Patrice Riemens on Sun, 28 Jun 2009 18:28:34 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-nl] FOODPRINT Symposium in Den Haag, vorige vrijdag (26-06-09)

Beste Nettimers-nl.

Het moet geen gewoonte worden, maar ik repost hier wat gisteren ik naar de
engelse nettime lijst stuurde, voornamelijk omdat het een event in
Nederland was, met hoge Nederlandse participatie en relevantie (al ben ik
zelf toch vooral naar de 'internationale' bijdragen geweest).

Bovendien betreft het ook een vrij langdurig project van kunst en
architectuur centrum Stroom in Den Haag, ( met een
heel interessante expositie van allerlei 'stedelijke landbouw/ landbouw in
de stad' projecten en initiatieven in binnen- en buitenland. Ik zeg ga!

NB: De website van Doors of Perceptions (John Thacka cs) is overigens:
De tweede blog entry gaat over FOODPRINT en er komt vast meer!

Cheerio, patrizio en Diiiinooos!


Yesterday apparently had to be my triple city day. Real cities, utopian
cities, and possibly dystopian ones.

To start with the latter, maybe they'd be better called cities of fear -
or even more precisely, cities of war. That is actually the theme of an
upcoming event (in the fall) in Amsterdam, for which John Armitage and I
conducted an interview with French former architect & thinker Paul Virilio
last month. Virilio, who recently published a book titled "Ville panique",
was his usual brilliant self and said remarkable things. You'll hear about
'm in due time. (But you can get a - audio/video - glimpse here - it's
about "grey ecology":  (

Real cities is the department of Zainab Bawa's always fascinating blog
entries about her own place, the Maximum One (Bombay, or Mumbai for the
politically correct). Since yesterday's entry is allegedly dedicated to
me, you'd better read it! ;-) Here the ecology is somewhat particular: the
world of cabbies caught up in the urban infrastructure shift (or
delirium?) - black & yellow ecology?

But for green ecology, centered around food, food quality, food security,
and urban farming, I made it to The Hague, and the FOODPRINT symposium
hosted by cultural/architecture/arts centre Stroom (

And even though I could participate in just a quarter of the programme
(there were 4 parallel tracks) I managed to pick up a dazzling lot about
Urban agriculture, city farmers, community food schemes, alternative
marketing, permaculture, best practices, gree design, and what have you!

(quick refs: for the symposium for the Foodprint programme & exhibition)

The atmosphere in Stroom's post-industrial designscape was definitely
upbeat and free of fear and pessimism. One alternative, down-to-earth and
back-to-basics initiative and/ or approach after the other were presented,
backed up by promising real life examples and some fine exhibits. There
was not very much room for doubtful criticism, though some tough issues
did gradually emerge as the day went by. But first what I witnessed:

A fine presentation by Debra Solomon of fame about her
ongoing community greening project in the Hague's Schilderswijk, a
proletarian, ethnically mixed neighborhood falling in the administrative
category of 'problem district'. Also the Rotterdam Zuid (another 'problem
district') Afrikaaner Plein "market of the future" project, centered on
giving left over wares a new lease of useful life:

Architects and theorist Andre Viljoen and Katrin Bohn thereafter fleshed
out Debra's concepts and approach with some theoretical insights which at
times, unfortunately were ... well just that: theoretical.

Artist Nils Norman and (Dutch) pragmatist Menno Swaak of project "gezonde
gronden" (healthy soils: gave a nice
presentation about sustainable town planning, and comestibles from the
city parks and gardens. I found a site on (or rather with) Nils Norman,
may be it will pump you up:, though I was not
entirely overwhelmed - my fault probably!

But I couldn't say that of the next two presentations I attended. The
first one, pre-lunch by John Thackara (Doors of Perception) was a cavalry
charge (and not the Light Brigade!) through what has to be done to set the
city/food balance right. And why. Instead of 'sustainability, John
preferred to talk about 'resilience', yet another jargonwatch candidate,
but at least one that really does say something. And does not promise to
fix just everything.

But the main thing was that John very powerfully brought the message home
that food is the #1 issue in matters of survival of cities, that it is the
most neglected one, and that we better address it before it is really too

Addressing that issue was surely the brief of Will Allen, of the Milwaukee
"Growing Power" association/ organisation, and tremendously successful
non-profit that grew from next to nothing into a powerful community voice
and urban farming innovation platform in just over 15 years.
( Seeing and listening to Will makes
immediately apparent how that came about. If there ever is a hands-on, no
nonsense, get the job done pragmatist, that must be him! A kind of Barrack
Obama of the urban farmlands. Much beyond the message and the appraoch,
and the actual and outstanding achievements, it is the attitude and the
energy that such people generate and the example they set that makes
meeting them worthwhile - and their traveling around spreading the good
word worth their while. Do check it out!

And then, in a certain sense, Carolyn Steel, author of the book "Hungry
City" ( brought it all together in the
last presentation I witnessed. With her, it was back to the bare facts
again where 'feeding the cities' is concerned. In a certain sense her
brief was quite akin to Paul V Virilio's warnings about the impending
'integral accident'. Our worst enemy is definitely the combo ignorance +
indifference, as the mess we are in is growing by the day, along the lines
of urban explosion and agricultural depletion - quantitative, but more
importantly, qualitative - amidst our blind reliance on unpredictable
energy (re)sources in the long - or even short - run.

That brought me to the idea that if we consider Virilio to be less
desperate than he appears, and the folks at Foodprint and akin efforts as
much more serious and concerned than their 'positive' energy levels would
suggest, we should be in for some very serious thinking about our near
future. The future is never granted, and always to some large extent can
be made by ourselves (*). But we better start now, if we haven't done yet.
And do it all together.

cheers, patrizio & Diiiinooos!

(*) And one of the trickiest aspects of 'killing the future' was there for
all to see, and duly expressed, but not really addressed: the nightmare of
the wrong adjudications game played out by otherwise smart, and even
benevolent. decision-makers, who were present in the room - in droves.

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