(deutsche Übersetzung siehe unten)
This text is the introduction to the video titled The Production of Space / The production of Raum, made exclusively for Der Fahrende Raum project.
In July of 2018 I gave a public talk together with Jelena Vesić in the temporary space of Der Fahrende Raum project in the Munich neighbourhood of Freimann. During the course of the debate that followed immediately after, an intriguing proposition arose on the very spot: I could still write a critical text based on the lecture (as was the original plan), or I could do it in the form of video instead. As I have never made a video essay before, it was a tempting idea, but I was somewhat unsure about my ability to produce it myself. After enlisting the support of someone who knows about video production – my 17 year old cousin Pavle – everything was finally being set. So as the introduction says:
“Welcome to The Production of Raum – The Production of Space – my very first video essay, and one of the very few video recordings I have made in this key.”
The key here stands for a certain “way of thinking” – to paraphrase the great educator John Berger – and also for a sentiment or an atmosphere of a particular situation or a moment in time. In the key of both the Freimann talk, given by Jelena Vesić and myself, and in the spirit of Der Fahrende Raum project, while thinking of the problems of education today it seemed appropriate to focus on the certain attitude rather than on concrete and elaborate programs or systems of (transferring) knowledge.
Important to add, our talk as well as our entire approach towards trying to answer the question of Der Fahrende Raum draws substantially from the research that Jelena and me did for the text “1984: The Adventures of the Alternative”. It was published in “The Long 1980s”, this years’ volume of the edition by L’internationale, which examines the 1980s as a decisive decade, as a place in time from which the most of the concepts shaping our contemporaneity are coming from. Our text paid a special attention to the trajectory of the word of “alternative”, being the one of the important words, terms and concepts that came to mean the opposite from how we understood it before.
Within this research, we wanted to understand how what was formerly known as the temporary status of an alternative approach or alternative offering became a permanent category to which certain politics are being “sentenced to”: sentenced to remain “alternative” forever. What does it really mean to be clearly marked as something never to become a mainstream, never a viable option, never a prevailing paradigm? We find this question important for thinking about the future of Der Fahrende Raum and similar propositions.
In our talk, we tried to provide some historical context and discuss some concepts connected with this year’s Der Fahrende Raum educational program.
In the first part of the talk Jelena Vesić spoke about the system of accessible amateur and DIY clubs and magazines as the parts of particular social infrastructure of Yugoslavia. In the second part I tried to provide a specific case study that is not necessarily connected with this infrastructure in a direct way. Rather, the proposition was to view the emergence of a famous Yugoslav DIY computer “Galaksija”, invented by Voja Antonić, as a consequence of a certain social sentiment, or a specific social key – an attitude, if you like – that was able to draw strength even from the failure of such system. The story of “Galaksija” is an example of that, but also of a certain individual positioning by the heroes of our story – Voja Antonić, Dejan Ristanović, Zoran Modli, and at least 8000 people who decided in 1984 to assemble their own personal computers all by themselves. In comparison with the global development of the time, with the emergence – in the same month when Galaksija was being introduced in Yugoslavia – of “cool” computing in the form of a then young, upcoming and alternative company called Apple, we understand that there is individual initiative and personal positioning, and then there is individualism. The two are not necessarily connected. For more details, please consult the video.
Also, the talk and the video are not accidentally titled after the book by Henry Lefebvre. The three quotations used in the lecture are coming from his well know title “The Production of Space”, published in French in 1974. It gained a worldwide popularity after being presented in English in 1991. Ever since, the generations of critical thinkers grew a habit of rediscovering this title over and over again. In the times of reaffirming of “traditional values”, this is the one tradition we would like to address.
Why is it important to, once again, access these paragraphs from the early 1970s? Precisely because of dispelling the contemporary sense of being under the siege, that there is no outside of the present situation, that all space is already owned, and that the best the present-day humans can do is to finally accept this as reality and move along. What connects Lefebvre’s writings and what I feel was the impetus behind “Galaksija” is not an ideological construct, but rather a very material practice, which arose from a particular “can do,” “will do,” “nothing will stop us” kind of attitude. There is a perception that what is fundamentally lacking today, in education as in everything, is precisely this sense of future, and of hope.
But there is no reason to look down; according to Lefebvre, the future can still be as open and as possible as it ever was. And certainly there is hope: the British Library published in April this year that “the most requested book since opening in 1997 is ‘The Production of Space’ by Henri Lefebvre. (requested 701 times).”
I would like to end this introduction with a quotation from the book, page 110:
“Space as locus of production, as itself product and production, is both the weapon and the sign of this struggle. If it is to be carried through to the end – there is in any case no way of turning back – this gigantic task now calls for the immediate production or creation of something other than nature: a second, different or new nature, so to speak. This means the production of space, urban space, both as a product and as a work, in the sense in which art created works. If this project fails, the failure will be total, and the consequences of that are impossible to foresee.’”
I would also like to express my gratitude to Der Fahrende Raum for inviting Jelena and me to be the part of this year’s educational program.
Hope to see you in the video!