On invitation of Impakt Foundation (active in the fields of culture-media-society), STEALTH, together with Kristian Lukić, curated Matrix City, the 2010 edition of Impakt Festival in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Matrix City has installed a temporary platform to meet future perspectives of cities. It depicted the growing dependency on the networked artificial superstructure, the tension between bold and on-the-edge-of-realizable desires about our future, modest responses to pressing realities, dilemmas about the urban ‘revolution’ or alternative virtual environments as ‘better worlds’. Matrix City departs from celebrating the technological or informational advancements of cities and instead focuses through the exhibition Opportunities of Entanglement, seven screening programs, a conference and a number of special events on the growing urban entanglement.
[dilemma of urbanization]
Urbanization increasingly seems to act like a self-propelling machine. A staggering urgency to consider the current development is surely found in the massive and centripetal, gravitational power of urban growth. For one, in the mega-cities that have sprung up in recent decades (which differ so much from the ‘classic’ metropolis that our understanding and tools are at odds with them) but equally in the massive urbanization that takes place outside of these megacities.
In the radical new worlds envisioned in the 1960s and 1970s, for the first time a ‘modern’ engulfing urban matrix was projected (like in the works of Constant Nieuwenhuys, Archigram – or in a more dystopian version by Superstudio, for example) – at a point when industrialization, space age, computing and the emergence of digital media converged with the perceived possibility of a fundamental and liberating ‘makeover’ of our environment.
Nowadays, while newly arriving citizens cut their ties with the rural background and become reliant on resources provided third hand, those that are already part of the urban system have little option to step out. However, this expanding machine of urbanization may currently be the only opportunity at hand. For one, because de-urbanization (at the existing levels of worldwide population growth) may be the most inefficient, resource consuming and therefore unsustainable future ahead.
[exhibition – Opportunities of Entanglement]
The exhibition Opportunities of Entanglement touches upon the ‘shelf life’ or ‘expiration date’ of contemporary concepts of the city. It looks at the consequences of the recent credit crisis versus the boom and decline of Dubai; the flight into web2.0 communities and what that means for our understanding of reality; the alternative communities making their retreat from the real world trying to build a sustainable living; the large number of ´refuge’ islands, bomb shelters and luxurious passenger ships ready to be inhabited by the super rich when ‘things go wrong’; the consequences that mortgage debts from the ‘big world’ have for the small world of local communities; the totally alienating industrial landscapes which have arisen world-wide, and also have been deserted again in many cases…
For this occasion Matrix City appropriated part of Hoog Catharijne, Utrecht’s 1970s avant-garde shopping center, a site of past expectations and current demise, which is today regarded outdated and finds itself on the verge of a major reconstruction. Reminding in an eerie way of parts of Constant Nieuwenhuys’ New Babylon, a superstructure meant to liberate humans of physical work – just in Hoog Catharijne one was to find satisfaction in shopping, not in play.
[7 screening programs]
The screenings at cinema ‘t Hoogt take us into seven thematic programs that brought forward 45 works of artists, filmmakers – but also TV-productions and promotional films. The works span from 1920’s pioneer recordings of the Manhattan (Manhatta, by Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand), to 1970’s avant-garde works of groups like Italian Superstudio (Supersurface and Ceremonia), the Chinese ‘gold farmers’ who currently over the Internet advance US gamers for a modest amount of money to the next game level (Gold Farmers by Ge Jin, 2007), up to digital animations, contemporary community films, Youtube formats, art videos and beyond.
With Promise of the City, Landscapes of Production, Out of the Machine, Impossible Possibilities, Adaptive Survival and Labour of Play, a picture arises of the construction of the urban promise, but also of the sometimes grim, sometimes amazingly beautiful or stimulating reality of the city – the ambiguity that is so characteristic of the urbanity of Matrix City. The program concludes with somewhat apocalyptic portrays of the city in the program Rational Irrational, that might seem as overcharged fantasies, but at the same time may come disturbing close to reality.
In connection to the screening program, a special screening event of the ongoing Citytellers movie series by Francesco Jodice has been held, and a talk-show Matrix-Ville: What is Real/Virtual (see video) hosted by Peter T. Lang with a number of special guests, including contributions by some of the original 1970’s radical architecture movement protagonists and invited critics.
Finally, with the two-part conference Superstructural Dependencies at the Department of Media and Culture Studies of Utrecht University international practitioners and thinkers have been brought together to discuss the dependency of urban societies on their technological superstructures, and in the Virtual flight panel to investigate the recent developments of virtual urban environments with their unstable population and continuous reformulation of their own raison d’etre.
