshop discussions pinging around my thoughts, I took it upon myself to practice what I so often champion which is the act of drifting à la The Situationists, something which can (can) begin to inculcate a more creative city. But of course, this is neigh-on impossible in the contemporary Creative City, so using the old line of the Wall (which is of course now, a recognised tourist route – Berliner Mauerweg, the Berlin Wall Trail), I walked from the SouthEast of the city centre to the North, keeping as close to the line as I could. This practice has been done elsewhere far more vividly that I ever could by Will Self (the flâneur of our time), and my photography skills have a lot to be desired (to say the least – click on the photos to see a larger version). But what follows is a photographic essay which speaks to the changing urban condition in Berlin from a city divided along geopolitical and revanchist lines, but which now has perhaps lost the former in favour of a more global city-inculcated version of the latter.  Continue reading


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Badiou on Fidelity

Keep Going!

Keep Going!

The last of these XX on YY posts (as I’ve now finished the book!) is Badiou on Fidelity. It is linked to his notion of the Event, and his idea of ethics which are for me, extremely useful way of theoretically configuring subversion and how to engage in Deleuzian lines of flight. The call to ‘keep going’ is more than simply to defy the pressures of the system (as Marge is attempting to do above), but to continually resist becoming-subject, and the ‘opinions’ and ‘interests’ that constantly attempt to manipulate it into simulacra. Fidelity to the truth-event takes an extraordinary amount of effort, but who ever said flying was easy?

“Under pressure from the demands of interest – or, on the contrary, because of different new demands within the subjective continuation of fidelity – there is a breakdown of the fiction I use to maintain, as an image of myself, the confusion between my ordinary interests and disinterested-interest, between human animal and subject, between mortal and immortal. And at this point, I am confronted with a pure choice between the ‘Keep going!’ proposed by the ethic of this truth, and the logic of the ‘perseverance in being’ of the mere mortal that I am. A crisis of fidelity is always what puts to the test, following the collapse of an image, the sole maxim of consistency (and thus ethics): ‘Keep going!’ Keep going when you have lost the thread, when you no longer feel ‘caught up’ in the process, when the event itself has become obscure, when its name is lost or when it seems that it may have named a mistake, if not simulacrum.

“For the well-known existence of simulacra is a powerful stimulus to the crystallisation of crises. Opinion tell me… that my fidelity may well be terror exerted against myself and that the fidelity to which I am faithful looks very much like – too much like – this or that certified Evil. It is always a possibility, since the formal characteristics of this Evil (as simulacrum) are exactly those of a truth.

“What I am then exposed to is the temptation to betray a truth. Betrayal is not mere renunciation. Unfortunately, one cannot simply ‘renounce’ a truth. The denial of the Immortal in myself is something quite different from an abandonment, a cessation: I must always convince myself that the Immortal in question never existed, and thus rally to opinion’s perception of this point – opinion, whose whole purpose, in the service of interests, is precisely this negation. For the immortal, if I recognise it’s existence, calls on me to continue; it has the eternal power of the truths that induce it. Consequently, I must betray the becoming-subject in myself, I must become the enemy of that truth whose subject the some-one’ that I am (accompanied, perhaps, by others) composed”.

(Badiou, 2001: 79-80, original emphasis)


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Subverting the aesthetics of decay

Originally posted on Landscape Surgery:

The aesthetics of decay have been well versed of late, not only within academic literature, but also mainstream media and online via blogs and other social media. We have seen an aquarium in an abandoned shopping mall in Bangkokentire disused airports in Cyprus and an whole abandoned island used in Hollywood blockbusters. Industrial, residential, infrastructural, rural; there have been a plethora of forms of dereliction that have been recorded. The huge swath of media (sometimes labelled ‘ruin porn’) has led to the fetishization of dereliction with some suggesting that such overt ruination imagery has had damaging effects on particular places that are oft the focus of such narratives, notably Detroit.

