There are certain times in life, when you find yourself in a constant transit between places of movement and relaxation. Travelling your innerst and surrounding, leaving traces that ought not be followed. Passing by.
So it happened in March 2012 to me.
Soundtrack for this one : Sound Iration : In Dub.
I was about to dig deeper into the eastern parts of Europe, what I’ve found were another repetitions of the ever same. Cycles, tracks and recurrencing thoughts while looking out of the trains’ windows.
Two weeks and seven cities had to be enough for grasping inspiration. These were Budapest, Београд, Ljubljana, Zürich, Paris and Manchester. A little tour d’europe that I’m planning to let you be part of it.
Now, let’s jump back. Suit yourself in a comfort mood and give me your hands to take you on a journey.
As an “entry plate” I switched over to Budapest, taking the early train, crossing not-so unknown lands and feeling home in a friend’s place after escaping Berlin’s spheres of every day survival. Get to the end, make a cut.
Having arrived at their house immediately allowed myself to let go the concentration that was needed to get there. The concentration to prepare to leave. Not letting anything urgent open that might need your awareness.
Early inner settlement arrived. A certain sense of distance was accompanied by it.
In the morning I went on.
What followed were long hours of crouching across the tracks, of standing at the border, the train moving forward and backward. And again. Leaving behind the Hungarian lands, the vast fields of the Pannonian Bassin stretched themselves out in every direction when crossing the northern Serbia. Still following the Danube somehow, images from Mongolia reappeared in my mind, setting myself in a very excited state of mind.
Out there in this unknown emptyness of countrysides hides a notion of mirroring oneself. Nothing distracts, nothing remains. Your thoughts that have just been focussed are easily superseded by others. Even then, by watching them come and go, you see the important ones recurring, each time from a little different perspective, each time more clear. You have time.
If you use it wisely, you can have enormous feelings of luck. And then gaining contact to fellow passengers who are also going to see resonate.io is another act of appropriating space, making it your own, of forgetting your usual boundaries and inviting friction from outside. Entering Novi-Beograd, looking at the huge Sinti and Romanies squats next to the train station, in between of massive socialist quarters, raised the volume level, showing not only our cabin was going to this „New Media Event“.
What you just saw is the result of my first Hospitality Club experience. Warmly welcomed in a southern outskirt by a local-born host, after having talked about my occupations and interests, I left the house for registration at the festival not without having agreed on meeting later at the biggest squat I’ve ever seen : BIGZ.
After walking the city, ending up on the uppest floor in the beautiful Jazz Klub Čekaonica, I could sit back and relax over the amazing view as well as with the nice music coming along – “easy living“. Later on my hostess would come and, after some beers, pick me up on her way back home.
So getting lost in the appealing streets of Beograd seemed more reasonable, leading to a colourful market somewhere. Again, memories from Mongolia and İstanbul found their way to my had and retold me the story of human diversity, especially when thinking about those sophisticated thinkers, artists and talkers at the festival. And not even a several hundred meters away from their spectacle you could find delicious artisanal honey with honeycombs, talk to people without even using a word or float with your mind through smells and tastes like I did. Might this excuse just be another language-game to establish a counter narrative to the, albeit highly educated, mainstream of trend inspired knowledge workers? That I’m already part of?
For me, in the context of data, open source & collaboration there emerged three fields of interest for future deepening:
Not to mention how funny it is to dance in some random cellar club to Hip Hop music from this period!
Definately worth to come again. And also, if you once need a hat, go there. They have some good handcraftsWOmen ’round there, I suppose, because it expresses through a high density of hat shops.
Early in the year I decided to go to Beograd. I weren’t really sure why, but the possibility was there and I catched up. In some times I even didn’t want to go : didn’t know how to get there : how to move on. But eventually everything was prepared, put itself in shape to just let me explore travelling, being on the (rail-)road again. So now I can only think of a city that made me feel so comfortable and I would only leave (for a return?) with a little tear in one of my eyes. Again : moving on.
If I could turn back time and there’d be again the chance to visit this city with a true companion, I couldn’t think of something worse than leaving out this chance for any higher reason.
Being filled up with onto-logical and epistemo-logical noise, finally cut from Berlin’s distress, the way unfolded again from itself, as there were pre-booked trains to catch, and I could enjoy another rail road rumbling with a beautiful sunset in Zagreb. But as common, the train went on and took me to Ljubljana.
