New Babylon Revisited
CURATED BY SOFIA DONA AND DAPHNE DRAGONA
From 7-9 November 2014 Circuits and Currents hosted the “Athens Conference for Utopian Technologies Etc” by Christina Kral / YKON & Angela Jerardi, as part of New Babylon Revisited.
New Babylon Revisited consists of a series of actions, workshops and dérivés that starting from Constant’s New Babylon re-discuss issues concerning the free communication of a city’s inhabitants. Artists and theorists propose new architectures of connectivity, inviting the inhabitants to think and act collectively.
Participatory actions and drifts for the post-digital city
New Babylon was a model of an utopian city of the architect Constant. It was based on the idea of a constantly developing network of units that can allow dynamic and playful interactions among the city and its inhabitants. Although the New Babylon was a city that was never built, a part of Constant’s thought seems to have been now realised in the most contradictory way. Life in the “smart cities” seems to have an open, participatory and playful character aiming for the constant optimisation, normalisation and predictability of urban everyday life. Constant connectivity and the continuous aggregation and use of urban data can not leave much of a space for unpredictable, ephemeral and free forms of communication and interaction. And while in the post-digital era the romanticised idea of the connected city seems to be left behind, the urge once again appears for the location and redefinition of the elements that can offer opportunities for unitary thought and collective action.
Athens Conference for Utopian Technology Etc.
‘Straying’ no longer has the negative sense of ‘getting lost’, but the more positive sense of discovering new paths.
Constant Nieuwenhuys, The Principle of Disorientation
Constant overlayed his utopian planned city, New Babylon, onto the extant modern city, imagining the possibility of a human population at play—freed from utilitarian labor. Meanwhile the ‘ludic activism’ of the Provo Movement engaged the urban terrain as political and absurdist tool. These speculative proposals gave room to imagine something anew—making visible the potential for change within a given city or community.
Revisiting this practical utopian lineage and its playful engagement with the urban environment, YKON (FI/DE), together with curator Angela Jerardi (US/NL), will host Athens Conference for Utopian Technologies Etc. (ACUTE), an intimate 3-day conference in the center of Athens. This mini-conference invited participants to view and use Athens in novel and absurd ways. Game mechanics provided the methodology for engaging with the city and its existing sites and cultural infrastructure. By testing a range of provided tools (playful rules of how to approach the city), as well as developing new ones in situ, the participants added a new layer on the city.