A comfort zone is changing
Utrecht is a perfect example of an old Western European city with a big middle class. It has a great history and, centuries ago, was a politically important European city. Nowadays Utrecht lies at the edge of the Randstad [Delta City Metropole] one of Europe’s richest economical areas consisting of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Hague. It has a picturesque old town with canals and beautiful houses, a rich cultural life and a lot of universities and higher schools. The average rate of education is very high and the city is growing.
On the outskirts you will also find neighbourhoods, which are mainly inhabited by people with migrant background, and residential quarters planned and built in the last 40 years, where there is almost no public life. Right now a new quarter for 100.000 inhabitants is being built, yet its’ building process is being challenged by the financial and mortgage crisis. This crisis even puts the question of building as an economical drive in question.
These days the Netherlands live through a recession and a minority far right government has just fallen. Globalisation, economical developments and worldwide migration, or, generalizing, the decline of the West, question the future prospects of the country and its’ middle class. Political parties harvest on insecurity and gain votes on the fear for future. The country lives through an identity crisis. What does this mean for a city like Utrecht? How does it react to the decline of the Western World? Does it embrace the world within its’ city limits? What does this mean for the middle class? What life for their kids? What will Utrecht look like in near future, now that the comfort zone is changing.
The focus of the Riga City Lab is nature, diverse forms of co-existence of urban and natural, and particularly, cohabitation of different species, including humans. Nature has always been an essential part of Latvian identity, it plays an important role in people’s everyday life, determines daily rhythm and communication, and is always present in creative activities. Nature is also an integral element in the landscape of Riga, the city built along the coast of the Riga bay and divided by the Daugava river. As nature can only be properly explored in situ, Riga Lab is mainly structured as open-air tours guided by scientists of different discpilines.
With 95.000 inhabitants Maribor is the smallest urban entity in the GC-LC. Everybody knows everybody in the city, which no one really knows. The city’s identity is easier to define as that-which-is-not, rather to assert what exactly Maribor is: it’s not a village, but it’s not really a city either; it’s not completely provincial, but it’s not urban either; it’s not outspokenly xenophobic, but it’s not tolerant either: it’s not multicultural, but it’s not completely mono-cultural either. Maribor is simply unwilling and unable to decide what and who it is. The thematic focus will therefore inevitably strive to disclose the consequences, realities and symptoms that arise from Maribor being a small urban settlement, which heavily shapes the dynamics of its tight social networks, clans and family structures. Maribor seems impenetrable in its narrow illusion of auto-sufficiency and unwilling/unable to seek distance from its own reality, convinced that its timeless universe is functioning flawlessly. The CityLAB Maribor program will place the Maribor youth into focus. Thus the problem of the apathetic and disengaged young people without any future is one of the crucial problems of the city, because it points to a highly concerning lack of collective political will, of the crucial force constituting the public domain, of the common space articulating the future, of the ethical engine pushing to remember its industrial as well as urban heritage. Since the young people of Maribor merely reflect the disengaged timelessness of the city, the focus will be two-fold: one dimension will be pursued by presenting the status of young people in the city, but the other dimension will be articulated in a seemingly incoherent manner with the ambition to delineate the scattered symptomatic shapes of the city. Both, its lifeless mainstream neatness and the young people in it merely constitute two sides of the same coin.
Global Cities are exposed to competition for high-skill and innovation. Therefore cities try to send out a picture of unique and highly attractive visibility into the world. In the age of ubiquitous availability of digital image data, cities increasingly communicate through imagery. As the rankings of economic institutes and lifestyle magazines show: cities that are particularly successful are those that are characterized by clear and sharp images. This is with a formative effect. More and more urban development depends on the visual effectiveness, according to pictorial staged atmospheres.
The Visibility of Munich stands for a unique atmosphere. Munich is considered a beautiful city. Munich is, in accordance with the worldwide rankings, a very successful and “most liveable” city. Nowadays Munich is faced with high urban growth. The global city of Munich is regarded as an exemplary model of a traditional European city. For decades, European cities are concerned with the tension between preservation and modernization. Munich has developed a strategy to handle this tension and herewith created the basis for today’s success.
Despite enormous social and structural changes the official postcard from Munich has changed imperceptible in a century.
The Munich CITY Lab focuses on the questions of visibility. What is the image of Munich in the self-description of its inhabitants, media and local stakeholders? How does the brand “Munich” work? What is on the visible surface, what is on the invisible reverse side? Which parts of the past are there to be seen in the urban space and the urban image, and which parts are hidden?
Cultural activity is often led by “professionals” or “experts” to deliver social value to disadvantaged communities. Derry-Londonderry, the UK City of Culture 2013, is a city that has experienced 30 years of bitter conflict, is looking to build a new model of participation that draws on re-imagined relationships, architecture and cultural traditions whilst celebrating the communities that live and breathe there everyday. While there is much exciting regeneration going on in the centre of Derry-Londonderry, we want to explore how artists can create work from the edges of the city inwards, listening to the voices of those who have lived there for many years.
Lisbon, treasure room of old grandeur as a former capital of globalization avant la lettre, always scoring high in the charts with most popular city trip destinations in Europe. But also a backdrop for plague and hunger, of earthquakes and tsunamis, nowadays one of the epicenters of the economic shockwaves that rock the continent. A pigg capital, a laboratory for new socio-economic realities.
An ethic melting pot in Southwest Europe, – or was it North Africa, or maybe Northeast Latin America? – where racial and ethnic tensions seem less present (at least less visible) than in other western urban agglomerations. Where community perhaps still means something. A city of emigrants, immigrants and nomads, circumscribed by very volatile and porous borders: between nature and culture, between water and land, between modernity and tradition.
A city of poets and surrealists, where the revolution bears the name of a flower, the cemetery is called “Pleasures”, where the walls speak – more eloquently than anywhere else perhaps – of agony and dreams of then and now.
When we think of a city, we immediately imagine public spaces: streets, squares, museums and shopping malls. However, as much as it is a public space, for its residents the city is an accumulation of private spaces. This hidden vast network opens up only when you gain trust of the city residents. In this Lab, we will meet and spend time with Helsinki residents in their private spaces.
For many of us in the art field, at some point a conflict emerges between private and public, or professional, lives. How do we balance the families and careers? How do we define ourselves outside of the professional realm? Do we have a right for private life? How do we define and deal with private in art and in politics? We asked Helsinki hosts to share their views and strategies on this subject.
PAST AND FUTURE UTOPIAS
Tallinn – the city of interruptions. Constantly changing ideologies have shaped the form of the city and the mind-set of the inhabitants. Also, the past has been constantly reconstructed. There is no proper story to dwell on. And, to be honest, it has been just peasantry and mud, and barley and potato. So – nothing glorious yet. But we are positive, because we have future! Let the utopias roll! Let the golden age be still to come! Future will be the best as it has always been.
Tallinn’s CityLab will be about past and present futures. Utopias. We will be investigating different ideas and memory games laid on the physical space. It will all happen in the veil of the Nordic white nights, when people and the time they constitute are silenced and the ideas of the constructed space is revealed the clearest.
Our warm welcome to Estonia – to the most forward-looking country of the earth on the far edge of everything!
The conference 100% City concludes the Global City — Local City project, and once again brings together professionals from different fields, including artists who have participated in the research and residency stage of the project, as well as festivals that have organised research labs, hosted residencies and presented city specific art work in their programmes. The conference’s focus is on active creative practices and forms of living, experiencing and making the city, including the effects of different unique and continuous activities, issues related to public space and impact of globalization on various local phenomena.