There was another HC-member, better her sister, waiting for me at the train station and walking me to her university dormitory. Eight rooms, two floors, two bathrooms, one kitchen and a balcony in a newly built student’s shelter. The cold rearrived. I was upset about the spontaneous train prices to Zürich and went into a struggle with myself how to go on. Talking to the others, hitchhiking remained the only alternative.
Which I tried, really, but started to late and got surprised by a constant rain shower. For two hours I kept myself standing next to the highway entrance, holding my paperboard sign gradually losing ink and shape. As with myself. As I started trembling a lot, I went back to the dormitory, finally had breakfast and took a hot shower.
The only conclusion : “Get the hell outta here!” and give a damn about the money. For being the city where I wanted to meet memefest‘s staff and was hoping to find a nuance of what made minds like Žižek and Zupančič appear there, only the view of the Alps gave me astonishment. For the rest of what I saw : maybe another day.
Say Ciao Ljulbjana. Here you have some citations from the aforementionned link, just to give an example about how our paradox intertwined contexts can be sometimes:
“Clearly love cannot be forced, you cannot be threatened into loving someone; what you would get is the appearance of love, the actions that accompany it without the actual state of love. Nor can love be a free choice; we cannot decide to love someone. Returning to Zizek, all we can say is that when we love someone we know that we have already fallen in love with them.”
“Love is when you give away something you don’t have to someone who doesn’t exist.” Lacan
Being stranded at a place in Altstetten with 6°C early in the morning, without replies from some squatters a friend of mine thankfully contacted, my hunger arose and empty energy depots had to be refilled. How exhausting travelling can be!
Especially when your mind sets switch every day according to your surroundings.
After a refreshing call, stating everything was alright and someone’s already waiting for you, I packed my belongings to move into my new home for this night. And what a mansion!
In the beautiful sunshine arose a solitary example of emancipation. I could say from my perspective. But Zürich is scattered with around 20 to 30 occupied house projects throughout the city, as I’ve heard, having found their network hub within the Autonomous Beauty Salon, situated in a squatted old factory site.
All being artists in their own ways, my three hosts gave me an impression what it means to be responsible for a house : keeping it in shape, maybe also not a semi-rotten one. The next plan was to open up the garden for neighbours and allow them to have horizontal agricultural land. As one old lady in the streets interestingly told me, her little garden is only at the slopes of the mountains around.
And not even completely illegally. There was a fixed telephone line for calling and Internet, there was water, electricity, all the infrastructure that could also just not be there! The owner of the house received it as a heritage and can easily wait until the Gentrification Train is finished with the quarter around. Until then he’s not charging the squatters for taking care of his house as long as they pay the bills.
Still they live far cheaper than in an appartement, for example. The monthly rent was something like 800 Euros for 12 square meters?!
And also their personalities don’t reduce on left activism : in the evening you go out and dive into dumpsters, drinking and swearing the punk way, at days you engage in neighbourhood empowerement and earn your money in the regular way.
Which isn’t necessairily a bad thing…
Finally there I was : a sunny day, got rid of my luggage and was looking forward to a long day of walking in Zürich. Taking the tram to the beginning of Langstraße, where I had been sended, was easy again and it felt a little easy to talk German again. Though it was only for one night.
Before entering the area leftern and rightern side of the street, I took a little walk in the opposite direction and ended up in the book store Paranoia. Somehow left oriented, their programme was full of different aspects of social critics, entertainment, arts and more, like wine i.e. Especially I liked the Zürich corner where you could find books about the architectural development of this city (with maps!) and – now to the point – about the Zürcher Houses Movement. What had been told me before at the breakfast table, that there’s a long tradition of squatting houses, found its physical artifact in this dvd box I came across which sticked to my mind: ZUREICH (reads TooRich).
The only fixed idea for this day was to find a Shisha place. And indeed, I found at least one in the Maison Blunt, being welcomed by sweet Sensi smells in the air, but the proverbial kindliness of Zürich made me change my plans and I was searching further.
In the same road was also another book store where you could find beautifully handmade Zines like these here. For occupation practice and temporal construction the ideas of camp and container settlements (also with a text on TIMELESS) have been reactivated while striving through their books.
