#CAFx2016: Copenhagen Architecture Festival

Copenhagen may not have a decent open house event but it does have probably the world’s biggest architecture-cum-film festival, on its third run-out this year (see post re 2014 and 2015). The Copenhagen Architecture Festival (aka CAFx; Twitter | Facebook | Instagram), took place from 10-20 March, still dominated by film but accompanied by debates, walks etc in 12 themes at more than 30 venues, with presences also in Aarhus (AAFx) and Aalborg (ALAFx).

Of the themes, Københavns Forvandlinger stuck out as by far the biggest – subdivide, guys! The most eye-catching events were sold out when I looked, but at least there was some hand-wringing around gentrificationCopenhagen vs the rest of Denmark also looked on point.

Providing further food for thought was Det urealiserede København, showcasing the 1960s proposal for a motorway round the Lakes, which has a certain perverse appeal in the face of the bucolic set of potential projects generally rolled out. 2015’s six best, which you could visit on a guided bike tour, included Cykelslangen, which surely opened in 2014 (and still makes me want to poke someone in the eye). But it’s not all about Copenhagenized and Copenhagen Dreaming – two housing projects, Brygge Blomsten and Sundholm Syd, were also recognised.

Film i s-toget meant that instead of TV 2 News the screens in the trains showed historical film clips, if only after midnight and at the weekend. More multi-media in the shape of three new audio walks, with one on (inevitably) Vesterbro bag facadenLyt til København offers short recordings made at random spots, while Ghettoblaster from young folk in Nørrebro probably does what it says on the tin. Part of a Lyd og rum theme, there was also a workshop on Havenlyd og byrum, the sounds of the lost harbour.

In the handful of place-centred events, an exhibition looked at DSB Byen, the area behind the central station, which we nosed about back in August 2014. The creative classes have now moved in, with a three part event from AMPD (Facebook), themselves based on Otto Busses Vej. Here’s the latest wheeze for the some of the area, involving IKEA and green roofs.

The Brønshøj council estate of Tingbjerg, designed by Steen Eiler Rasmussen in the 1950s, surely merited its own theme, like Aarhus’ Gellerup – so will get its own post shortly here.

Website critique: it’s very blue, and I wish things wouldn’t slide up and down when you hover over them. Then there’s a Mine Favoritter section, but no way of favouriting things. Would never have happened on my watch. On the plus side this year you can filter by type – see walks, including one on bikes, the gentrifying tracks of Nordre Fasanvej (involves games) and yup! Vesterbro.

Interestingly, the EN button takes you to an on-the-fly Google translation. Google as globish? As far as #some goes, it’s strictly PR in best exclamatory style! No attempts at coverage or recordings of the very interesting talks etc for those not able to attend. Instead there was Snapchat.

B_Tours 2015: Berlin and Leipzig

This year’s walking inspiration from Germany – see posts on B_Tour Berlin and Belgrade in 2014. Twitter: @b_tour_festival | Facebook.

B_Tour Berlin, now described as “a new hybrid form of public art that provide locals with a new perspective of their city and an opportunity to experience it differently”, ran from 26-28 June, with the theme of Re-placing the periphery. 

First up, B_Talk #1 around the festival theme:

The terms “center” and “periphery” are conceptual constructs denoting not only geographical but social, economic and cultural formations. Representatives of artistic and academic institutions will illustrate the challenges these conceptual constructs bear and present their approaches to creating new and thought-provoking conceptualizations of contemporary spaces. Which are their approaches to the problematization of the terms “periphery” and “center” and why is this extremely relevant to every and any city inhabitant?

Presented in cooperation with Ogino Knauss, who run a Re-centering Periphery project, working with VJing as a technique for creating open narratives and developing creative and critical ways to observe, describe and perform the city – see their work in Berlin.

Come in, Vestegnen and Udkantsdanmark!

Next, B_Talk #2 on  Touristification! New ideas for sustainable tourism:

Museum tours, “underground” or “alternative” tours and traditional sightseeing have become common day practices in most urban environments. This panel will investigate the more nuanced effects of tourism on the city. How does tourism and touristification impact spaces, people and local culture? B_Talk #2 will look at the ways in which tourism can become a more sustainable practice and what could be the role of artistic interventions in redefining and challenging touristic practices.

This is of interest due to the increasing #touristification of Copenhagen, lapped up on all sides at the moment, but fashions change. Plus is there an element of benign ‘Nordicism’ at play? I don’t identify with this fairy tale city, nor does much of the imagery reflect the two thirds of the population who don’t live in the capital (back to B_Talk #1). See too Leipzig’s Hipster Walk (below) – lovely Leipzig has now made it as far as the Guardian’s Alternative Europe series.

