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[nettime-lat] The city and the aesthetics of progress - Almandrade
Almandrade on Sat, 23 Nov 2002 22:30:02 +0100 (CET)

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[nettime-lat] The city and the aesthetics of progress - Almandrade

The city and the aesthetics of progress
"The city has the right to progress. I have the right of not enjoying that
kind of progress. I have the right of being disapppointed if I can't find
there what I used to find".
Joăo Cabral de Melo Neto
Indifference is the habit of a society that has lost the community sense.
Consumism is the moto of progress that turns the city into a passing place,
where everything can be destryed abd built at any moment. Stories can be
replaced by others without future hope. "The urban form, its supreme reason,
that is, simultaneity and meeting people cannot disappear" (Lefebvre). The
city might be the biggest window through which daily episodes of material
existence are lived and observed within the indifference of money. The fun
urban occupation by a dreamy population moved by the matter-of fact way of
living the unpredictable, was discarded by the contemporary "polis". The
city is the stage for reproduction of money and of the dominant culture,
what is discovered or invented disappears at the same speed. The experiences
are lived as in a show, urban life is a group of a play scenes. "The
shanty-town is the result of the indifference towards the workman
existence", (Sergio Bernardes). He is not an actor, neither is his reality

Reality evaporates in the show and at the speed of fashion. The urban man,
who is privileged fo having the most efficient machines that help the modenr
life, ended up trnsforming the city into a deposit of all kinds of garbage.
A deposit of buildings, avenues, automobiles, of the excess of information,
of employees and of unemployed people. The autoobile is the most seductive
machine of the daily life. If mass transportation did not develop enough, on
the other hand, the car has been getting more and more sophisticated in its
design, accessories and frills, as if it were a house on wheels, with all
the domestic comfort. Life, without any doubt, depends on the car, even
orgasm. The production of these machines is stimulated because it generates
jobs, taxes, it moves the economy, produces profit, but the number of cars
is getting more amd more incompatible with the area of circulation. The
changes are as fast as fashion: the natural environment is bring destroyed
to make room for more avenues, more parking places and more cars. We have
the obligation of consuming not only the product, but also its image, the
architecture simulacrum is another urban image used as the symbol of a new
society. We live the "triumph of the forgetting our memories, the ignorant
drunkenness, amnesia". (Baudrillard)
The art in the city, which should be the intervention to restore the poetics
denied by money and by consumism, has been repeatedly used, even naively, as
an authoritarian image, covering brick-walls, reproducing contradictory
images with the urabn scale that disguises the city's visual diversity and
privatizes waht once was anonimous, the product of a collective work without
signature. The expropriation of the public space, in the name of art, turns
the city into a deposit of images that decorate the progress that buried and
polutes rivers, devastated green areas, substituted the beauty conquered by
the city throughout the years, etc. Why color, or better, why dirty all the
corners of the city with images? Why hide the stone constructions,
incoporated to the urban memory, with the marks made by time? To embellish
the automobiles way? At the same time, these images ignore the speed of
sight. It is as if the city did not have a history, it is as if it were
abandoned, and its users or dwellers were beings without thinking and
memory. Instead of decorating the city and stereotyping individuals, why not
plant trees, clena beaches, bring back the natural colors of the city, etc.
To restore and clean what was destroyed and dirtied by the ideology of a
devastating progress? This would be at least an exercise of citizenship,
what is lacking in the urban environment.

The modern speed is strangely associated to the waste of time of moving
around and burocracy. If today one can spend one or two hours in a
traffic-jam, everybody is sure, tomorrow it will be worse. Consuming is
important, its the ethics of the city economy. Progress is merely the
possibility of consuming more. "If human beings can't tell the difference
between ugly and beautiful, tranquility and noise, it is because they no
longer know the essential quality of freedom, of happiness," (Herbert
Marcuse). Copying and homogenizing leads to depauperation. In a shelter with
a few square meters, surrounded by appliances, the urban man watches
everything, in his freedom of not going anywhere and with the happiness of
not getting involved with anything. The same culture that invented the
beauty of silicone has the crowd, the traffic, the publicity and the tourist
as the performance of the reality that disguises the city and its social and
cultural compromise.
The urban man is a products, images, leisure and sex consumer. He ends up
accepting the images imposed by his look, at the same way he believes in the
'whitest of the whitest' of the soap advertisement. So, some doubts about
these urban aesthetics experiences appear, about its capacity of enriching
the daily life. The interventions repeat themselves as a virus in the urban
fabric and the city ma, brought up to consume the images of progress, lost
the cultural curiosity. There is a passive acceptance, the same way one
breathes carbon monoxide as something necessary in the cities. Excess
creates emptiness. And before repetion and emptiness, the first exotic image
that stands out of the monotony of the landscape distracts the look of the
ones who passes in a hurry, without time to dedicate to his thoughts.
English Version: Rosa Campos
(pastic artist, poet and architect)
Bahia - Brasil

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