Later on there were to find an indian quarter, nice graffitis all around the streets and a nice park around the community center Wipkingen.
What is strange about this metropole is its highly contrasted urban space : on the one hand you find big buildings talking about money, on the other hand you see the heroin junks on the street buying their shit. Luckily, or not?, there are free public toilets throught the districts, called ZüriWC, where you’re wonderingly looking at a special needle bin inside. And the little green plastic covering is put in the little holes of the metal carrying your feet.
Another example of this clash of every day worlds was finding the Architekturforum Zürich (who are working with raumtaktik by the way) surrounded by dance bars, transient hotels and all the infrastructure needed for having a proper red light district.
But understandably these quarters with great social diversity attract artists and creatives. From an off cinema at Helvetiaplatz to the well sorted record store CrazyBeat and many shops trying to survive in this expensive renting atmosphere, I could find my way back home, that this time I’ve had a key for.
Back at the squatters house we prepared the garden for the neighbourhood action and soon moved inside once the sun went down. Talking, eating and listening to the new music was the chilling evening plan. Fortunately I’ve had my own room, so I could rearrange my bag. Additionally a little walk in the Altstetten area was possible and we’ve had a short visit at this industrial site where the Autonomous Beauty Salon is. Usually they’d have a board games evening – this time we accidentally stepped into a big discussion which just finished when we arrived. Some minutes later, we were out in the streets again. Getting back home, as my hosts had to get up early.
The next morning, all of them were already at work, the house remained to myself and I’ve had the chance to take you these pictures you find here. A house that I’ll miss a little, the possibility of self reclaimed space for self expression. And living in a community of people doing the same, helping each other out with showers, the premises, sharing cars, flats, houses and all in a ongoing permanent movement.
And there’s this other city I almost didn’t see: With the INVENTIONEN project of Zürichs Academy of Arts with their Postpoststructuralism you easily get the impression that, again, arts is, as always, lacking actuality and behind the actual thinking mainstream. Which I see becoming more and more applicable in real life situations than the literary evocations from as visionary as blind authors.
Living in their own worlds.
After leaving the house, I’ve still had the time to relax in the sun and watch the Alps here. (Try to put the little yellow man on the street and rotate NE to see what I’ve seen at actually better weather.)
Four cities within one week. Music, delicious Ajvar taste and an uncountable variety of sensations made up a composition clearly pushing myself forward, leaving the last months of uncertainty, despair and professional effort behind. What was there to come? How did nuances of my thoughts change for slightly different approach towards my everyday life in Berlin?
I still felt the same. I remembered how easily I can interact in unknown environments, true. But Berlin is not that unknown anymore, having lived here for almost 20 years. It has become an endeavour to find challenging opportunities in which I feel saturated and as easily live in the moment. Long evolved concepts, personal histories and not spontaneously changable habits are inscribed into the social text of this city. It’s sometimes the others, that make you act in a specific way.
Paris and Manchester are some of the cities I’ve visited repeatedly before. I was about to swim in more known waters again. But still on my journey, following the route that had been prepared for so long. Seperated from social control and alien expectations, my wishes, hopes and beliefs appeared more clearly, thus without struggle knew what I wanted. And as this can feel relieving sometimes, intuitively my conscience reasonably doubted the ongoing prevalence of my illusions. As thinking cannot be not illusionary.
But I had to move on, knowing my current state of mind would just seem like an island in the waves of the surrounding tides.
Once again, the very moments of absorption in nowness remain seldom.
Gare de Lyon was the complete mess of moving passengers that I expected it to be. I was in Paris. Quickly finding my way to the métro in direction Saint Ouen was the only solution.
Received by a bunch of faces I got to know last summer, they almost pitched me inside of their ‘langue français’ (language of frank people). Some beers and delicious cidre de la Bretagne later, I could move again into the incomplete part of the building and stretch out my train-scrunched legs.
English would be the talking language for the next day, this I’ve made sure before. We would be meeting at ten in the morning and have a whole day to brainstorm, scribble and plan the research on Public Space Invaders.
Afterwards, for being in Paris for only two nights certainly not the worst expectation, there’d be a descent down to the Catacombes.
On a usual business day of Paris, I’ve been accompanied by one of the house mates from Saint Ouen to find my way to Montreul, as she’s also working in this office. But what an office?!