See this Barcelona story and Nana Rebhan’s documentary Welcome Goodbye:

15 tours in Berlin, including:

  • Eat the wall – foraging on bikes with two Danes who have MAs in Rhetoric and German studies from KU; see interview
  • Mapping stories on the Ringbahn – “during a 37.5 km journey participants are invited to share their personal memories of, and imagined fantasies about, the stops along the way; these intimate offerings will determine the route of the tour and will be collected and edited into a textual atlas of the city”; see interview
  • Plattenbautour (review) – “The ‘Plattenbau’ has a bad reputation. It is perceived as anonymous and boring. The names of individual Plattenbauten seem almost scientific – PH16, WBS70, M10, Q3A –  yet people live in them and call these strange architectural forms home. How do people turn concrete jungles into liveable spaces? What are the small scale, but crucial, techniques they use to bend the alienating into something familiar?…Boring was never so exciting.”
  • A sesnsual expedition to urban voids –  the hidden magic of linear district heating pipes, abandoned industrial landmarks and community gardens within GDR housing blocks
  • Shadow – seen this before, several times; “After a brief exchange of text messages at the beginning of the tour, the participant will find themselves setting out on an adventure in the footsteps of a stranger. At the end there will be a meeting and a surprise. Bring an open mind, curiosity and a phone.”

No B_Tour Belgrade this year, but instead we have B_Tour Leipzig in cooperation with Tanzarchiv Leipzig, from 2-12 July with the theme of movement in urban space, reflecting on current perspectives of city development and stories of public spaces in Leipzig.

13 tours, including, although pretty much all of them are inspiring:

  • Ghost Tracks: Karl-Heine-Straße – the hidden tracks of the urban space, traces left in the present by ghosts from the past and the future; the audience is led through the so called “booming districts“ of Plagwitz and Lindenau via a GPS-based audio tour
  • Kaufhaus Ury – performative installation, reconstructing the ground plans of what was once Leipzig’s biggest department store owned by a Jewish family
  • Hipster Walk – some people call Leipzig ”the better Berlin“ while others have used the terms ”Hypezig” and ”Likezig”; the walk brings a literary, ironic perspective to the notion and status of ”hype” districts and streets which no longer lie on the periphery of public awareness; available via Talk Walks
  • The Living Boundary – “The airport is the ultimate symbol of the modern world. It is an inbetween space that represents the contemporary hunger for speed and information. Kursdorf is an island of memories, nostalgia and dreams hidden behind the highway noise barrier at the edge of the Leipzig/Halle Airport.”
  • The Monday Walks – follows the Leipzig Montagsdemos of 1989 on the city Ring; audio tour, based on interviews with eyewitnesses aimed at triggering the imagination of participants about how urban spaces can be re-appropriated as public sphere, for the expression of democratic rights and as a place of political action
  • Nightwalkers – follow the traces of countless workers in the former industrial area of Lindenau
  • Phonorama – self guided tour through the Clara-Zetkin-Park, where the Sächsisch-Thüringische Industrie- und Gewerbeausstellung took place in 1897
  • Silent Walk – cross the Waldstraßen district, once the main Jewish quarter of the city

Also four B_talks, on art and activism (3 July), urban sounds and imaginary spaces (4 July), creative capital(ism) (8 July) and tracing histories of public space in Leipzig (12 July), not tweeted.

Finally, B_events in Leipzig include a workshop entitled Traces of walking: creating an imaginary sound book of Leipzig, with noTours, augmented aurality:

Jewish wildlife recording pioneer Ludwig Koch made a ‘sound book’ of Leipzig mid 1930s which was intentionally destroyed in WWII. We recreate this sound book (imaginary maps, urban interventions and site-specific soundscapes) retracing Koch’s paths through the city and his urban and natural recordings, inspired by his memoires. Participants are introduced to methods of artistic and sound walking and field recording, using noTours, a free online editor, to create their own sound walks.

Flâneur in Copenhagen

Back on 19 February I attended Flanør, an event hosted by the Goethe Institut and the Forening af Danske Kulturtidsskrifter, co-hosted by (and at) upscale newspaper Information. Speakers were Ricarda Messner (interview) and Fabian Saul from Flaneur Magazine, and Ulf Peter Hallberg, a Swedish writer living in Berlin since 1983. Here are some photos.

Kicking off proceedings Peter asked Ricarda (publisher) and Fabian (editor) to define “flâneur “. Cue much shifting in chairs, ending up with:

  • Ricarda: doing something without an aim
  • Fabian: dealing with things which could be lost, on the edge of time; ahead of time, avant garde

Frankly I’m with them on this, it is all more than a tad nebulous and open to interpretation, plus it’s really hard not to come over all pseud’s corner. Looking back my notes are pretty gnomic, and I reckon we’d all do better reading one or more of these articles: William Helmreich in Aeon | Paris Review praises the flâneur | The urban observer.

