research and exhibition at MIT 2011
November 5th, 2011

Reclaim the Street

This section comprises so-called Constituent Practices – practices that seek to create autonomous social spaces by developing experimental forms of education, community, urbanism and architecture. Public space is reclaimed and redefined, often beginning with squatting buildings and land. New forms of social reality are developed from the ground up, outside of official regulation. Social relationships are networked and heterogeneous. Often the impetus for these communities derives from a mixture of artists and social movements.

Works by: Park Fiction (initiated in 1994, Hamburg), Mariette Schiltz and Bert Theis (live and work in Milan and Luxembourg), Atelier d’Architecture Autogéré (founded in 2001, Paris), Hito Steyerl.


1) Margit Czencki/Park Fiction

…die W¸nsche warden die Wohnung verlassen und auf die Strasse gehen

(…desires will leave home and take to the streets), 1999

Colour, 61 minutes

texts: Christoph Schäfer

camera: Martin Gressmann, Margit Czenki

music/sound collage: Ted Gaier, Schorsch Kamerun

with: Park Fiction activists, the clever Hafenrand-Club.

One day wishes are going to leave home and hit the streets…

At the moment, though, they lead an unappreciated kind of life, in amongst  boxes filled with favourite things, in secret love-letters, in disgarded novel fragments, in sad stamp collections. They live vase-formed, as dog-eared posters, as thread-bare carpets, as Mickey Mouse telephones, in dust-covered travel souvenirs, they’re hibernating in your record collection. But they’re getting nervous. They’re sick and tired of living in the shadows. They want to get out there, into the city. They want to meet other wishes, they want to argue, be productive, they want to dance in the street, parade in feather boas, they want to drape a new plan over the city and pirouette on the roof-tops, link up and connect, build terrible machines, prowl the streets with their glitter gangs, rip documents and files from shelving units and feast on the spectacle of 400 office tables crashing through the glass facade of a skyscraper, rushing down like a waterfall. Wishes are going to leave home and bring an end to this reign of boredom, this administration of misery .


2) Hito Steyerl

Universal Embassy, 2004

Colour, 4 minutes

The former Somali Embassy in Brussels is being squatted by „Sans-papiers“, who proclaim a Universal Embassy on the premises.


Die Leere Mitte (The Empty Centre), 1998 

Colour, 62 minutes

Potsdamer Platz was once the political centre of Berlin. During the Cold War it became a deadly minefield between the borders. After German reunification, Potsdamer Platz was rebuilt. In this process, residents were removed to the outskirts of the city, marginalized by the recentering of Germany’s political and economic power. The Empty Centre closely follows the processes of urban restructuring that have taken place in the centre of Berlin – in 1990, squatters proclaimed a socialist republic on the death strip; eight years later, the new headquarters of Mercedes Benz arise in the same location. The film focusses on Potsdamer Platz to explore global power shifts, and the simultaneous dismantling and reconstruction of borders, using slow superimpositions to reveal architectonic and political changes. The Empty Centre also traces the history of ostracism and exclusion, especially against immigrants and minorities, which have served to define the notion of a powerful national center. “It is not so much crossing boundaries as frontiers as it is the partial disappearance, dissolution or repositioning of the boundaries themselves. It is the shifting of the boundaries as you try to cross them…  Now you begin to see that we are also talking about the fragmentation of boundaries; the partial breakdown, renegotiation, repositioning of boundaries, about the appearance of new boundaries which cut across the old ones.” (Stuart Hall)


3) Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée (AAA)

Au Rez-de-chaussÈe de la ville, (The City at Ground Level), 2005

DVD pal, Colour, 34 minutes

ECObox is an urban social experiment started in 2001 in the La Chapelle area, in the North of Paris. It aims to use temporarily available and underused spaces for collective activities. It brings together the specialised knowledge of architects, artists and researchers and the common knowledge and skills of local people. It is a worksite at the ‘ground level of the city’ that anyone can enter to propose a cultural, social or political project.


 4) Mariette Schiltz and Bert Theis

Isola Nostra, 2007

DVD 59’, Music by Steve Piccolo

Isola Nostra is not a documentary proper. It deals with the top down imposition of an urban renewal plan with little or no public consultation  in the historical working class neighborhood of Isola (“island”) in Milan and with attempts to oppose it “from below” such as Isola Art Center and OUT (Office for Urban transformation).  It is not shot coherently by one author and much of the visual material is part of the general and collective effort to document a practice in the process of becoming. The film is organized thematically in chapters, each section attempting an overview of the simultaneous trajectories of this conflict.

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