[-empyre-] "can cities 'know' things?"

school of missing studies info at schoolofmissingstudies.net
Mon Jan 21 14:29:09 EST 2008

Hi Christina, here finally back on line, thanks for patience.

I would like to stress that the quote "can cities 'know' things" is 
meant to remain a question. In another words, that its final meaning is 
in its own becoming as a singular question. As a question it will most 
likely initiate an array of responses, and I hope, beyond just bipolar 
ones, like "yes, the cities can know things" and "no, they cannot know 
anything". It is indeed a riddle, but it is through this little riddle 
that we hoped to upgrade from a mere thought into a tactic, even a 
strategy for scouting for knowledge.  Now the cities, given the 
complexities involved, are not like playing records that one can just 
place a needle in at a certain speed and learn. This said, we mean that 
to approach the knowing of a city as a mere experience driven activity 
is limited by a great degree since the break up of the situationist 
readings of the city. In this context, the "siege of culture" is a 
neutralizing force. This force of culture can also be situationist if 
the numbers are big enough for it to act autonomously, or pretend to do 
so. With a number of projects we got involved via the School of Missing 
Studies, what became clear is the way we usually managed to enclose a 
project. By this I mean, my feeling is that, in each city we ended up 
working, was thanks precisely securing a topic, a phenomenon in a city, 
which is abundant in its showing, but it is lacking a study, or 
understanding. This lack may have happened because of the topics status 
as a clichee or uncritical presence as air, and a subject without an 
outside. We realized this for the first time working in Belgrade on the 
Looking for October project, about partisan liberation of the city in 
1944. The only productive way to go about this topic in an isolated 
condition in Serbia was to find a group that would be foreign to this 
insider knowledge and then perform a self-reflection. We produced a film 
together with young participants who, due to the crisis, did not learn 
about partisan ideology and history, and were basically bound to live a 
landscape of things and objects, about which they did not know things 
via the usual method of communist indoctrination and self-appointed 
system of witnesses.

In short, given the abruptness of urban change, we felt that the missing 
can easily be turned into a mission to find knowledge about everyday 
things that were stopped to be questioned. Thus the idea was that as 
long as we keep the question alive, we can count on the empowering 
character of the search. As I write this it sounds a bit like the Lord 
of the Rings like, nevertheless that story too did not just appear 

More soon, Srdjan

Christina McPhee wrote:
> hi all,
> Srdjan, you write eloquently about the riddles inside the complexities 
> of what you call arranged space to constructed culture, in cities..
> you ask,
> Can cities 'know' things?
> ...
> "What if cities were to act as "knowledge" that was in a sense 
> suppressed or , even, oppressed under the siege of 'culture'?
> How do you create in each city you work in, 'a iste for scouting and 
> detecting missing knowledge?"
> the old rhetoric of 'knowledge is power' you've playfully inverted 
> into 'missing knowledge is power" -
> Katherine and Srdjan this is one of the coolest intrigues of your 
> work, this little trigger on the pulse of 'missing'...  please give us 
> a story or anecdote or two how this played out along the "Lost 
> Highway" ... in Zagreb for example, or Ljubljana....
> ( re quotes: I 've been reading Srdjan's essay "School of Missing 
> Studies", which appears in the book "Did Someone Say Participate? An 
> Atlas of Spatial Practice," Markus Miessen and Shumon Basar, eds, MIT 
> Press 2006.)
> -c
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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