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Nature reclaiming her land

Click on the photos to view the larger image

Recently, I was lucky enough to spend some time in the Shropshire and Cheshire countryside, and came across what on first viewing looked like an abandoned…

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We have always been Creative

tumblr_mb105bmGEv1qzfmh5o1_r1_400

Just a quick note to say that over on the OpenDemocracy website, they very gracefully decided to publish my response to this piece by Adam Lent for the RSA. The headline argument is that the last 250 years has not seen a sudden surge in the creative spirit, it has seen the appropriation of creativity by neoliberalised capital, that is co-opting it for economic development. An old argument, but the continued hijacking of creativity for financial and profiteering objectives seems to be accelerating, and so the argument is worth reiterating. Again.

We are no more creative that we used to be; it’s just that now, hell really has broken loose because people have become very good and channeling that creativity into creating hegemony, centralised power and injustice. Perhaps that is being creative? I sincerely hope not.


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Baudrillard on Functionality

This one I may actually use in its entirety…

“Every object claims to be functional, just as every regime claims to be democratic. The term evokes all the virtues of modernity, yet it is perfectly ambiguous. With reference to ‘function’ it suggests that the object fulfils itself in the precision of its relationship to the real world and to human needs. But… ‘functional’ in no way qualifies what is adapted to a goal, merely what is adapted to an order or system: functionality is the ability to become integrated into an overall scheme. An objects functionality is the very thing that enables it to transcend its main ‘function’ in the direction of a secondary one, to play a part, to become a combining element, an adjustable item, within a universe of signs. The functional system is thus characterised in a thoroughly ambiguous way, on the one had by a transcendence of the traditional system under its three parts – as the primary function of the object, as drives and primary needs, and as a set of symbolic relations between the two – and on the other hand by a disavowal of these three mutually reinforcing aspects of the traditional system”.  (Baudrillard, 1996: 67, original emphasis)


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Harvey on Urban Entrepreneurialism

Another quote that I seem to be going back to a lot when talking about the shift from urban managerialism to urban entrepreneurialism and city marketing…

“Many of the innovations and investments designed to make particular cities more attractive as cultural and consumer centres have quickly been imitated elsewhere, thus rendering any competitive advantage within a system of cities ephemeral. How many successful convention centres, sports stadia, disney-worlds, harbour places and spectacular shopping malls can there be? Success is often short-lived or rendered moot by parallel or alternative innovations arising elsewhere. Local coalitions have no option, given the coercive laws of competition, except to keep ahead of the game thus engendering leap-frogging innovations in life styles, cultural forms, products and service mixes, even institutional and political forms if they are to survive. The result is a stimulating if often destructive maelstrom of urban-based cultural, political, production and consumption innovations. It is at this point that we can identify and albeit subterranean but nonetheless vital connection between the rise of urban entrepreneurialism and the post-modern penchant for design of urban fragments rather than comprehensive urban planning, for ephemerality and eclecticism of fashion and style rather than the search for enduring values, for quotation and fiction rather than invention and function, and, finally, for medium over message and image over substance”. (Harvey, 1989: 12-13)


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De Certeau on Walking

As I’m currently finishing off my first monograph, it’s customary of course to (re)read some of the great texts that formulated the ideas of the book in the first place. So I thought I’d start a blog series that block quoted some of the prose that has inspired/is inspiring the book writing. They won’t be in the final edit, but are worthy of note given their foundational status to the ideas of the book. So to start off, a piece from De Certeau’s classic, Walking in the City (the full pdf of which can be found here):

“It is true that the operations of walking on can be traced on city maps in such a way as to transcribe their paths (here well-trodden, there very faint) and their trajectories (going this way and that). But these thick or thin curves only refer, like words, to the absence of what has passed by. Surveys of routes miss what was: the act of passing by. The operation of walking, ‘wandering or window shopping’, that is, the activity of the passer-by, is transformed into points that draw a totalizing and reversible line on a map. They allow us to grasp only a relic set in the nowhen of a surface of projection. Itself visible, it has the effect of making invisible the operation that made it possible. These fixations constitute procedures for forgetting. The trace left behind is substituted for the practice. It exhibits the (voracious) property that the geographical system has of being able to transform action into legibility, but in doing so, it causes a way of being in the world to be forgotten”. (De Certeau 1984: 161).

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