program statement

Dear reader,

This is the first version of (Re)configuring Territories statement. It is combinated from discussions we have had with fellow researchers, artists and with our organizing team. The themes of the research program and our area of ​​interest move across a wide range of issues that touch on landscapes of urban planning, feminist ways of organizing, multidisciplinary practices and ecological thinking, situating in the context of the Baltic Sea region.  This is still knowledge-in-the-making and the thinking process is constantly under construction. and each year we are involving new colleagues and research questions.

We have been writing this in English and Finnish (p.7) and (translator’s name) has kindly translated this to Estonian and Russian. 

– Kaisa and Tommi

(Re)configuring territories – Program Statement

(First thoughts)

The flows of matter, infrastructures and information, and the practices of collecting, organizing and interpreting these flows construct overlapping temporal layers, materialities and archives. Together, these layers make a nonlinear, elastic and complex image, in which conflicting narratives and alternative ways of making knowledge  about places, spaces an situations  can shape each other.

How could we imagine materializations of intensive coexistence – cities – that would be based on plural time horizons, care, and dialogical ways of being?

(Short Introduction)

(Re)configuring territories is a multidisciplinary research program, that explores the practices of reading and archiving,  modeling and storytelling, care and maintenance related to the urban environment. The program is situated in the city of Narva at the border of Russia and the EU/Estonia.

(What do we aim to do?)

The indeterminate terrain between disciplines

(Re)configuring Territories aims to start conversations and construct friendships between practitioners, artists, research architects, design anthropologists, political geographers, theory-fiction writers etc.

The multidisciplinarity of this means multilayered companionships between different practices, between different forms of thinking, situating and different ways of being vulnerable. We believe that by approaching the indeterminate terrain that reaches over and across more specifically defined practices we can begin to locate contentious ja worthy claims and materialize incompatibles and interdependencies in between practices.

The program encourages practitioners to develop speculative, performative and critical research practices and bring forth situated social and ecological questions. We wish these questions could help us to develop more diverse cities and ways to live together. The program becomes attached to questions about creating borders and occupying border terrains, questions about owning space and and mechanisms that produce otherness, questions about unevenly distributed privilege and equality in a broken landscape in which territories are dynamic and constantly changing.

(the focus is in the medium between things)

Active Forms of Architecture

The program is inspired by architect Keller Easterling’s formulation about active forms of architecture. In her writing Easterling describes how invisible structures such as standards, protocols, and procedures shape cities, urban environments and the ways we are together. For her architecture is not just examining physical objects – buildings and cities – but also the regulations, thinking patterns, routines and parameters that have an indirect bearing on the design of physical environments. 

Easterling calls these invisible and changing structures Active Forms. For her understanding how architecture is produced is at least as important as the question of what these structures and buildings are. (Re) configuring Territories focuses on these Active Forms of Architecture. The program seeks to identify and develop ways of being, practicing, and encountering that would make the ways we live together more diverse and sustainable.

(From here on we will outline practicalities and the schedule for the program)

Annual cycle

The program is a combination of three annual iterations: a week-long Spring School and a month-long Research Residency and  a weekend-long Live Action Role-Play. These three assemblies form a cyclical process. Each year begins with a spring school. The knowledge that is produced in the week-long spring school can be further analyzed and processed by artists and researchers during their residency period which again can provide starting points for the immersive Live Action Role-Play that proposes a reconfigure of the urban space. All the three phases share an interest in immersive and collective research methods situated ways to approach and model urban space and informal learning together with the neighboring territories and disciplines.

Spring School

The Spring School is a week-long gathering and a workshop to explore various practices to read, archive, model, tell stories, care and maintain the urban environment collectively. The grounds around Narva Art Residency will be taken as a public laboratory, where participants can dream and realize proposals that explore the urban environment in Narva. The Spring School will end with an open event where the process and discussion is opened to the local public.

Residency

The (Re)configuring Territories Residency is meant for practitioners and researchers who share an interest in situated practices and speculative approaches in the Baltic Sea Region. The artist-in-residence is chosen through an open call. The resident lives and works at Narva Art Residency’s facilities where they can concentrate on their own artistic practice in the context of our program. The resident will participate in the Live Action Role-Play and the Spring School. Also, resident’s research and artistic practice will be taken as a reference point when framing the theme for the Role-Play and Spring Schools. 

