The exhibition (and beyond) project developed by Adam Budak’s Manifesta 7 curatorial unit (Nina Möntmann, Tobi Maier, Krist Gruijthuijsen, Office for Cognitive Urbanism – Christian Teckert and Andreas Spiegl) is focused on mapping and analysing the (cultural and political) ecology of space and its public-ness. As such it aims at elaborating provisional (exhibition) strategies and critical (discursive) services that would be leading towards ANOTHER (gentle manifesto for) public space.
The notion of “critical regionalism” (as introduced by architectural theorist, Kenneth Frampton) functions as a blackboard where the reconsideration of the vernacular takes place and a renewed vocabulary of trans-locality is articulated. Such idea which identifies a public space as an area of multiple values exchange focuses on investigating (public) discourse’s “proper” place, between a plurality of definitions and precarious temporariness of public matters. A variety of qualities and economies will be at stake: from the “proper” space (property) via “legal” space (ownership and legality) down to autonomous space (emancipation) towards the precise mapping of the “peculiarities of a particular place”.
Critical regionalism – “a local life aware of itself” – serves as a means to resolve tensions between globalization and localism, modernity and tradition, and as such it marks a form of resistance – a decisive reaction to normative, universal standards, practices, forms as well as technological and economic conditions. It raises a variety of urgent questions concerned with historicism, national romanticism, authenticity and the nation-state and it further opens up a field to deconstruct the modes of (spatial/national/singular) belonging and identification by employing defamiliarization: interested in specific elements from the region, those that act as generators of contact and community, and are place-defining constructs, critical regionalism incorporates them “strangely” rather than familiarly thus disrupting the sentimental “embracing” between buildings and their inhabitants and triggering the conscience. According to Frampton, thinking in terms of regions – active agents of resistance – brings the tactile immediacy of spatial experience, the necessary response to climate and topography, a sense of reality to the cultural meaning of architectural form, and the possibility of engaging local labour and skill in architectural production. The northern Italian region of Trentino Alto Adige (as a host of Manifesta 7) and especially Rovereto (as the smallest town in the biography of Manifesta so far) and its post-industrial sites (Ex-Peterlini and Tobacco Factory as the exhibition’s venues) are case studies in the process of defining anew the conditions of the vernacular in the social and cultural environment of seemingly blurred divisions between the public and the private, precariously oscillating between the not-yet-constituted, autonomous (post)political and a beyond-state emancipated micro-structure of communal identity-in-process.
Furthermore, the exhibition considers space’s ethnology as a methodological reference in focusing on “minor” local, the concrete, small and seemingly insignificant and marginal within a ruined landscape of delayed processes of restructurisation and post-industrial transformation. Ernst Bloch’s philosophy of the vernacular and especially his elaboration of Kleinstadt complement the mapping of cross-regional matrix of identity politics. Here, the Kleinstadt appears as a Model, a Figure, a Primary Structure – a space for the ambiguities and dialogical forms of communication that are associated with the modern culture; and the vernacular is defined as a particular state of mind, a “difference of place”. In Bloch’s philosophy, the small town is an active area, far from nostalgic longing and a trauma of abandonment, a dynamic place where modernity encounters its own contradictions and elaborates its complex grammar of physical and mental belonging. Bloch advocates an open concept of reality where (not-yet)Being is concerned as Possibility and Hope is Being’s principle, a human driving force leading towards a better future and improvement. Hope is a reverie, but also docta spes, a (sustainable) desire or/and desire of sustainability....