The public announcement by ExperimentaDesign that its program for 2009 includes the presentation of “Luanda Rise,” marks the official launch of my Emergent Megalopolis film series.
The idea arose back in 2004, when I was travelling around Vietnam, and after many failed attempts to kickstart it – from proposing it as a subversive TV travelogue to having it in Didier Fiuza Faustino’s Evento – it now starts to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
So, it is about time to have the curatorial project out of the closet.
For the first time in history, populations living in cities have become the majority of the planet’s inhabitants. Much attention has been given to large urban structures through books, exhibitions and academic research. Century City, held in 2001 at the Tate Modern in London, or the 2006 Architecture Venice Biennale under the direction of Richard Burdett, presented overwhelming analyses of urban form, demographics and cultural production. Others, like Rem Koolhaas, pursued prolific researches on the phenomena of exploding urban areas in Asia or Africa. Emergent Megalopolis is intended as a next step, bringing these topics to a wider audience by way of subjective portraits and palpable interactions with the cities under scrutiny.
How does a state of urban emergency lead to emergent patterns of behaviour and thinking? How do new forms of creativity emerge in the fastest growing cities in the world? How do informality and unplanned growth become a source of knowledge? Emergent Megalopolis is an ongoing series of films that will research how emerging urban megastructures reveal modes of creativity and forms of resourcefulness born out of economic stress and social conflict. As such, its films will be about human responses to extreme urban growth, about the spontaneous cultures of hard-edge cities, about informal creativity vs. formal creativity, and about learning from the stimuli of urban diversity.
The curatorial project will develop over time so as to acknowledge problems and situations emerging in varied geographical locations.The first films will connect to the Portuguese-speaking world and will focus on Luanda and Rio de Janeiro, but upcoming films are intended to portrait other megacities in Africa, South America, Asia and the borders of Europe. Projects currently under discussion involve Cairo, Shangai and Mumbai and soon cities like Dhaka, Seoul, Jakarta, Manila, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Istanbul, and Moscow may also be involved.
Throughout Emergent Megalopolis, documentarists, artists, photographers, film directors are invited to engage with the processes through which the silent majorities of these urban conglomerations are lead to creatively appropriate urban interstices, spatial leftovers, and everyday objects in order to transform them in the grounds for their play, distraction, communication, and survival within the city. They are also asked to interview and portrait the creative communities that are dealing with these issues in situ.
The project addresses a bottom-up approach to design and architecture within the most demanding urban contexts, and aims to create a platform for an exchange between advanced design thought and the resourcefulness of street creativity. As such, Emergent Megalopolis echoes the reflections of the late French anthropologist Michel de Certeau in The Practice of Everyday Life, where he contrasted the “rationalised, expansionist and at the same time centralised, clamorous and spectacular production” usually praised in proper urban space, with “another production” that emerges as a truly informal creativity expressed in terms of quite unexpected objects, inventions, and uses of public space.