Jean-Christophe Lanquetin

François Duconseille

With Zen Marie
Natasha Christopher


Play > Urban

HEAR Strassbourg

WITS Johannesburg

How artistic practices in urban space can inform on the becoming of contemporary urbanities, their ongoing dynamics in a globalized context ? Which concepts, which tools, which 'results' ? 

In Play>Urban via artists interventions we are experimenting conceptual and plastic tools - plastic tools as conceptual tools -, articulating the field of art 'at large' (performance, video, documentary, photo, installation, space - scenography -, etc.), with philosophic, anthropologic, sociologic, urban, etc. researches. Beyond the existing approaches on contemporaries urbanities, we are particularly challenged, on a more philosophical level, by the question of “how the city ‘is’ and how it ‘means’: how it becomes available to and through interpretation” as Matthew Barac in his text for Rogue Urbanism, Emergent african cities (Jacana ed, Auckland Park, 2013) puts it.

One particularity of Play>Urban is the fact its theoretical background is anchored by ongoing researches on contemporary african and southern cities and especially the way they try to articulate a level which allows a reciprocity between speeches by people, inhabitants - which opens to the acknowledgment of their belonging to the common -  and the level of the city, its collective dimension; and via this, how urban orders can be defined in contemporary megalopolis. The concepts we work with are referring to works by Achille Mbembe, Sarah Nuttal, AbdouMaliq Simone, Filip de Boeck, among others, on Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Dakar, Djakarta… But the project is not restricted to southern cities: Play>Urban background, based on a long term project in Kinshasa, is built on an axis between Johannesburg and Strasbourg and plans to intervene in the coming years in Brussels, Mulhouse, etc. But we consider this 'inversion' of theoretical background to be crucial nowadays, as it questions northern urban paradigms and approaches on cities, and we try to see how these conceptual directions can also be efficient in western cities.

After 3 years of (mostly) collective experimentations - via dispositifs de collectifs - during short and long residencies in the contexts of Johannesburg (2011 & 2012) and Strasbourg (2011 & 2013), gathering together academics, students and artists, 'playing' with shared rules, between the most visible and the most invisible, developing narratives, fictions, walks, performances, installations, interventions, screenings, activism, etc., time has come to sketch a first assessment.

Coming back on some of the projects we did we would like to interrogate the way we played, their potentialities as 'plastic concepts', their articulation with some of the key concepts - understood in a dialogic way - we have been working with: people as infrastructure (A. Simone), game/play, theatricality, body politics and common space.
And the way they inform us on urban dynamics.

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