- [see ] Matrix City newspaper
- [curatorial team ] Ana Džokić, Marc Neelen and Kristian Lukić in collaboration with Arjon Dunnewind, Impakt Foundation
- [participating artists exhibition ] SMAQ (Sabine Müller, Andreas Quednau), Francesco Jodice, Kayle Brandon in collaboration with Heath Bunting, Persuasive Games, Bureau d’Etudes, Derivart, Pond Media and Design with Wildlife Conservation Society, Victor Borisov, Vladimir Todorović and Justin Tan, Molleindustria, Damon Rich, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (Daniel Castro and Robert Atkinson), Dubravka Sekulić, moddr_ (Danja Vasiliev, Gordan Savičić, Walter Langelaar)
- [participating artists screenings ] Cliff Evans, Želimir Žilnik, D-Fuse, Henk W. Gomersbach, Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand, Vahram Aghasyan, Olivo Barbieri, Sigvaldi J. Kárason, Ursula Biemann, Bik Van der Pol, StudioSmack, Emily Richardson, MVRDV, Cao Fei, Superstudio, CNN, Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, Seasteading Institute, The Venus Project, Mika Taanila, Lies Westenburg/VPRO, Maja Borg, Beate Lendt, Babelgum/Kelly Loudenber, Not An Alternative, Fabrizio Boni, PBS, Nils Aguilar, Ge Jin, Francesco Jodice en Karl Karman, AES+F, Egle Budvytyte, Victor Nieuwenhuijs and Maartje Seyferth, Ludovic Hou- plan and Hervé de Crécy, John Butler, moddr_/WORM (Danja Vasiliev, Gordan Savičić, Walter Langelaar), Intothepill (Yiannis Grigoriadis, Yiannis Isidorou, Lina Theodorou), Infonomia (Doris Obermair), setokaiba22, Kyong Park, Joan Leandre, TerraVivos
- [conference participants ] Konrad Becker, Eric Kluitenberg, Michiel de Lange, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Ilias Marmaras and Jaakko Stenros; moderation: Matteo Pasquinelli and Kristian Lukić
- [talkshow ] Peter T. Lang with Gian Piero Frassinelli, Saskia van Stein, Tjebbe van Tijen, Piet Vollaard and with camerawork by David Lingerak
- [newspaper ] editorial: Piet Vollaard (editor in chief), Lotte Haagsma, Ana Džokić, Marc Neelen and Kristian Lukić, with contributions by: John Thackara, Jacco Hupkens, Mellvin Wevers and Pim Verlaek, Konrad Becker, Ilian Marmaras, Peter T. Lang
- [graphic design ] Lava.nl (Carolin Tegeler & Céline Lamée)
- [production and pr ] Ivo Verburg, Jeroen Andriessen, Elizabet van der Kooij, Benjamin van Vliet with Koen Poelhekke, Katrien Lamers, Maarten Kat, Iva Mechkunova, Martina Mohlova, Sarah Frischmuth, Tedje Schreurs, Martijn Büser
- [construction team ] Jasper Droogers and Michael van Rosmalen
- [thanks ] The screening program has been complemented with generous contributions and suggestions from a/o: Cecilia Andersson, Francisca Benitez, Arjon Dunnewind, Sara Hammond, Elisa Harkins, Ana Janevski, Peter T. Lang, Christel Leenen, Suzanne Kole, Iva Mechkunova, Nat Muller, Sabine Niederer, Bik van der Pol, Miguel Robles-Duran, Dubravka Sekulić, Anja Steidinger, Saskia van Stein, John Thackara, Ivo Verburg, Piet Vollaard, Dragan Živančević.
- [background ] Matrix City, the main program of the Impakt Festival 2010, has been commissioned by Stichting Impakt (Utrecht). It has been funded by a/o the Netherlands Fund for Architecture, Mondriaan Stichting, Gemeente Utrecht, Provincie Utrecht, Nederlands Fonds voor de Film, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, VSB Fonds, K.F. Heinfonds and Fentener van Vlissingenfonds
- [timeline ] May 2010 – October 2010; Impakt Festival dates, 13 – 17 October 2010
- [publicity ] Metropolis M, article ‘Impakt Festival 2010, interview with Arjon Dunnewind’ (12/10/2010, in Dutch), Volkskrant,
article ‘De stad is utopia en apocalyps tegelijk’(16/10/2011, in Dutch), Post Planjer, interview ‘De eindeloze toekomst van de stad’ (01/2011, pg. 24-32, in Dutch)