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"Platform4_Documenta11 -- Under Siege: Four African Cities, Freetown, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Lagos"
2002-03-15 until 2002-04-20
Kassel, , DE Germany

Rather than a generalized and diffuse discussion on cities all over the world, this conference will focus on the specific example of four African cities: Freetown, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, and Lagos. The aim of the conference is to examine the vital place of these cities in the political, social, and cultural economy of the region and to focus on the nature of their social destabilization whether from war, crime, urban decay, AIDS, and population explosion. But more than serving as testament for further deracination of the African continent, the conference will also be concerned with the analyses of how to reinvent the urban imaginaries of these cities as places that still hold great potential for human vitality, creativity, and inventiveness.

The Micro-Politics of Cities as Locations of Global Citizenship What then constitutes civil societyNULL And what is citizenshipNULL What binds the production of these highly incommensurable denominations to the creative intercourse of cultural and artistic praxisNULL We would like to believe that, while the notion of nation states remains the conceptual axis around which such questions revolve, it would be necessary to tease out its evolve-ment through the study of the micropolitics of cities, as primary locations where they are fused.

The question of the city has served as one of the fundamental vectors for the range of experiences we attribute to modern life. The consequence of this has meant that for quite some time agglomerations of people, histories, languages, identities, religions, commodities, cultures, etc. in cities have brought about increasing tensions and demands for a better and more efficient management of the spatial dynamics of our cities. It is from these that a set of initiatives (some based on the notion of sustain-able development, others more obedient to the pragmatic economic de-mands of global capitalism), that a critical interrogation of urbanism and urban expansion have risen. New theories of this rise in urbanism and the pressure points of expanding populations we have witnessed in the last half century have seen many cities transformed, their social fabric recut to fit the changes that make urban spaces dynamic and volatile at the same time. This tension will continue to be one of the challenging features of metropolitan life in the foreseeable future. Under Siege: Four African Cities, Freetown, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Lagos is a conference in a series of public dialogues in six cities in Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa, being planned as part of the core of Docu-menta11, which opens in Kassel, Germany on June 8, 2002. The conference also represents the fourth platform within five distinct, thematic areas of Documenta11 which proposes to engage in dialogue and to examine intellectual and historical processes that are implicated in differ-ing strategies of cultural production. By inaugurating this process of exchange between the exhibition based in Kassel and other locations outside Europe, it is our intention and commitment to embark on an extensive relocation of discourses of globalism and culture to the specificity of sites within which particular questions and issues are inscribed. By operating first on the local level (Vienna, Berlin, New Delhi, St. Lucia, and Lagos) and by allowing these public dialogues and critical exchanges to precede the exhibition more than a year before the official unveiling of the Documenta11 in Kassel, our hope is to dramatize and demonstrate on an immediate level the interdependence of the global paradigm, by revealing how local specificities create new orientations in the global discourse.

Additionally, Documenta11's proposition is to expand on the notion of the mutuality which binds artistic praxis, the mega exhibition model, and contemporary art as vehicles of a globalized discourse that requires new interpretative agents. This conference, thus, represents one agent in the complex dynamics of a changing global orientation. Our hope is to bring art and artists into a productive relationship with cultural and intellectual activities that often are seen to be outside the necessity of exhibition practice. In so doing, Documenta11 wishes to also highlight another ele-ment in its primary conception, which has to do with the relationship between subjectivity and agency, between artistic practice and intellec-tual discourse, and between institutions and social spaces, all of which are intimately connected to the ways we conceive of notions such as civil society and citizenship.

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