But Flaneur Magazine (Facebook | Twitter) is a lovely thing, internationally focused and published in English. Each issue explores a single street, so far in Berlin (review), Leipzig, Montreal and Rome (video review), with Athens coming up in the autumn. If they would like to tackle Copenhagen I’m inclined to suggest Valby Langgade. Each issue deals with some oddity, confusion, or disruption, with an overall theme emerging during a two month research period.

Moving on, Ulf Peter Hallberg was born in Malmö and now lives in Berlin. I came across him too late! from a post by Politikens Boghal on Facebook. He’s another one who blends fiction with real life – see his latest, Strindbergs skugga i Nordens Paris (2012), which intertwines his own background with August Strindberg’s stay in Copenhagen from 1887 to 1889 (published på dansk as Det store tivoli in 2014).

He also walks, and wrote the seminal Flanörens blick (The flâneur’s gaze, 1996; på dansk as Flanørens blik, 2000; Kristeligt DagbladLitteratursiden). It’s an essayroman; quotes from all the usual suspects, photos…I now have an autographed copy : D and plan to write a book report – it’s par for the course that the first book in Danish I might _really_ like to translate is actually Swedish…

Ulf’s flâneurie habit started with childhood visits to Copenhagen with his father, in particular to the auction houses on Bredgade. His father was a collector, along with the flâneur one of the social archetypes in Benjamin’s Arcades Project, and sought inter alia wooden statues from Africa. This approach to life, the attempt to create – curate? – a universal order, is reflected in the novel Europeiskt skräp (2009) – published in English in 2013 as European trash: fourteen ways to remember a father (Amazon | “blends memoir, essay and fiction in an evocative journey through his late father’s world of collecting the European trash”).

And so time was up, before I could get my question/statement in on Kierkegaard (Denmark’s ultimate flâneur), and everyone rushed off looking at their shoes as per usual.

For me Copenhagen is just not set up for flâneurie, or Danes to be flâneur; it’s not just the hygge, it’s also the over-planning and regulation in both public spaces and personal lives – and not least, the fact that the bike is king. Can you be a flâneur on a bike? Every time I go into ‘town’, ie central Copenhagen, I’m reminded that cyclists rule. While car drivers have become accustomed to giving way on crossings, the rules of the road vs pavement etc, these cyclists just aren’t bothered. The lack of crossings doesn’t help – you can be left standing wondering just how fast those bikes are going, and what direction the next one is going to come from. It’s disturbing for someone with a serious jaywalking habit. But I digress.

Also of interest was the fact that flâneurie’s partner in crime, psychogeography, never came up, as it also didn’t on a recent Danish podcast about Sebald. (And did Asger Jorn, a founder member of the Situationist International and a close friend of Guy Debord, not indulge in the dérive?) Why is this? A quick check of bookshop Saxo brings up zero for Danish translations of Messrs McFarlane or Sinclair, gosh, and while there are translations of Sebald’s The rings of Saturn (1995; translation: 2011) and Vertigo (1990; translation: 2012; see review), Austerlitz (from 2001) will debut in translation in December. Double gosh. And Sebald seems to have a Spanish following, so it’s not just an Anglo/German thing.

But hov, what’s this? On 26 March Mette Kit Jensen (interview) gave a ‘performance lecture’ at Nikolai Kunsthal with the title Ongoing flâneuse, complete with turtle (sic), or perhaps, tortoise. I assume the shelled one was given full respect, I’m not totally comfortable with that aspect…anyway, I was otherwise engaged, and go for the literary turn rather than performance/interventions in any case, however Mette looks interesting. Last year she exhibited Flaneuse de l’Europe, an audiowalk and book at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde, as part of their Museum in the city project:

an audio walk conceived through research the artist has carried out in several larger Europeen cities, such as Rome, Athens, Paris and Istanbul using sounds, impressions and narratives. The short stories are joined together in one long story, which connects to places in Roskilde. Local sound scapes recorded in Roskilde are mixed with global places and episodes in one total sound collage where proximity and flash backs alternate.

An article in Kunsten.nu gives a bit of background (in English here – scroll!) and a map, plus there’s an audio version should you find yourself in Roskilde. See my audiowalks post for more on this one city to the tune of another trope.

Update: had a go at  Det store tivoli (Information: excerpts another last | review | Berlingske | svensk); apparently CPH was dubbed the Paris of the North after the World Exhibition of 1888; Hvidovre Bibliotekerne kindly lent me their new copy, but after three renewals it was time to hand it back – often an issue with library books. The main character is Strindberg’s secretary Knud Wiisby (1865-1941), hired by Edvard Brandes to spy on what August gets up to. (Ulf made Wiisby up, but connected with him on some level, and also has a vague family connection with CPH at that time. Or something.) Wiisby has a close relationship with Swedish author Victoria Benedictsson, who just happened to have unrequited love for Georg Brandes. And why not? Rather more worryingly there appears to be a parallel story set in LA in the present day, but there’s a sticker over that part of the cover.