Not an office. A small room, yes, but inside a small factory building with a wood workshop in the green area of the Murs à Pêches (Peach Walls).
This area has been agricultural land for several hundreds of years, but became Paris’ biological garbage place 70 years ago. Now there you find 30 cm of humus, ready to be used. And they use it. The city of Montreul is rebuilding the remnants of what was there before in cooperation with many local civil society initiatives to create a unique urban living environment. Definately this was a special place with a special atmosphere to see.
Let me show you some pictures before going on.
In love with the area, a sunny springtime day outside of the opened windows in front of us and the developments in regard of the PSI research in mind, we cleaned the abandoned office room, literally set up a working table and spread our thoughts and opinions, imaginations and plans throughout the room. As congress paper, research strategy, fundraising and online visualization tool interface development were a little tiring, in the end of the day we could look back at our own online collaboration praxis and swing our minds around the philosophical perimeters, still searching for Heterotopoleis.
As there was an evening session about the Murs à Pêches, the colleague stood in the area and my evening was free to meet with a former flat mate from Dresden.
She was the energy concentration as I’ve had kept her in mind, walking me through the streets of eastern Paris, talking about the old times, new adventures, the other people we know and how exhausting living in big metropoleis can be.
After dinner and getting saucisson sec, fromage and beer for the night, we were ready to to wait for the others, who would be arriving soon not only from Paris, but also from Lille and Strasbourg.
Place d’Italie. Why were we standing right in the middle of a roundabout, why was the meeting point in front of the town hall of this arrondissement? Later on, we would know.
After everyone was there, almost an hour later then we’ve planned, but equipped with food, drinks and lamps, there was no other choice left.
The catacombes are a network of ~ 3000 km of tunnels ~ 30 m below the parisian surface inside its sand and lime stone foundation. This stone has been used for construction purposes since the 12th century.
Meaning almost all parts of the city center are underlied by old quarries, huge graveyards and many ways to get lost. For this reason it is forbidden to enter the tunnels, as some of them already broke earlier, burying whole houses in their sands.
Our guide and a friend went to a gully, opened this heavy lock by the means of their combined forces and invited us, one by one, to climb down the ladder for 20 meters and wait at the bottom.
Slowly the group found together again and a night without protocol started to unwind in front of ours.
We walked endless tunnels, turned left and right, left waymarks, saw water down below a fountain, found small caves to sit in, completely prepared with seats and tables, some of them being there for hundreds of years. Above our heads : the city.
Hours and hours passed, the rooms changed, ancient voices reverberated through our ears while painting with light and darkness. When we had been out again, some of us had been changed. They knew they’d been part of something that is not often experienced during a lifetime.
Being with an old friend from Dresden times, around one of my best friends, with new ones and others, that I had already seen last year in France, we enjoyed our company so much that we might still feel being down there from time to time.
The last song, for your viewing and listening pleasure.
I’m happily looking forward to meet many of them again and again. France is always this special feeling of «savoir vivre» for me. Intelligent, beautiful people that know how to articulate, but don’t forget to let go in the right moment. Maybe to learn this tick from them, is why I like to go there that often.
There’s something that keeps me there. So much that I’ve missed the train next morning and had to recover from the night. A day passed by, the city was driving around on the péripherique, sun was shining and I felt empty. I even seemed to have forgotten all my French and in the evening I could barely start to talk in English again. Going to bed early at 9, because my ersatz plane would go in the morning and I was not in the mood to miss my ticket to Great Britain again.
Well, I come back, Paris, city of love. But also BIG UPs to all my other fellows at Strasbourg, Montpellier et Lille! (Did you know the ligature ampersand ( & ) derives from the latin word ‘et’ in typeset?)
Back in the arms of my familiy, I could enjoy a wonderful time with my nephew, who is so breathtakingly active that you find yourself reenergized just by being surrounded by him.
Thinking of him, putting up a candle for his well-being, I hope you enjoyed this little (t)ex(t)ercise and found something for yourself.
See you soon,
 Jonathan Puckey : Conditional Design Manifesto – the process is the product, honorable mention by Jer Thorp : John Underkoffler : exoplanet visualization : cascade, TIMELESS, Feltron‘s aesthetics of storytelling