In 35 Meridians of Radical Rituals, cities along the 45°N latitude, like Belgrade, Pula, Tulcea, or Simferopol, serve as a starting point for your research. Looking at this marking makes me curious what urban strategies and cultural practices, and which differences or parallels, become visible in the communities of the respective cities. What can we possibly learn about Europe and its inhabitants through your project?
The 45°N parallel crosses several climates, geographies, and borders marked by socioeconomic and geopolitical struggle. Movements of people, knowledge, and goods made the hybrid place we call Europe. While exposing the contradictions that burden Europe today – inequalities in financial resources, migration management, civil rights – our gesture aims at reuniting rather than reinforcing those divisions. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea we can count 35 meridians. At these intersections we have identified cities and places that we believe are exemplary of Europe’s hybridity. There are cities that are notorious melting pots – like Bordeaux or Ploiesti. But in general our list is in continuous evolution and we hope to find out more about them by looking closer rather than making assumptions from afar. In this linear research we hope to find a third space between the apparent opposites that define the official narration of space-making, e.g. by uncovering collective actions that don’t fall into the category of professional practice.
What exactly do you mean by third space? How does such a space look?
The term »third space« is coined by the theorist Homi K. Bhabha. He describes the third space as a transitory space, where postcolonial power relations and norms are subverted by political, aesthetic, or everyday practices. A third space is not a physical place; it is much more a space where hybrid identifications are possible and where cultural transformations can happen. Third spaces enable cultural hybridity, that is to say identities and practices, which perform difference without an assumed or imposed hierarchy.
We believe that the increased physical and virtual connectivity of today results in an exciting, constant exchange of ideas that defines viable alternatives to mainstream, capital-driven territorial development. Borrowing from French novelist and filmmaker George Perec, we are interested in infra-ordinary experiences that are generated within the complexities of a society in transformation. These experiences take the form of community self-organization, cooperatives, informal gatherings, and spontaneous actions often found at the periphery of cultural production.
So you’re examining different »urban rituals« as models for spatial occupation within temporary societies. What do you understand as rituals and why are you interested in them?
Traditionally investigated by anthropology, religious studies and sociology, rituals have always been necessary practices in human and animals’ social lives. In the past they were connected to local collective identities, mostly referred to agriculture, religion or myths. In increasingly secular times, contemporary rituals still satisfy a wide spread need for identification. For example, they strengthen the capacity of collective action to reach ambitious goals.
In our work we try to understand the urban realm not only through design but also by borrowing methods from anthropology that look into the user’s perspective. We call these examples rituals, because they are inclusive and have the power to create ties of kinship and spatial identity. We call them radical because, in a sense, they are fundamental but at the same time they are innovative, pointing to possible alternative futures.
How these »Third Spaces« and »Radical Rituals« inform your understanding of urban space making and the planning of future cities?
In the same way that centuries of cultural crossing have generated new spatial configurations, we believe that today’s cultural crossings offer opportunities for the emergence of a new commonality. We speculate on a future with a highly hybridized urban society, in which a transnational youth develops skills, resources, and knowledge accumulated through multiple cultural repertoires, digital technologies, and social media. New traditions, heritage, and imaginaries, collective actions, occasions, and conventions are in the making and new memories and technologies can shape radical practices of commoning grounded on spatial justice and environmental awareness. They help to reinvent common space beyond identity and borders, in both digital and social space.