As bombs fell around her, Syrian architect Marwa al-Sabouni stayed in Homs throughout the civil war, making plans to build hope from carnage. Her ideas are now laid out in a visionary memoir. But will anyone listen?
IN-Flux, program notes and images, Riga workshop 2-3 September 2016.
The task of the IN-Flux workshop was not to look for common denominators among a number of politically, geographically, economically and socially divided cities, situated in the Baltics and adjacent regions, but instead to identify “inclusive design” strategies that might prove effective in bringing divided communities together. This would not be easy. There were plenty of examples where it isn’t necessary to physically build dividing walls or barbed fences to keep one community away from another. In the Baltics, and in the neighboring European nations, the pressures maintaining social divisions are located in altogether different forms of ethereal barriers: some curiously more invisible then others. Battle scars decades old, traces of targeted deportations and segregation by class or ethnicity or politics, the rapid pace of modernization, (which among the countries once under Soviet domination meant the divisive turn towards “cowboy capitalism”). Throughout the region a sort of Balkan “Turbo Folk” culture quickly replaced the dogmatic principles of late Marxist state totalitarianism, with consequences that are still jolting these cities today.
As Deniss Hanovs observed in his upcoming essay: “Town air makes men…equal? Intercultural dialogue in urban space,” competitive memories plague the way urban public spaces are put to use. It’s all too frequent to find it nearly impossible to make open and indiscriminate encounters in these public spaces marked by distant phantoms of conflict. Oskars Redbergs is producing a complex reading of his native city of Riga by examining how the official building codes underwriting Riga’s city planning can be used to either exploit or to undermine the core of the city fabric. Yet there might just be the chance that a critical codification of the urban territory could lead to greater opportunities for cultural interchanges, were it not for the fact that the devil (sic) is often in the details.
This year’s IN-Flux workshop held in the wooden Kanepes Kutūràs Center in Riga kept the focus of the presentations on the maps of the cities: Malmö, Riga, Warsaw, Tallinn and Amsterdam. The maps captured on their two dimensional surfaces the many signs of incongruity that could be found dwelling within these cities: Popular Vodka beaches, invasive riverfront highways, banal “Euro”-renovations, the semiotics of partisan identity, post-conflict spaces and plenty of examples of political and economic corruption. In other words, the endgame was about locating the anomalies in the urban system, leading of course to the next and nearly impossible step of lifting them off the map and performing a sort of re-directing action*. Perhaps, tweaking an old proverb, one map’s misery is another map’s fortune.
*the re-directing action herewith noted will be further discussed in an upcoming post.
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Coordinators: Johanna Bratel (Malmo), Daniel Urey (Stockholm). Baltic Dimensions.
Krzysztof Herman (Warsaw)
Eva Sepping (Tallinn)
Keiti Kljavin (Tallinn)
Dina Suhanova (Riga)
Oskars Redbergs (Riga)
Evija Taurene (Riga)
Arnolds Timofejevs (Riga)
Evelina Ozola (Riga)
Arna Mackic (Amsterdam)
Frances Hsu (Helsinki)
Peter Lang (Stockholm-Rome)