Update, March 2017: Swedish app merchant Guidly launched a soundwalk about Victoria in Copenhagen at KBH Læser (FB event). The 90 minute walk, with some parts på dansk, runs from Axeltorv, where she met Brandes in 1886, to Kongens Nytorv, where she killed herself in a hotel room two years later.

Below: scenes from my drift in central Copenhagen, prior to the Flanør event.

Audio walks: Frederiksberg, Hanstholm and getting lost

A clutch of audio walks has come along of late. Three main types:

Falling more or less into the first category, I’ve just listened to a series of 10 audio files from Frederiksberg Stadsarkiv about the area during the First World War – see Syndikalister, kunstnere og gullaschbaroner (map). (Frederiksberg is an enclave with Copenhagen, a separate municipality, which means it does its own thing culturally.)

Part of the recent Golden Days Festival, the files are also available as an app, which does offer a map, but they work just as well as podcasts. At over eight minutes in some cases they might feel too long to listen to in situ, where there were also pictures and text on stands during the festival. Content heavy, I don’t feel I’ve retained much in the medium to long term, and I’m more likely to go back to the text versions which popped up on the blog.

Bill Aitchison highlights a feature of this sort of audio tour: “You look on the map, walk to number 1 then press play and listen. When that’s finished you look at the map, go to number 2, press play and so on.” More effective, although more onerous to create, are tours which offer directions and a commentary at the same time, “so that you walk with it and it talks to you throughout”.

An example of this type of audio walk is the Energy Walk at Hanstholm, a small town on the north west coast of Jutland with several claims to fame. As well as its fortress bunker, Europe’s biggest fortification from the Second World War, the town has the largest industrial harbour in Denmark, with ferries to the Faroes and Iceland, and is a centre for marine energy. Traces can be found in the area from both prehistoric times and the Vikings.

The Energy Walk, developed as part of the Alien Energy project (Facebook | fanzine) running at Copenhagen’s IT University under its Energy Futures banner, brings all this together. Launched on 6 September in Hanstholm – see the photos or listen to the audio (English and Danish) – until 1 November you can collect a digital walking stick at Færgegrillen in Hanstholm, should you be passing, and follow the walk that way, although it works fine as a podcast.

This one takes a more lyrical approach, with the English version narrated by ethnographer Laura Watts, who blogs at Sand14. I have to admit to finding it a tad tiresome in places, although traces have stayed with me.

Finally, coming up on Friday 3 October at 18:30 BST is Fracture Mob, an audio led flash mob by artist Jennie Savage, who is inviting people all over the world to get lost simultaneously:

This audio walk invites you to become lost in your familiar geography and the fictional sonic landscape of the audio guide, where you will encounter street markets, shopping malls, beaches and birdsong recorded in enigmatic locations. The artist’s instructions to walk are the same for us all, however each of us will interpret her directions, walk at a different pace, become lost in familiar territories and, of course, inhabit different landscapes.

The walk can be followed live on the day or downloaded as a 30 minute ambient soundscape in three flavours: wanderer, idler or drifter. Meet points have been set up at various locations, including Christianshavn metro. The walk was commissioned by Plymouth Arts Centre and coincides with the opening of the Walk On exhibition, still doing the rounds – hear Jennie talk about it and her other work on Talking Walking.

While I’m getting the intention behind all this, the performative aspect is troubling and when I’m walking I like to be in the moment, it’s kind of the point. But getting lost, or waylosing, is turning into one of those tropes – see the experimental travel tag. On the day I will be in Venice, however if you are tempted to participate do let me know how you get on. Update: Bill Aitchison on following the tour in Beijing, and hear Charlotte Spencer and friends describe Walking Stories, a similar performance undertaken by groups of 20 in a park.

B_Tour Belgrade

Quick look at B_Tour Belgrade (Facebook), from the team which brought you B_Tour Berlin and ran from 26-28 September:

The festival examines current needs of urban life and how artistic strategies can be used as a tool to explore possible answers to these needs…The tours deal with civil participation in public space, urban life and its socio-historical context. They are led either by the artists in person or the artists’ narrations in the form of audio tours, instruction guides/texts or maps.

12 tours by international and local artists, plus two talks, on local cultural urban initiatives and their artistic practices, and on the politics of public space and the idea of a participatory city.