LARP

Live Action Role-Play, LARP, is a critical play for a first person audience. In a LARP players relate to a fictional world from the first person perspective of a fictional character. In the (Re)configuring Territories program role-playing is a tool to test possible narratives in the Baltic Sea region and speculative roles of an architect, a designer or an artist. The practice of immersing in fictive characters and environments allows artists and designers to question the conventions of today’s reality and contemplate on the long term consequences of the actions we are taught to take and processes we are thought to be part of.

(From here on we will tell how the emphasis of the program will develop during the three years)

The Span of Four Years

(Re)configuring Territories is planned as a program that has 3 itearation (2019–2022). Each of the years approaches cities and collectiveness from a somewhat loose temporal perspective. Due to the Covid-19 epidemic, we will replan the program in 2020 and continue again in 2021. The years 2020-2022 are supported by Kone Foundation.

First Year: Stories of yesterday – The City as an archive

The first year the programme approached Narva as an archive. What kind of conflicts and tensions can we find from different material, informational and social sediments of the city? Whose stories are being told, written down and archived? Who are the main characters? Who are missing a voice?

The program’s first instalment was a Spring School that took place from May 6 to 12, 2019. The Spring School was structured around three overlapping workshops, each approaching Narva from a different angle and on a different temporal scale. 

In the Theory, History, Poetry Workshop led by Aiwen Yin, participants walked through history in poetry, ate theory on history, and wrote poetry on theory, by wandering, listening, reading, ruminating, conversing and writing together in the city. 

In the metaNAR – Narration for Digital Society Workshop led by Damiano Cerrone, participants used digital means to explore the metamorphology of Narva, processing the digital footprints and mapping the collective landscape of the city. 

In the Field Study Workshop led by Polina Medvedeva, participants interacted with the city and its inhabitants documenting small stories and local knowledge about the informal economies and non-conformist communal structures of Narva. 

Each of these three workshops lasted for five days and had five participants. Each group presented their process as part of the Narva Urban Lab 2019 event.

Second year: Tales of Today – Feminist spatial practices

We will explore narratives of development and decay and look for ways to approach our collective vulnerabilities as a deconstructive process. We will delve into practices of care, maintenance and performativity as a way to challenge the dominant socio-spatial order and look for socially and ecologically more sustainable ways to live together.

In the spring 2021 TOK curators will join the residency from St. Petersburg. During their residency TOK will explore different formats of curatorial strategies and challenge the borders of the territory of art, seeking ways of how it can foster social change. TOK curators will critically rethink the parameters for historical analysis of the post-industrial areas in cross-border territories between Russia and Estonia as well as to look at their common political, industrial and ecological history.  

Along the Residency we will organise a Spring School and a Role-Play. In the Spring School we will have three workshops dealing with feminist spatial practices. 

The first (Re)configuring Territories Role-Play will deal with emerging forms of ecological activism and post-fossil fuel culture in the context of Baltic Sea region.

Third year: Histories of Tomorrow – Speculative Educational institutions and imagining the Cities of the Near Future

In the third year of the programme we will draft scenarios and write suggestions for the future. The program will build support structures and small gestures to sustain the  research processes and practices we have initiated during the first years of the program. 

In the spring 2022 artist duo Varia Lambo will take part in the residency. Their research and multidisciplinary-oriented practice is grounded in the fields of theatre, sculpture, performance, public space and time-based arts. They work by using on in situ observations, recorded interviews, sound takes, ethno-poetic speculative approaches, in order to validate or undermine our first impressions, and leave binary interpretations behind. They are trying to find some answers leading to a violent / control free social interaction in space.  

During their residency Varia Lambo wants to propose a future where violence in general is extinct. They ask what a violent free world could look like? Is a violent free society even possible? When does violence begin and what do we perceive as such and how can art contribute to a safer, more social environment? During their residency they will focus on a “Right to the Night”, which embodies the imagination of danger and ontologies various feelings of social belonging. 

(some words)

And so

We will publish more detailed information  about the themes, about  future Spring Schools and LARPs and about mentors in the coming months. Both of these two events are open for everyone and the participants will be selected through an open call.