| Multiplex Approaches (MAP) to Urban Spaces - Instead of a Manifesto (Draft)
By city I understand a complex and interactive network which links together, often in an unintegrated and de facto way, a number of disparate social activities, processes, and relations, with a number of imaginary and real, projected or actual architectural, geographic, civic, and public relations. The city brings together economic and informational flows, power networks, forms of displacement, management, and political organization, interpersonal, familial, and extra-familial social relations, and an aesthetic/economic organization of space and place to create a semipermanent but ever-changing built environment or milieu.
Elizabeth Grosz, “Bodies – Cities”, in Beatriz Colomina (Ed.), Sexuality and Space (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1992, p. 241–253).
Inspired by the “multiplex cinema”, the multiplex metaphor reflects a layered organisation of society, an n-dimension space, where people belong simultaneously to different layers and shift with ever greater ease from one to another.
Accordingly, embracing plural urbanism, Multiplex Approaches (MAP) views cities, on the one hand, as ceaselessly active and perpetually changing, and, on the other hand, as multidimensional and collaborative systems made by highly reactive projects, connecting a wide range of “drivers for change” involved in reflexion and negotiation, joint ownership, reinvigorated local democracy and “commutative solidarity”. Therefore, the necessity to observe the city from a range of different perspectives.
In previous projects, involving students of my philosophy and literature courses, various cities were explored as Sarajevo (2017), linked to my course the Art of the City / Art for the city. While Multiplex I – Dessau and Berlin (2018) offered an in situ understanding and exploration of key texts from Simmel, Benjamin and Kracauer; Multiplex II – Ljubljana Trieste and Belfast (2019) proposed to explore the fate of borders and frontiers. Two key issues were at stake.
First, the city from inside. The courses were shaped in order to prepare the participants to the various meetings they would have in town. Instead of simply visiting the city, the usual must-look-at zones, the participants would meet and discuss with a wide range of local actors: artists and curators, social workers and trade unionists, entrepreneurs and architects, and also civic activists, journalists and political leaders.
Second, reading and experiencing the phrasé urbain (urban discourse). Rethinking the city conveys an urban exploration that connects the act of walking and one’s use of words. As spotted by Nietzsche: “Only thoughts that are won by walking have value” (Twilight of the Idols, Maxims and Arrows 34). Indeed, the city discourse is created foremost by the flâneur, wandering onlooker as he moves through the space and discovers the city as text, as hieroglyphic text to be decoded:
La ville est avant tout un phrasé, une conjugaison, un système fluide de déclinaisons et d’accords. Ce sont ces phrases et ce phrasé qu’il faut retrouver : passer d’un langage stocké ou empilé à un langage parlé, inventer la grammaire générative de l’espace urbain, telle est, il me semble, la tâche qui vient, faite d’une infinité de petites, moyennes et même grandes flexions, séquences et trouvailles. En un mot une poétique.
Jean-Christophe Bailly, La phrase urbaine (Paris: Seuil, 2013, p. 17).
Multiplex Approaches (MAP), as interdisciplinary collaborative investigation process of urban spaces, will propose from 2020 on, to a different audience, an advanced proactive setting inspired by my past urban explorations.
Will we never see reborn those happy times when people did not get mixed up with philosophizing but when a Plato, Thales, and Pythagoras, smitten with a burning desire to know, undertook the greatest voyages solely for the purpose of instructing themselves and went far away to shake off the yoke of national prejudices, to learn to understand men by their similarities and their differences, and to acquire universal knowledge, which is not knowledge of one century or of one country exclusively, but which, being of all times and all places, is, as it were, the common science of the wise?
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality Among Men, Note X.