Tours of particular interest:

  • Audio walk: Savamala – the story of an elderly resident of Savamala who retells its history through the memories of his childhood, comparing its past with its present and inviting the listener to think about its future; see Spuren Suche
  • B-B – Berlin and Belgrade, “two cities that have much in common but are yet so different. The tour will take you through two cities at once: one visited ‘live’ and the other presented interactively through visual and audio material, showing some surprising similarities and highlighting the transformations taking place. Can we feel one city while walking through another?”; see vid for some nice overlays, esp at the Reichstag (at around 0:45)
  • B-mapping – audio tour of the everyday, created from the stories, experiences, ideas and dreams of anyone who has a connection to Belgrade; see also have you ever been to Belgrade? and the JIAC B-mapping Belgrade project
  • I’m a stranger – “on the one hand the city is a site of meetings and exchanges, criss-crossing networks of personal routes and private maps; on the other it is an environment where one can easily get lost among the boundless number of strangers; this tour allows participants a double experience and a dual role: first as a map-maker, recording their own path; then as a map-reader, following a stranger’s route and seeing the city through their eyes”
  • Reversed cartography: from online map to the streets of Vracar – the participants of the Days of Remembrance workshop who made the Vracar map will come out of their virtual presence to tell their stories in person (also seen at Living Maps April)
  • Temporary viewing platforms – visiting places that offer a wide or interesting view; usually not accessible to the public, such as private apartments and public buildings with limited access, flat rooftops and open terraces, seeing the same landscape from different angles; takes place in two peripheral residential areas
  • The better the coffee the longer the queue – mapping the effects of the Belgrade Waterfront redevelopment project on the Savamala area and its historic coffee shops, as well as Belgrade’s culture in general; “through history Savamala embodied a specific spirit, not only as a border area between two empires (Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman), but also a place of great importance for a growing Belgrade”
  • Die Wohnung – Bauhaus in Belgrade?

Lots of audio, and history, to ponder. See also the Belgrade Sound Map.

Memorials and memory at Copenhagen Art Week

Updates: the theme for 2015 was Shared space, with guided tours of various types (performance, on bikes, in the metro). In 2016 (26 Aug – 4 Sep; ibyen) it’s Open gestures, with B_Tour offering Through someone else’s eyes (FB), eavesdropping on Ion Sørvin of N55 and Anne RommeHjem til Blågården (more) and a packed SMK programme, plus performances by inter alia Nøne Futbol Club (Politiken); other tours include guides to specific parts of the city (FRB, Østerbro, Amager). In a packed couple of arty weekends CHART (26-28 Aug) has slogans on the street by Douglas Coupland (Politiken), plus an architecture competition, while B_Tour is also in action at Alt_Cph (2-4 Sep; participants wanted | review), along with Copenhagen Game Collective, with a number of place based events curated by Råderum. Phew!

Copenhagen Art Week, also known as CAW, is taking place from 29 August to 7 September. The book-sized programme includes eight, count ’em, guided tours.

At the arty end of the spectrum we have gallery viewings on Bredgade, Gammelholm (the other side of Nyhavn) and in Kødbyen (the ‘meatpacking district’). Inevitably there are bike tours (Kunsten og samfundet/art and society in Vesterbro and Besøg fotokunstnerens atelier/visit photographers’ studios), but two are super-exciting – a Guidet togrejse on the S train with architect Carsten Hoff, responsible with Susanne Ussing for the public art in five stations on the H line (Måløv,Veksø, Stenløse, Ølstykke, Frederikssund) and State of Exception/Undtagelsestilstand, exploring the world of international diplomacy (next Sunday).

On Saturday, after dropping in on the Stasi Secret Rooms in Nikolaj Kunsthal, I joined KØS’s guided walk exploring statues in the city centre. KØS, the museum for public art in Køge, was previously known as the rather less inspiring Køge sketch collection. The walk was part of its memorials project, which kicked off with a tour of 10 monuments around the country (programme | Facebook) and culminates in the Mindesmærker i dag/Memorials of today exhibition running until February 2015. There’s also a creepy talking statues app and upcoming sessions at Folkeuniversitet.

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Hanne Varming’s Hyldemor, named after HC Andersen’s The Elder Tree Mother and modelled on her great grandparents – take a seat!

The walk was led by Sasja, responsible for KØS’ schools service, who had us filling in post-it notes with words we connect with memorials at the foot of the Absalon statue on Højbro Plads. From there we moved on to Frederik VII outside Christiansborg, also on a horse but rather less imposing, and then to Kierkegaard in the national library garden. Our final stop, following a 1km Kierkegaard style menneskebad to Kultorvet, was Hanne Varming’s Hyldemor, completing a narrative arc from imposing to eye level.

Sasja also showed us the empty space previously occupied by the Isted Lion, a familar tale to the Danes on the walk. Erected in Flensborg in 1862 after the First War of Schleswig, moved to Berlin in 1868 after the Second War, then to Copenhagen after instense lobbying in 2000, it’s now back in Flensburg. A symbol of the Schleswig-Holstein Question?

She also related two tales demonstrating once again the importance of trees in urban space. Until 2011 a tree on Kultorvet stood as a memorial for the city’s homeless, who would hang photos and other memories from its branches when one of their number died. The tree was cut down as part of a modernisation scheme, but a new Gravplads for Gadens Folk has opened at Assistens Kirkegård/cemetery (where the trees are protected by the local plan), together with a statue which featured in KØS’ memorials tour. Also with a happy ending for now is the controversy over an old plane tree in the square in front of KØS in Køge. A formal investigation is to explore the scope of potential damage to neighbouring buildings.

