Anders Emilson on Fri, 30 Apr 1999 16:21:14 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Living in Malmo/The Street Project

Living in Malmö / The street project

(This project is a collaboration between the two research studios at the
Art and Communications School of Malmö University; Narrativity and
Communication on one hand and Space and Virtuality on the other, and with
BO 01, a huge housing exhibition in Malmö in the year 2001).

Malmö is a city in change. The Öresund region is getting established, and
Copenhagen and Denmark are soon to be at half an hour by car when the
Öresund Bridge opens within a year. Malmö has a history as a industrial
city with a big port and several large industries. It also has a high rate
of immigrants and noticeably segregated areas, suburb districts with many
young immigrants and a high rate of unemplyment. On the other hand, Malmö
is in the center of the establishing of a new swedish/danish Öresund area
with the bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen as a strong symbol bla bla
bla, and flourishing industrial contacts between Sweden and Denmark.

A huge housing exhibition BO 01 will take place in Malmö in 2001, and also
mark the opening of an entirely newbuilt city area in the former harbour.
The project Living in malmö is a collaboration between the two research
studios in Malmö and Bo 01, and it deals with the dynamics around Malmö
and the changing identity of the city right now.

The theme of this project is the fluent boundaires between privat and
public in urban space, and in particular how teenagers use the city in
order to create social places and stories about themselves.

The project aims at investigating selected spots in the city in a
continuos process which includes artistic interventions, documentation,
exhibition in a form that allows inhabitants and bypassers to rearrange
and comment on the statements. The exhibition will move around the city in
a mobile exhibition arena in which the teenagers are invited to comment
and reflect upon and possibly change the presented models, artefacts,
stills, video and soundrecordings.

During the voyage through different areas in the city this mobile arena
shall carry with it and reveal this process of documentation and
reflection and finally end up in a summary exhibition the year 2001 in

This project is intended as a study in urban space through what is
sometimes called "participatory ethnography", and it also offers some
interesting design challenges. How can roleplay and art installation be
used in the documentation phase in order to get to other statements than a
polite interview/objective documentation process.

How can we, supported by digital technologies, create an inviting
exhibition arena which offers not only clearly defined rules for
collaborative storytelling and cocreating space, but also the potential of
adding new layers of information over time.

"URBS reconfigured": FRONTIER/CITY (gräns/stad)

A Symposium on Urbanism (Malmo, September 1999)

'City' is a keyword in contemporary culture and thought. Pictorial art,
litterature, art music, pop music... In almost any field today there is
recurrent metaphorical use of urbanity. Not as referring to city
individuality, traditional images or insignia of a particular city,
but to the city as a manifestation of a more general urban condition.

The city has also rapidly established itself as _the_ metaphor of the
internet. The linking of digital communication networks is commonly
described as a variation, or even a new dimension, of the kind of manifest
network that a city consists of.

'City' is a seducing metaphor. There are hardly any limits as to what can
be contained by this concept. Perhaps it is the richness and openness of
it that makes it so attractive as a cultural mirror. As we have learned to
know during the last three decades, there are no easy solutions for
Society. Life is ungraspable and still liveable, just like
the city.

Anyone eager to see the new (and to synthesize the past) keeps a watching
eye on the urban itself, in any of its appearances - rather than just
slices of it, like politics or architecture. But the urban metaphor, of
course, also runs a risk to become too general, even meaningless. What
city are we actually talking about? Is it rather an instance of
"transliteration" - the configuration of our idea of the future projected
on a known surface, "the city"?

the concept of "third"

Professor Pelle Ehn, head of the new Art & Communication School at Malmo
University College (founded 1998), has stated a declaration of aims for
his school. He chose to title it _A Manifesto for a Digital Bauhaus_. The
reference to Bauhaus is not nostalgic. It implies a sincere and concrete
aim: to dissolve the contrariness of "hard knowledge" and "soft", unifying
them through the daily practice of research and education.

