URBAN HOSTS: Presentation on Rotraut Pape’s “The Wall – The Vertical Horizon”

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talking, Urban Knights

I was invited by curator Teresa Dillon to present at Urban Hosts, a series of talks and workshops, which brings together people who reveal the characteristics, which define urban governance and/or present new approaches to civic life and city futures.

For the closing edition of Urban Hosts 2019, in memory of the 30th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the artist Rotraut Pape (1956-2019), a screening of Pape’s work, The Wall – The Vertical Horizon was followed by a discussion about the work between her collaborator, Ninon Liotet, film programmer and curator Vanina Saracinom, and myself.


Still from “Die Mauer – Der Vertikale Horizon”, by Rotraut Pape

My contribution contextualised Pape’s piece of work within contemporary architecture and urbanism, reflecting upon disappearance, the built environment and social memory. An extract from the presentation:

I was invited to join this evening’s programme to offer some insights from an architectural perspective, using this as a lens through which to consider the built environment, disappearance and collective memory in relation to the film we’ve watched. I’d like to start by reading a short quote by Aldo Rossi, which incorporates those three themes. It’s from his 1982 book, The Architecture of the City, in which he writes:

One can say that the city itself is the collective memory of its people, and like memory it is associated with objects and places. The city is the locus of the collective memory. This relationship between the locus and the citizenry then becomes the city’s predominant image, both of architecture and of landscape, and as certain artefacts become part of its memory, new ones emerge. In this entirely positive sense great ideas flow through the history of the city and give shape to it.’

But what effect does the disappearance of such artefacts have upon the collective memory of a city? Or in the case of the artefact at the heart of this evening’s discussion, we must ask a more complex question: what happens when such artefacts neither fully endure, nor totally disappear?

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