The exhibition Mattering City echoes symptoms and reactions to the contemporary city space as an accumulation of capital. It presents reflections and bodily engagements to neoliberal human-centric urbanism, its gentrification, and its geometries for city space. The project recognizes the potential for contemporary artistic practices to rethinking spatial, social and economic shifts, like those organized by human and extra-human co-agencies in the public sphere.
The contemporary city is being developed through notions that see certain areas or spaces as empty and misused. Often investors and politicians view space with what could be referred to as a colonial gaze, one that fills the “emptiness” and makes it "usable." Or at least this is how it is perceived from the human perspective: neoliberal gentrification as a frontier of contemporary capital and as the only alternative for understanding ontological units that the city space can contain. This brings in focus, how through the engagement of capital and fossil energy, the city is experienced as flow of objects and energies creating densities and cartographies of matter and forms.
Mattering City brings up artistic practices as ways of exposing material and bodily flows, objects and densities of the neoliberal city. It argues and rethinks city space from stabilized divisions of function/non-function, human/non-human, built/empty, rational/spiritual and body/non-body, to more hybrid, blurred and merged notions of contemporary city space and the co-agencies forming it. Which can be defined as the autonomous and regenerative agency dynamics taking place between human and non/human interface and co-existence. In this background, these merged co-agencies can open up ways for challenging the entangled spaces of ontology, epistemology and ethics in urban areas.
The exhibition project is formed by three artistic and discursive presentations:
Asbjørn Skou's Exoskelethon uses fragmented narration to present the city space as a formation for a magical debt-based economy that forces materiality, language, bodies and thoughts to act within its alchemy. With the participatory event Emergent Economies, led by The BodyBuilding Project, invites participants to examine different ways to sense and feel agencies and energies that tend to escape a neoliberal gaze. Asking, how can these agencies, forces and processes be activated without collapsing into regulatory tendencies? Melanie Bonajo's video Night Soil/Economy of Love gives a portrait of a Brooklyn-based movement of female sex worker activists, who reclaim power in a male-dominated pleasure-zone. It is the second part of the film trilogy Night Soil that portraits global capitalism by emphasizing spirituality and kinship beyond boundaries of species and biological taxonomy.
Mattering City is part of the Skills of Economy curatorial research project. The first exhibition chapter, titled City Agents, was hosted by Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (EKKM) in August 2016. The exhibition is supported by Nordic Culture Point Mobility Program and Danish Arts Foundation. Jussi Koitela’s curatorial work and research is supported by Kone Foundation.