Paris – Invisible City – Bruno Latour & Emilie Hermant

041Latour & Hermant’s on-line book Paris: Invisible City (1998) presents a challenge to all urban photographers and the observational methods central to their work. The project questions how much we really can understand about the modern city by simply looking. Starting off on the rooftop of the famous La Samaritaine department store it begins by examining the panorama of Paris.

The book explores the labyrinth of overlapping networks that underpin the functioning of the city. Using Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory as a methodology, it highlights the ‘invisible’ and unnoticed connectivities that compose the city. It presents us with a layered portrait of place “bypassed by the normative representational mode” (Networks of Design). Latour uses the term ‘oligopticon’ to define these hidden networks that ultimately serve to make Paris the functioning city that it is. As a social researcher he believes that they are a means to appreciate the intertwined totality of municipal space. Unlike the absolutist all seeing gaze of Foucault’s panopticon, with the oligopticon “extremely narrow views of the (connected) whole are made possible–as long as connections hold” (p.181, Reassembling the Social). By drawing our attention to the complexity of these ‘co-existences’, the work ultimately demonstrates the sheer impossibility of understanding Paris or any urban space through a single image or glance.

BLatour

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Unbuilding….

unbuiltWe have been thinking a lot about unbuilding as we observe the creative destruction of tower blocks in Salford (see the above photo by IUD on the ground). These demolitions are part of the first phase of a PFI driven gentrification project. In this process many social housing tenants are evicted and their homes replaced with houses and flats for sale on the open market. The demolition industry along with property developers, builders, finance companies and so on benefit from regeneration, which is not really about the provision of better homes but the redistibution of assets, from the poor to the rich. Demolition also functions at a symbolic level, as it rids us of unwanted architectural forms, in this case high rise social housing. The significance of this is not in some failure of the modernist architectural project but the destruction of viable homes and the displacement of the poor. Regeneration in this instance calls for the replacement of unwanted bodies with the healthy bodies of the rich who have money to spend and don’t rely so heavily on council services. In her book Where the Other Half Lives, Sarah Glynn says ” ‘regeneration’ sounds as though it could be a good thing, but it is being used as a Trojan horse for state-sponsored ‘accumulation by dispossession’ on a massive scale”(page 72).

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Detonation Deutschland Diptych by Piero Steinle

 

This is an ongoing selection of resources on unbuilding, rubble, demolition etc.

Julian Rosefeldt and Piero Steinle made a video installation from archival sequences of demolitions called Detonation Deutschland. See the diptych above and more on Piero’s Steinle’s website.

 

boulevard-henri-iv-place de la bastille

Boulevard Henri IV, Place de la Bastille, demolished section of Paris photographed by Charles Marville 1876.

Photographs made by Charles Marville of the demolition of large sections of Paris by Baron Haussmann. Marville’s work is digitized in the collection of the Musee Carnavalet (search in French only).

Artist Hilary Powell’s work is an exploration of and collaboration with demolition sites, materials and stories    http://demolitionsite.net

Rubble: unearthing the history of demolition, by Jeff Byles and published by Three Rivers Press is a well researched popular history of demolition.

This is an academic paper, which explores the performative properties of asbestos in the demolition process: Inextinguishable fibres: demolition and the vital materialisms of asbestos by Nicky Gregson, Helen Watkins & Melania Calestani, published in Environment & Planning Journal 2010, volume 42.

therubbleclub.com: a club for architects whose creations have been intentionally destroyed during their life time.

10 minute promotional video of back to back demolitions by Controlled Demolition Inc

more to follow….

 

 

 

The Neoliberal City

Fig 2 Cahier contested urbanism

David Harvey’s talk on the Neoliberal City 2007 at Dickinson College, sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues. Harvey discusses the role that urbanisation has played in absorbing capitalist surpluses. It also addresses the implications of how the neoliberal city is being fashioned in the interests of the wealthy elites and its implications for democracy and governance.

eviction

Also look at:

Accumulation by dispossession by Harvey

Designs for a Post-Neoliberal City – e-flux

48330014fafce825af4cb1d936f289daImage from Bustler.net

 

 

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Life In The New Cities

a20_Michael-Wolf_Architecture-of-Density

Michael Wolf’s photographic series the Architecture of Density highlights the emergent landscape of Hong Kong’s high rise apartments. The formalist portrayal of these buildings depicts them as “abstractions, never-ending repetitions of architectural patterns” according to Wolf.

For a full overview of Wolf’s work see his Life in Cities site.

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Neoliberalism & Everyday Life-Conference Brighton

rubble-windows02

Early in September IUD are presenting a paper at Neoliberalism and Everyday Life, the annual conference organised by Nicola Clewer for CAPPE, the University of Brighton. Keynote speaker for 2014 is Imogen Tyler, author of Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection & Resistance in Neoliberal Britain. Our paper is entitled All materials of value have been removed: everyday cleansing in the neoliberal housing environment.

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