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some less successful public art at Kongens Nytorv

Having been on several city walks over the last year or so I’m beginning to put together a picture of the city’s layers – and to spot other tours going on at the same time. It seems there’s no avoiding Segways. Also on during this rainy Saturday was the swimming round Christiansborg thing, with changing rooms slap bang on top of a Kierkegaard quote tastefully embedded in the pavement, and the culmination of both CPH Pride and Cooking. Outside the city centre there were local festivals in Valby and Ørestad, and no doubt a few other happenings I’m not aware of. Could this constant whirl possibly be tipping over into too much? When everything is about performance and play there’s no room for the city just to be. It’s suffocating and confusing.

Next up is Golden Days, after which we settle into months of hibernation during CPH’s grey days. So how about a festival of the everyday? Have that one for free, WoCo.

Thanks to Sasja and KØS for the inspiring walk!

Monumental updates: as part of Golden Days KØS hosted a lecture on Käthe Kollwitz’s Grieving Parents, which also featured on R3’s Essay by Ruth Padel. More Kollwitz on R4’s Germany: memories of a nation, this time focusing on her pietà in Berlin’s Neue Wache. See also Käthe Kollwitz, a Berlin storyplus more on the red horses (2015 update: they’re back!). Update: the Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum.

Two more alternative mindesmærker highlighted in an event on 4 Dec: Hein Heinsen’s Talerstol på Vartov commemorating Grundtvig (1783-1872), priest in Vartov for 33 years; the front of the talerstol (speaker’s rostrum) bears the inscription rostra populi on the left and fællesskab & frihed (community and freedom) on the right, while the back bears ord (word) in 54 languages; and Kenn André Stillings Alfabet TURÈLL in Vangede, commemorating Dan Turèll (1946-93), in the form of letters and punctuation marks surrounded by a 47m long bench, one meter for each year of Turèll’s life.

Living Maps Network: map is not territory

Update, 12 August: the 2014-15 season has the title territory is not map, can you see what they did there…

The Living Maps Network is hosting a series of events on the theme of map is not territory, aimed at exploring new directions in critical cartography, ie:

the possibilities of challenging cartographies which marginalize or pathologise populations perceived to be obstacles to ‘progress’, ‘modernity’ or ‘public order’. It will also explore strategies of ‘counter-mapping’ linked to  community action, urban social movements and creative subversion. (Phil Cohen)

The seminars:

Tweeting at @livingmaps and #livingmaps, little traffic as yet, but as the programme proceeds curation is developing.

Mapping the field

Phil Cohen: Navigating the real? The map as model and metaphor

Phil is an urban ethnographer focusing on East London. The author of On the wrong side of the track: East London and the post Olympics, he is working on a series of projects relating to the Olympic Park – see the narrative map produced for the book (plus preso and full project description). His paper looked at issues around concepts of map and territory, followed by a film depicting the technical and aesthetic process of narrative cartography, Lights on for the territory. Over the final credits is a splendid personalised satnav:

Christian Nold: What does mapping map?

Christian is a researcher developing new participatory models and technologies for communal representation (GPS work in Greenwich and Stockport). His Bio Mapping project has been staged in many different countries with thousands of participants – see Emotional cartography and examples. His paper looked at a range of participatory mapping practices from locative media to citizen science research into environmental quality. Participatory mapping is a peculiar coming together of living entities, electronic devices and issues that creates surprising networks and alliances – what is actually going on in these projects?

Hidden histories

Conventional cartographies are good at depicting the visible surface of the world but tend to obscure or exclude its deeper layers of meaning, especially those associated with natural and cultural histories whose material traces may be difficult to decode. This seminar will explore some recent ‘archaeological’ strategies designed to excavate and put these hidden histories on the map.

Toby Butler: Memoryscape: site specific oral history in a community context

Toby Butler is an oral historian with a special interest in the design of urban trails and heritage walks using digital mapping techniques. In his talk he explored the potential of mapping memories for building connections in communities in spatial, historical and social terms, discussing Ports of Call, a community based mapping project around the Royal Docks in East London, and experiential mapping work with Italian-Canadian children in Montreal. For more see the West Silvertown oral history trail and Memoryscape. Update: slides.

Halima Khanom: Digital experiences of Limehouse Chinatown

Halima Khanom’s (@HalimaKhanom90Wander East through East project is an audio trail exploring the hidden history of Limehouse Chinatown, the original London based Chinatown. Inspired by the Situationist approach to urban exploration the trail encourages the walker to critically engage with Limehouse Chinatown, critiquing a homogenous, racialised, and sedentary characterisation of place and suggesting an alternative approach. Update: slides.

Bob Gilbert: Re-walking London

Bob Gilbert, the “green guru of Islington”, is the author of The Green London Way, a 110 mile walking route around London.

