Improvisations on Urbanity
Trendy Pragmatism in a Climate of Change
In this publication trendy pragmatism coincides with the improvisation of jazz music. The result is a plan of action to constructively deal with disorder in urbanism. Improvisation acknowledges disorder and works with existing potentials. Improvisation means, therefore, to work with reality but at the same time, create reality.
In a time where diverse life forms and rational principals coexist, urbanism becomes more and more inoperative. As the urban becomes even more complex, we have to begin to reflect upon how orders are created and negotiated. This means that orders are not given, but have to be improvised. The urban is designed by a performative imperative. If the subject of industrialism was governed by corporate regulations, it now has to govern itself. But how does that work? How do we create new forms of self-governing? How do we organize and produce social space under these circumstances?
Freedom is connected to autonomy. Ever since Kant, the question of autonomy is one of utmost importance to democracy. At the same time, in a consumer's society, we get the feeling of being totally dependent on outer infrastructure, good supply and regulated supply. In order for that to change, transformation must begin in the mind: to opt, in an improvisatory manner, for a faculty of judgment that is reflective in group-action. We don't want to live off the grid but, rather, we want to create our own grid while using what is at hand.
If we must regulate ourselves, we want to find ways of producing instruments to do so. These instruments unfold out of how we live, how we define our life as a work of art. This is what Beuys had in mind when he said that everyone is an artist: everyone is trying to find coherent lifestyles, living in tune with the social space that is at the same time produced by the ones who use it. This dialectical question resembles the basic questions in jazz music: how do you create groove while you let it happen? How do you organize rhythm without over regulating it? How do you create frames for constructive development in open space?
Christopher Dell, Ton Matton, Evelien van Vugt