Book of the Week: 100 cases of Changeability

Book: “We can change the weather – 100 cases of changeability” Wynants, M. (ed.). Crosstalks, 2010

This fourth ‘Crosstalks’ book (VUB, Belgium) edited by our friend Marleen Wynants describes 100 tangible local initiatives from all over the world that fit into a constructive and holistic movement for social and ecological change. Drawing from a pool of personally driven research and bottom-up projects by scientific researchers, architects, artists, political thinkers and entrepreneurs, the book singles out 100 cases in different, yet interrelated domains…

Excerpt from a sample project description: Shrinking Cities, pp. 192-193, by Elke Beyer:

“Shrinking is not just an economic challenge, but it questions the most com- mon assumptions about the nature of cities and urban development. In order to make the shrinking of cities as a social and cultural process the subject for a broad general public, the German Federal Culture Foundation initiated the cultural and urban research project ‘Shrinking Cities’ in 2002.

The first phase of the project analyzed the causes and effects of shrinking, both on a global level and on the micro level of local realities in four urban regions – Detroit Metropolitan Region in the USA, Manchester/Liverpool in the UK, Ivanovo region in Russia, and Halle/Leipzig in former East Germany. Social scientists, architects and artists researched and documented how people live in a situation conditioned by unemployment, emigration and abandonment.

The main issues emerging from the comparative research became work- ing grounds for the development of interventions in the second phase of the project by about thirty interdisciplinary teams and individual artists. Several works conceptualized long-term inequalities, for example, by exaggerating and reinforcing the implications of transnational work migration and cultural transfer (Inverse Seasonal City, Michael Zinganel et al.). Other projects proposed an intervention in the general framework of legal rules, changing the direction of social and economic development, for instance, by proposing an experimental enclave of redistribution of resources and political participation based on the idea of general income in the town Forst (Special social welfare zone,

Other artists developed tools of empowerment in the economic or cultural/media realm in order to strengthen marginal groups (A monument for the women’s center Wolfen Nord, Isa Rosenberger). Participatory film and photo projects aimed at a production of images complementary or opposed to dominant images of city marketing or catastrophe (The secret of LE, Anke Haarmann, Irene Bude). New uses for vacant and underused spaces were suggested in order to give them a new meaning within the city (Sportification, Komplizen).”

Further reading: Philipp Oswalt (ed.), Shrinking Cities, Vol. 1: Jesko Fezer, Stephan Lanz, Uwe Rada). International Research and Vol. 2: Interventions, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2006.

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