UE Public life

Towards a politics of care. Bodies. Place. Matter

The registration via the TISS system will soon be possible.

UE Übung / Semester houres: 2 / ECTS: 4

**This course will be offered by Ass. Prof. Sabine Knierbein and by MSc Tihomir Viderman**

Aim of course

The aim of this exercise unit is to offer to international master students how an interdisciplinary conference is prepared, realized and documented. Conference organization is a skill more and  more requested in job advertisements both in planning and design practice (offices), in NGOs as well as in academia and science. Few courses however tackle ‚conference organization‘ as a skill that future architects and planners should learn during their studies, thus the Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space seeks to bridge this gap by offering all interested students to get involved in a real conference exercise of international and interdisciplinary and yet open character.

Subject of course

This course relates to a PhD symposium (cooperation between Vienna UT, the Academy of Fine Arts and the University of Alberta, Canada) that will take place the 17th/18th April 2015 in Vienna. The conference seeks to bring together activism, contemporary art, research, critical spatial practice well as urban theory, design and planning to reflect and discuss issues of public life and a spatial politics of care.The course aims to thematize the complexities of public life and a new politics of care and concern situated in the commonalities, connectivities, and nuanced spatialities between bodies, place, and matter.

A politics of care needs to be situated between bodies, place and matter.  These come together both as elements of public and political life in cities and as as the subjects of research, knowledge production, and scientific inquiry.

Relating to the three conference sections “Bodies. Place. Matter” we will examine public life and the spatialisations of care and concern from the perspectives of urban, design and cultural disciplines.  A common politics of care addresses the entanglement of infrastructures, resources, and affects, alignments, contradictions, and conflicts, labour, work, and pleasure, distribution and access, local site-specificity and a globalized production of space. If public space is indeed a critical part of public life or the embodied geographies of the public sphere, then we need to rethink its inherent potentials between everyday life practices and the production and critical reflection of scientific insights/knowing.

Theme 1 – Bodies

The panel is less about what bodies are, but rather about how bodies act, what bodies can do, what bodies must do. Bodies are subjects. Bodies are subjected. Bodies produce. Bodies reproduce. Bodies depend. Bodies resist. Bodies are vulnerable. Bodies put themselves on the line. Bodies matter. Bodies support. Bodies care. The panel seeks to examine the implications and reverberations of austerity, globalization, rapid transformations, economic downturn, precarity, in/difference, in/justice, re/production, and re/distribution with regards to the spatialised implications of bodies co-producing public life and bodies co-dependent in a politics of care. The panel is dedicated to seeking new alignments, critical links, and productive transgressions between emergent practices, theories, and histories addressing bodies in public life and a politics of care. The panel welcomes contributions questioning, unpacking, and critiquing these complexities with a particular focus on feminist spatial agency in contemporary art, curating, urban research, and urban design, as well as the history and theory linking and transgressing these fields.

Theme 2 – Place 

The debate around abstract spaces of capitalism and how they been mediated through planning and design professions and practice has been taken up again critically, both from relational perspectives on public space and from anthropological approaches to embodied spaces. This session is dedicated to unravel new urban planning, design and urban studies approaches addressing relational geographies and politics of care in these fields. Potential contributions to this panel might address issues of bodily experience and action, as well as relational pedagogies or curricular innovations to enhance education and reorganize elites through critical practice, action and reflection in and on public space. It welcomes contributions that seek to differentiate and qualify contemporary debates on the (re)emergence of collective interests, urban cultures and public claims, and strengthens a reading of forms of embodied resistance and protest as intervention and alteration in current modes of production of space and place.

Theme 3 – Matter

Paradoxically, in a more globalized world where communication technologies have made interaction less dependent on bodies in a shared location, where the ’spaces of concern‘ lie either at planetary scales too large to grasp or nanotechnologies dissolve our faith in the solidity of matter, the materiality of bodies, trees and animals is still prominent. Concrete materiality anchors media and political concerns as the infrastructure of care and concern.  Political force appears dependent on bodies occupying public places.  Yet ‚what matters‘ is only recognized within a context or ’space of concern‘ in which it takes on meaning. How are the empirical elements of cities, the bricks of public spaces and the flesh of bodies taken up through practices to become the pivots of ethical and political spatialisations of care and concern?

Examination modalities

Students will be requested to take part in the conference organization (e.g. by presenting a piece, by taking part in curatorial parts, by supporting the management, or similar), to write a short essay on one of the student presentations and one of the keynote speaches and will collectively produce a conference documentation (open format), thus getting involved in very different steps of conference organization as an important format for spatial planning, architecture and urban studies. We will start of the exercise by getting to know one another and by collectively screening which skills each person and group can contribute to the event. Self-organization and personal interests shall guide the collective motivation for a joint experimental course format.