There is a story in the pattern of our streets, in the names we have given them and in the weeds that grown on their fringes. They are the stories of the people who have lived and worked there and the communities from which they have come. They are the echoes of lost landscapes; and of past associations reasserting themselves. This talk sets out to explore the lost, or hidden, stories of our locations and to explain, with practical examples, how we can ‘read’ an area. It also looks at the connections between ‘‘natural’ and ‘social’ history: how our transport systems affect the spread of wild plants or what the weeds of a waste land can tell us about world trade or our agricultural or industrial past. It will argue that human community depends on connections: with time, with place, with other people, and with the other species with which we share our space. Faced, however, with the power given to developers and with the demands of a growth-at-all-costs economy, we are in danger of robbing our streets of all meaning and of destroying a sense of place. Understanding where we are is essential to understanding who we are and we should view it as an act of resistance.

Grounding knowledge

The global knowledge claims of Cartesian cartography have been rendered properly problematic, but what are the epistemological groundings of maps that originate from more site specific, partisan and embodied forms of spatial understanding? If maps are graphic propositions about the world, how does their reading differ from that of texts or cultural memoryscapes?

Øyvind Eide: Sand in the mapmaking machinery: the role of media differences

Øyvind‘s PhD, The area told as story, explored the relationship between verbal and map based expressions of geographical information. He is currently investigating the limitation of texts and maps as means of conveying geographical understanding, using conceptual modelling of texts as his main method. His presentation showed how the differences between texts and maps play out, documenting a number of textual means of expression which are not translatable to maps.

David Pinder: Map and be mapped: critical cartographies in societies of control

David‘s work centres on urban culture, politics and art. His presentation addressed  aspects of the current interest in alternative, participatory and grounding mapping, seeking to trouble celebratory claims of empowerment and democratisation and centring on more ambivalent practices of over-identification, reworking and appropriation.

Iain Boal: The micropolitics of place

Iain, social historian and independent scholar, described two collaborative mapping projects:

  • the West of Eden project looking at communalism in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s and 1970s
  • MayDay Rooms, an ‘archiving from below’ initiative at 88 Fleet Street, intended as a safe haven for documents of the counterculture and emancipatory movements

Iain is also “one of the planet’s foremost bicycle historians” and has published The green machine, a book on the world history of the bicycle, taking us full circle to Copenhagenize.com

Following the threads

Advocates of ‘big data’ projects suggest that given a large enough sample (“N=All?”) the facts will somehow speak for themselves and the map of the world will merge seamlessly part of that world. But the individual is always embedded in the particular whether using or contributing to a shared picture.

Gianfranco Gliozzo: Crowdsourced data and extreme citizen science

Gianfranco (blog | ExCiteS), formerly of Mapping for Change) reflected on recent trends and contradictions when crowdsourced data meets citizen science. Gianfranco is currently interested in the relation between citizens and their environment, involving spatial analysis techniques, geography, linked data, ecology and ICT.

Nela Milic: A new mapping of Belgrade

Building on her earlier work at Goldsmiths on Balkanising Taxonomy artist and researcher Nela Milic presented her work on the BG:LOG project, “an alternative map and the archive of Belgrade. We are reviving the spirit of the city through memory about the fellowship between people, solidarity, little known big things and events, famous and anonymous neighbours, public spaces and friendships, life and work in the Serbian capital, which changed significantly in the last three decades.” See for example Days of remembrance.

Marginalised bodies, liminal spaces

The modernist dream of a rationalised city depended on the production of mappable public space and free circulation. But urban growth and regulation required rapid transit systems, an apparatus of surveillance, and the privatization of amenities. This has marginalised groups whose style of movement about the city fails to conform to norms of speed and efficiency.

Rob Imrie: Off the map? Disabling designs, impaired vision and the illegible city

The legibility of urban environments depends on signs, cues, and signals, including visual, tactile, and auditory media. In the drive to commercialise and aestheticise urban environments many street environments are rendering places illegible and difficult to navigate or make sense of, particularly for those with vision impairments and different types of cognitive impairment. Is a new form of urban (dis)order emerging as part of faddish approaches to the design of streetscapes, with disabling design, including design that dis-orientates, part of a new wave of urban renewal? Such (shared) spaces can be part of new spaces of exclusion, rendering them ‘places off the map’. See Rob’s page at Goldsmiths for more.

Andy Minnion and Sue Ledger: The enabling city: multimedia mapping for self-advocacy and social inclusion

Andy and Sue have both been working with people with learning disabilities using photography and mapping to co-create new personal maps of local communities that highlight the lives and experiences of people often excluded from their neighbourhoods. Details were shared of two action research projects with people who find conventional communication difficult and whose connections to their local landscapes are rich but whose stories were untold:

  • the Staying Local Project maps lost histories of people with high support needs in London, using mobile interviews, life journey mapping and photography – see the Social History of Learning Disability Research Group (Open) for more
  • Andy of the Rix Centre for Innovation for Learning Disability (UEL) shared “easy build wiki websites” made by east Londoners with learning disabilities, accessible and user centred rich media sites charting local opportunities for disabled people alongside individual strategies for community participation

Both projects are creating new local topologies from the knowledge and experiences of people with learning disabilities and using multimedia advocacy to build social inclusion and challenge the configuration of services and support.