In the 1920s of Bauhaus, the unifying aim had to fight all the surrounding
society, and was, as we know, not successful in the end. Instead, the gap
seemed to open and grow even wider during the post war era. Sharp tension
emerged between contrasting notions of reality on different sides of the
scholarly society. British author and scientist C P Snow was the first to
concretize this division. With his essay _The Two Cultures_, he posited
the question by association: How to create a third culture - with the
"hard" and "soft" views on reality and knowledge merged? [1] The issue
then got stalled in the mid 70s, with the industrial crisis and the
cultural pessimism that followed in its wake. Actual problems produced by
Western culture became the main concern. Lofty possibility thinking seemed
out of place.

But a few years ago, a new interest in debating the cultural divide
showed. Apparently, there had been some kind of shift in the meantime:
"The only reason to drag up this old rivalry between the two cultures is
that something surprising happened: A third culture emerged. It's hard to
pinpoint exactly when it happened, but it's clear that computers had a lot
to do with it." writes Kevin Kelly, editor of _Wired_, in an essay for
_Science Magazine_. [2]

The recent launch of a purposely crossbred school like Art & Communication
could serve as a living example, with its educational programme
consciously trying to provide an experimental space for a third culture.

A third culture is supposed to take shape where Art/Humanities and
Technology/Science meet. This actually coincides with a more original
definition of _art_: a single comprehensive concept for making and
exercizing knowledge. Art & Communication School is trying to work along
these lines. Its _Shift Project_, due to run for five years, is aimed at
an active involvement of artists and authors as well as the public. The
project is meant to serve as a meeting place and a "project space" for the
Third Culture. The spreading of new knowledge by means of new public
fora (open lectures and the "Third Culture Café") is one of the more
important objectives of the Shift Project.

There are also other dichotomies in a state of dissolution. The abolition
of the perfect political dualism of East and West has helped us to
conceive territorial boundaries differently. Contrarious conditions on
either side of borders between nations seem to transform from aversion to
attraction. Will borders become primarily a dynamic factor?

Bruno Latour, who is visiting Malmo in June, constitutes an example of
transgression - in a good sense of the word - between different cultures
of knowledge. He is a philosopher, anthropologist, sociologist and
semiologist holding a chair at an institute of technology, École des Mines
in Paris.

In his works, Latour examines an issue fundamental to a third culture, the
relationship between Man and Artefact. In his new book on Paris (_Paris
Ville Invisible_), he cuts a series of sections through Parisian reality.
Latour does not describe the city as Gestalt or architecture, but as an
ever-changing artefact in symbiosis with its inhabitants, technicians,
workers... - all those who invisibly _make_ the city visible.

urbanism and "the Third"

Why hasn't there been a notion of a Third Culture breakthrough earlier?
Why not in the days of Bauhaus? Why not during the dynamic 1960s? The
answer might be as simple as Kevin Kelly proposed: The Digital Revolution.
When digital technology began to transform from a "technical system" into
a "personal platform" for real, a fundamental displacement process was
taking place. The individual use of the digital interface is now in focus.
Man is actually the measure. For those interested in earning a
satisfactory "societal response" it is no longer purposeful to stick to
_either_ science _or_ art. Equal opportunities in communication (or, at
least, something close to it) require wide access and ease with both
technical systems and conscious use of representational modes, both
apparatus and rhetoric.

Until recently, the city was the sole open communication space, the only
open and continuous network. This is not so any longer. But this doesn't
mean that the city has passed to history. Probably we are just developing
a new concept of the city. This concept will have a different point of
departure. It is about principles rather than buildings. Principles of
communication instead of principles of construction. Differences and
distinctions along hitherto unseen lines will show in the midst of our
built environment. We will see things we did not see before.

Communication _opportunity_ is the core of urbanism (as opposed to
architecture, an _act_ of communication), no matter what the means of
transportation may be. The _principles_ of urbanity - a new urbanism?

It is quite clear that a new urban notion of reality is emerging. But it
is yet not clear how it is to be described. We don't have any new and
absolute definition. With the projected symposium, we are looking for
samples and tries of that new urban reality.

The possible amalgamation of digital networks and manifest (built)
networks is the very basics of a third culture city. Like the overall
concept Third Culture, a related city concept would not serve as a
definition, but rather as a frame of discourse. A common field where
different definitions can be confronted and tested.

an urban frontier

The urban principle is trying itself out along a new _frontier_: within
ourselves, within our changing cities, in international relationships -
and in the interface between individual action and cyberspace. It
describes a contour between known and unknown, though not in a far away
darkness, but just around the corner. The impact of cyberspace on urbanity
could perhaps be described as a reconfiguration of _urbs_. In different
words a conceptual change to the _physical_ city.

