Mobile city, a city for everyone

by Claudia Zanfi

The contemporary city is in continuous evolution. Social, cultural, and migratory phenomena exert pressure without precedent from within and without. Rather than the mythologized and archaeological notion of the city that we think we know, the city consists of a mixture of humane and spatial “humors” that by their nature are essentially dynamic and mobile. This new city is constituted by the emergence of different values and by the integration of the opposites of uprooting and integration, identification and transgression, and the encounter and collision of different cultures. The traditional links and institutionalized places of the city have disappeared. Evermore marginalized places and explicity antiurban zones, like roadways, depots, abandoned warehouses, industrial structuers, and railroad yards, impose on the traditional places of social and cultural interchange. The instruments of observation at one’s disposal are now insufficient. In this moment of maximum transformation, the artistic practices come to acquire a privileged status.

To ideate a cultural project for the city today means to keep track of each of these variable and new dimensions. Living in the new city in a moment in which LIFE has been so radically mutated possessing a new consideration of the contemporary, to configure a “theater of events” in which the human condition returns to being the protagonist of life and of the city, rather than setting up a show or event, stands as fundamental. A theater of events exists as a vehicle of communication and of involvement, no longer just well-framed paintings placed on the walls, but a participatory art, a real collective rite, a lived and shared urban quotidian. In this way MAST (Museo di Arte Sociale e Territoriale – Museum of Social and Territorial Art) arises, a newly designed model that discards the basics for other elaborations and researches. MAST, founded by the goup aMAZE, is a laboratoy of ideas that investigates the territory and society in all of its noticeable ties and from the point of view of the practice of art, confronts the great themes of a changing reality. MAST constitutes a new museum without walls and with no fixed home, dedicated to designing an anthropology of the quotation. Neither a defined space nor a repository of works, it nonetheless remains capable of transforming the very area into a permanent laboratory that becomes its own space of action. The city and its people will be investigated through open investigations consisting of a heterogeneous plurality of viewpoints and with attention to the mobility of collective life and to the folds of urban living, with the scope of understanding the new arrangements, reconferring values, and opening new avenues for discussion.

Going Public, poetiche e politiche della mobilità (Going Public, poetics and politics of mobility), is a new creative situation in the city and a fresh and mobile aspect. Thanks to the foresight, disire, and support of the Provincial Administration, Modena is hosting for the first time a “public art” event on an international level. Concurring with the Festival della Filosofia 2003, the event proposes a journey through the inside of artistic practices that have made their first concern the interpretation of the social and political life of the territory. The choice to work within the provincial railroad network relates to the need to investigate conditions and scenarios in a state of profound transformation. The ample exigencies of mobility have in fact besieged the quotidian in all of its forms (work, free time, survival, religion, culture) to such a point as to change the spatial-temporal perception of the city. Mobility has become the mataphor par excellece of contemporary man. The voyage synthesizes the instinctual needs of desire and anxiety, of which the world of travel offered by the train constitutes the perfect representation of the nomadic nature of man. Commuting, emigration, immigration, and mobility mark the passage to a multicultural and global society. The so-called “non-places” (train stations, airports, subway underpasses, etc.) comprise the ever increasing examples of the extraterritorial cities. Train stations are alreay recognized as microcosms, pieces of cities and urban possibilities, and complex and organized places with multi-level sysems of communication. On their interior, systems of multiple relations elevate them to privileged spaces of encounter and exchange. It is enough to think of the more than 1,300 daily users that utilize the rail network of the Modenese province, of which 60% is composed of students, 30% of workers, 10% by retirees, and included within these figures is the 12% consisting of non-European Union citiznes. These categories of people traditionally live in separate and distant places. Mobility and finding oneself in the community of the “rail park” that quickly leads to the national network constitutes a relevant possibility of knowing and integration.

Going Public is therefore a dynamic project which develops the possibility of the encounter between different cultural systms by using non-traditional, extraterritorial urban spaces such as the trains and the railway. It considers art in relation to real life and coceives of the “public for the public”. The event hosts collective projects with authors coming from international places of current interest like Cuba, Columbia, Peru, Austria, Spain, and Grece, in order to present in Italy for the first time projects specifically created for the occasion. The introduction of the “biopolitical” concept individuated by Foucault inside the idea of multiplicity-multitude-mobility well suits the actions of some of the most prominent activists practicing public art like Los Carpinteros, Maria Papadimitriou, Colectivo Cambalache, Raimond Chaves+Gilda Mantilla, Rainer Ganahl, Gianni Motti, Multiplicity. The choice of these artists, already present at principal global manifestations, like Ducumenta, Manifesta, and the Venice Biennale, highlights an artistic method that moves among the most hidden corners of the lives of public politicians, of the ways of the lowly, of popular activism, of nomadism, and of precarious and temporary installations. For the events, artists choice minorities and local memories as the places of transit and communication. A series of performances, encounters with the public, dialogues, collections of accounts, images, and installations that come from a true direct cotact with the territory take place by means of their interventions. With Going Public the city and its people have a way to dialogue and interact on a mobile and open platform that becomes a network of production, reflection, and exchange. Some of these works will remain as permanent marks on the territory as testimony of a project that while utilizing actions of a minimal and mimetic nature spreads solid and permanetnt signals.

The event thus purports itself as a type of display about the new mobility between spaces and subjects in a landscape that appears ever different. For the most part, all of the projects attempt to describe and interpret the transformations instigated by increased mobility and migratory movements. Local tradition, cultural diversity, periphery, and center are some of the subjects of major interest to contemporary art today.

It is not an accident that two collective groups – the Cuban Los Carpinteros and the pair Chaves+Mantilla from Bogota – have chosen for their projects the titles La Ciudad Trasportable (The Transportable City) and Estacion Movil (Mobile Station). Estacion Movil is a station for temporary and rambling research that permits the participants to talk about themselves and interact collectively. Raimond Chaves+Gilda Mantilla conceived of a space of public interaction, a mobile space of confluence for a group work of public art that takes place in the stations of Modena and Sassuolo and on a moving train. The artists create a kind of animation through various means that span from drawing sessions and photographic portraits of the people on the train, to oral narratives that are then transcribed on sheets which become affixed to the rooms of the station, to the collecting of materials regarding the memory of each participant, to sonorous events. Estacion Movil comes from the people ad is with the people. All of the material collected by Chaves+ Mantilla appears in the periodical Hangueando (literally “hanging around”, moving, wandering about, going around), an itinerant publication that gathers evidence of experiences and collaborations with the public.
Provocation, strongly influenced by mobility and social life, and interventions in favor of the public and the nomadic fringes of the population, are the characterizing elements of projects like Instant City by Archigram, and No-stop City by the group Archizoom. The capacity to ideate easily transformable and transportable mobile objects for a dynamic city, as well as to create vital spaces for eventual “free humors,” for a circulation of people and ideas through open territories and platforms of encounter and exchange are at the basis of a previous project: Debord’s The Naked City. Such references inspired The Transportable City by the Cuban group Los Carpinteros. The project derives from the redefinition of the concept of permanent and stable architecuture in favor of a new projeted model for a copmletely transportable city consisting of unseen architectual and urban solutions. The citizens will be the ones to build their city and to transform it from time to time moving the buildings, the streets, and the gardens by means of design solutions that permit new, ever-changing compositions involving a plurality of functions. We are before a sort of Calvinian “ideal city” with minimalist and functional forms. To experiment with the migratory and the transitory creates the necessity for easily dismantled places. The architecture/tents of the “mobile city” are transportable platforms perfectly in tune with the contemporary phenomenon of global exodus and “provisionism”.