Constructing new geographies

The model of the post modern city as an ‘assemblage’ or ‘space of flows’ poses a special challenge to ethnographers and cartographers to produce more fluid forms of mapping, keyed in to urban networks, while also articulating fixities of power, property, privilege and prestige.

Speakers:

  • Rhiannon Firth (UEL) – Anarchy in the maproom? The case of 56a Infoshop; argues for a critical cartographic practice based on an anarchist ethos of anti- rather than counter-hegemony, drawing ideas of cartographic pedagogy as affect, affinity and performativity; paper
  • Paul Watt (Birkbeck) – Mapping mobilities: the East London diaspora; examines various shifting diasporas with reference to residential, work, leisure and family-related mobilities that traverse East London to the city’s eastern suburban hinterlands
  • Adam Dant – Mapping the new East End; alternative maps inc 50 people of East London, Journey to the heart of East London, Maps of Shoreditch past and future

Communities of resistance

In many urban contexts regeneration has become synonymous with gentrification; it has also provoked different forms of resistance, from fully fledged social movements, to single area campaigns and individual protests. This seminar looks at some local case studies of contemporary regeneration, at how communities of resistance came into existence and the role of ‘counter mapping’ in this process.

Michael Edwards: The New Metropolitan Mainstream: can we map London in an international comparative framework?

Summarised the origins and intentions of the New Metropolitan Mainstream (NMM; blog), an unfunded collaboration among activists and scholars in 36 cities around the world. Founded 25 years ago by the International Network for Urban Research and Action (INURA) it draws its inspiration both from theoretical discussions (Lefebvre via Schmid, Mayer, Harvey) and activist experiences. City teams are collaborating to produce maps and texts which examine processes of capitalist urban transformation, commodification, displacement and also patterns and episodes of resistance—counter-moves by citizens.

Michael (@michaellondonsf; UCL Bartlett School of Planning) is a founder member of the Just Space network and INURA and has been involved in numerous campaigns, most recently in relation to the redevelopment of Kings Cross. He is contributed a chapter to Sustainable London? The future of a global city (2014).

Katarina Despotovic: Urban regeneration as city branding, gentrification and enchantment engineering: the case of  Centrala Älvstaden in Gothenburg

Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden, is undergoing a class remake of the city that not only displaces working class housing from its central parts but also privileges and normalises whiteness. The case of Kvillebäcken shows how an area formerly defined as remote was redefined as central during a new phase of remaking of the central city. By an imaginary redrawing of the city map the local political and economic elite decided to exploit and invest in this area. There were colonial dimensions in the rhetoric of the redevelopment as it was presented as an expansion into ‘unexploited and uninhabited areas’.

Martine Drozdz: The (in)visibilities of communities resisting gentrification in London

Offered a critical exploration of different cartographic documents produced while working with various groups involved in strategic action against some adverse effects of regeneration in London. From maps of gentrification showing the contemporary modalities of the privatisation of public assets to the attempt to map contentious activities around regeneration projects using newspaper archives, the presentation reflected on the public (in)visibility of communities in resistance in contemporary London. See Mapping protest over urban space in London, which showed that “what I was actually mapping had more to do with how conflicts were represented in press than their actual geography”.

Very timely. To me the ongoing process of redevelopment in CPH feels very one note, mainstream and flattening, however a lot of the regeneration is taking place in former industrial areas, meaning that the effect on the population is rather more indirect and causes little to zero protest. The NMM mapping approach could be helpful – see Glasgow | London. There’s definitely a process of normalisation going on, with WoCo city branding and the ‘active Danish lifestyle’ to the fore – enchantment engineering? Redevelopment, regeneration, redefinition, remapping, redrawing…it’s gone on for centuries here. The whole of CPH is a ‘display window for sustainable urban development’, a tool in the hands of the city’s political and economic elite and BIG firms, building and promoting their own image of the future. It may be benign, but varied and diverse it ain’t. Oh, and where I live, there’s nowt.

Mapping the future

GIS cartography is increasingly used as a tool of governance, but how far can it be mobilised for radical pedagogies and community action? And do the imaginative and narrative maps produced by visual artists and critics offer a more precise, as well as more poetic, way of representing the emergent political and cultural landscape of London?

Speakers:

  • Louise Francis (Mapping for Change) – Participatory mapping and community action: new directions in citizen social science
  • Ken WorpoleThe emergent landscape of Thames Gateway; cultural critic and environmentalist who has written widely on aspects of contemporary urban design and architecture, author of The new English landscape (2013); see Going Dutch: 21st century parks