If we can recognize a change in _urbs_, there must be a correspondence in
the social configuration of the city, _civitas_. If the "digital
revolution" is not a _digital_ revolution, but a revolution that makes way
_by means of_ digital technology - then what is the revolution about?

In cities consciously cultivating their identity with great continuity,
the frontier can be hard to trace. In other cities, the fracture surfaces
of historical frontiers are left open. Large portions of this frontier,
the wastelands of industrial transformation, are already consumed (80s
renewal projects in Western metropolises). But the lion's share remains
(Russia and Eastern Europe, and many Western cities still waiting). Here,
the shift is coinciding with the larger change in communication
technology, the _urbs_ reconfigured. We may expect a difference in

With continuing wars and unrest in some parts of the world, as currently
in former Yugoslavia , a frontier is brought into the midst of our
society. To a refugee landed in a Western European city, the frontier
isn't passed as he crosses the border. He carries the frontier with him,
and he will have to confront it in different forms and appearances in any
action he takes.


Third Culture can also stand for a conception of history. Alvin Toffler,
the blockbuster futurologist of the 1970s, named the current
transformation the _Third Wave_ [4]: The first great wave of change of
mankind was the transition from the hunter and collector stage to
agriculture and dwelling. The second was the transition to capitalism and
industry. The third is, according to Toffler, the current changes, the
transition from industry to information, only a few centuries after the
last wave of pervasive change.

These transformations are obvious in Malmo. And the differences compared
with other cities in the vicinity are equally clear: The identities of
Copenhagen and Stockholm as capitals haven't changed much since the 17th
century. Lund has cultivated its rôle as a scholar city since the 13th
century. Malmo has already got two finished cities on its back: the market
town and the industrial town. Now it is entering its third phase. What
does that look like? What will its characteristics be?

Transformation waves like that of Malmo have hit innumerous cities and
towns around Europe and North America. It can be interesting to compare
and to find similarities, of course. Even more interesting, though, might
be what distinguishes Malmo: The peculiarity of its geographical
situation; the impact of the shift in its geopolitical situation; the
political rôle played by the city within "the Swedish Model", and what it
might be today; its "americanized" demography, with most of the workforce
living outside the city; its residential patterns, with a conspicuous
overweight of "Projects"; its employment situation, with employment rates
among the lowest in Europe in some areas...

In Malmo, currents and shifts in ideology, geopolitics, migration etc,
often break through without mediation. Its geographical bridgehead
position is determinant for the city's mind. As a frontier city
(literally), Malmo has been the scene of the first securement of
Reformation, socialism, social democratic rule and right wing break-up,
just as of inventions in

e.g. construction technology or retail patterns. Modernity is inherent in
a local urban condition, and therefore modernity (as a praxis) has never
been stigmatized in Malmo. For every major wave of change, Malmo seems to
be an open city, always prepared for the penetration of a new frontier.


general scope: to examine the city in the current transformation of
communication and of sources of maintenance for cities- to delineate the
new urban frontier. For Malmo University College and its Art &
Communication School/the Project: to create opportunities for examining a
new field of application. For the work modes of Art & Communication and
for communication with related educational programmes in the surrounding
region. For the City of Malmo: to cast light on and build new knowledge
concerning those aspects of Malmö where the City distinguishes itself and
has something specific to contribute. The making of Malmo into a meeting
point for discourse on future urbanism

FRONTIER/CITY is meant to be a temporary and unorthodox laboratory, trying
to find the best questions rather than the right answers.

In accordance with the tendency, the FRONTIER/CITY project will get an
"urbanist" outline in itself: the project as a whole is meant to be a
framework that can provide the space needed for alternative definitions of
the FRONTIER/CITY: not a scientific edifice, but an open _plan_ where the
individual ideas and projects can be placed and replaced, tried and


1: C P Snow: The Two Cultures, 1964.
2: Kevin Kelly: The Third Culture, in: Science, vol. 279, no. 5353.
3: The Art & Communication School educational programmes range from
interaction technology to theatrical design.
4: Alvin Toffler: The Third Wave

#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  URL:  contact: