The artists are the first to see the future. In the exhibition Twelve urban fables – Madrid slaughterhouse until July 19–12 architects, landscape designers and artists show how the digital world shapes urban spaces or how food modifies our bodies and cities at the same time.
The curator of this project rosary – which are observations rather than concrete proposals– it is the Salvadoran based in Barcelona Ethel Baraona, who borrows an initiative that the Superstudio group of architects published in 1971. Then, the Italians devised 12 stories to repair urban disasters with as much utopia as pragmatism. And today, at a time that so closely reproduces claims of those years such as the defense of the environment or anti-consumerism, Baraona demonstrates that the old counterculture has become the institutionalized culture: the one shown in museums.
The protest is now against the numbness of the population. That is why this exhibition tries to connect disciplines, making it clear that the contemporary city escapes architecture and urbanism and, therefore, it cannot be thought of by architects or speculators. The world of digital freedom – which is also control–, or the urgency of breaking the opposition between nature and city are keys to rescue cities and citizens at the same time.
From that mental extent, the commissioner requested urgent recipes for the city of the future. That is why the search may seem formally utopian but it is radically possible. Those who observe and propose are collective with a rare look. And the result is an imaginative but not imaginary trip. It has to do with reality but it seems like science fiction. And it contains both sociological studies and market studies. The tour notes issues that can be incredible –as the domestic territory is less and less private– and that propose unexpected solution paths – such as learning from the adaptability of plants–.
The exhibition shows that the old counterculture has become the institutionalized culture
They are mobile applications – they rent bathrooms for single use inside the floors– those that threaten the privacy of the home or expand its subsistence economy. Thus, the Diffuse House of MAIO Architects – designed for the Royal Academy of London – investigates how digital technologies – goods exchange services or the collaborative economy–They transform our everyday environment. And the landscape designer Céline Baumann talks about the principle of care and mutual assistance that regulates relationships in the plant world, where among the plants there are many species capable of changing gender to survive. The French denounces the use of vegetation to wash the face of urban errors and economic injustices and proposes a Parliament of plants capable of finding consensus. It would be, he jokes, “the world’s first green democracy.”
So, is this a sample of art or architecture? The first thing that one should consider is whether that distinction matters. If it is necessary to delimit the disciplines when the proposed cities are not translated here in a concrete way but in plural solutions for real problems coming from the biological, economic, social or technological world. Marcuse wrote that it was impossible for man to transform nature without that transformation affecting him.
The architects, historians and designers of the Assamble collective helped residents of the Granvy neighborhood in Liverpool to recover their rear gardens or repair their pipes. For them, architecture has more to do with dealing with ugly problems than with building beauty. The 2015 Turner Prize, an award given to the most unexpected works of contemporary art, proved them right. In Madrid, The voice of the children –A collection of videos of kids playing alone– protest against the over-regulation of spaces for children’s play – validated and designed based on fear of complaints–. It also investigates the appropriation that young people in public space make from games and culminating in protest actions such as student mobilizations against the possession of weapons in the United States Fridays for Future or the National Movement of working children and adolescents of Peru, in which minors claim their rights as children and as workers.
The exhibition concludes with the intervention of the Canadian Center for Architecture Our happy life in which its director, Francesco Garutti, warns that our feelings and desires have become statistical data and how the sale of these data to governments generates the indexes that end up designing cities. This market of affections and desires feeds a political apparatus that watches more for our conformity and passivity than for our well-being. Our metropolis is being defined from the periphery and the invisible. Twelve artists help us see it.