Sustainable this; green that; healthy so-and-so; cycling this; smart that — repeat-to-fade the tiresome clichéd banal platitudes of meaningless architectural rhetoric, that in favour of transcendental imaginaries forget that space is produced, it is political and just as important, it is conceived by the likes of architects and urban planners who are themselves subject to the ideological constraints of the images that shape them. That space is produced, political and as such performative must serve as a reminder that the professions charged with shaping such space must learn to deal with the systemic illnesses and not surface level symptoms.
But, some thoughts on images…
I’ve been thinking about the images we create of the city. Representational images. Either rooted in a nostalgia for a city that never existed or a future city rooted in man’s — white-faced grey suited entitled man’s (yes man, intentionally and critically ‘MAN’) neo-liberal desire — for the city to be made in his image. These images become legislative; "this is how you must see the city"; "this is the good and healthy city"; "this is the sustainable city"; "this is the economically thriving city". But these are homogenizing images — as Deleuze said, "if you are trapped in the dream of the other you are fucked." The image of the one and not the multiple, the differential the heterogeneous multiplicity of difference. Abstract space is what Henri Lefebvre called it. Totalising space. Space made smooth across which the flows of capital can move unhindered.
What about cities? Well: I contend that the city is a construct of the imagination that relativizes our understanding of the world. A new epistemology of urbanism must understand the city as dead. We must instead talk of total planetary urbanization — the urban/rural binary does not exist. Now more than ever in our digital age, the city has lost its specificity — it exists only in the legislative images of those who seek to control its use. In a borderless world covered by the grid of capital, what purpose do boundaries play - The city boundary? Walls? National etc? This is an interesting question.
So I say: towards an urbanism that smashes images. Towards and urbanism that calls into being future actualities that are already present in the now as virtualities, just waiting to be found.
What does this look like? Maybe as Simon Springer writes; an anarchism that "is not about drafting sociopolitical blueprints for the future," but instead is "more concerned with identifying social tendencies, wherein the focus is resolutely on the possibilities of the here and now.” What might an urbanism look like that releases the minor voices? Voices that might teach us to stammer in our own tongue.