Performativity · Public Space · Social/Politics · Sonic/Musical · Technology

Political Noise: Radio as Spatial Practice

“In the last five years, police forces have shut down approximately 7,000 illegal radios throughout the Brazilian territory, almost double the number of radio frequency concessions given by the national government in the same period. In 2008 alone, out of approximately 19,000 claims for concessions, only 2,800 were licensed and around 1,200 illegal broadcastings were cut off air. The track-and-shut “Operation Free Frequency” lead by the Federal Police in early 2009 has identified 200 clandestine transmissions in Rio de Janeiro. The National Telecommunication Agency estimates that this number can reach 1,000 illegal radio stations scattered around the city, mostly broadcasting from favelas like Cidade de Deus, a thirty-eight thousand inhabitant neighbourhood, where five clandestine stations were found only in the first day of operations. In eighteen-million-people Sao Paulo, the electromagnetic spectrum is similarly noisy. The number of radios closed down recorded 750 in 2007. According to daily newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, the disputes for occupying radio frequencies are so intense in the city that, statistically, the police actions only help to keep steady the rate between off and on air. For each one of the radios shut down, another one starts broadcasting.”

Read full essay by Paulo Tavares HERE

Image above: Brazil Electromagnetic spectrum division

The deactivation of an antenna in the outskirts of Sao Paulo.

Architectonic · Education · Events · Public Space · Social/Politics

Architecture and the Paradox of Dissidence. Call for Papers

Synopsis: This conference aims to reflect on the relevance of the concept of dissidence for architectural practice today. Although dissidence has been primarily associated with architectural practices in the Eastern Bloc at the end of the Cold War period, contemporary architectural and other aesthetic practices have in recent years developed a host of new methodologies and techniques for articulating their distance from and critique of dominant political and financial structures. Architecture and the Paradox of Dissidence asks how we can conceive of the contemporary political problems and paradoxes of architecture in relation to their precedents? Devoid of the agency of action, Cold War dissidents articulated their positions in drawings of fantasy-like paper architecture, while contemporary forms of architectural practice seem to gravitate towards activism and direct-action in the world. The political issues – from interventions in charged areas worldwide to research in conflict zones and areas undergoing transformations – currently stimulate a field of abundant invention in contemporary architecture. Both, Cold War dissidents and contemporary activists encounter problems and paradoxes and must navigate complex political force fields within which possible complicities are inherent risks.

New forms of critical practice, and political and spatial dissent are manifold, appearing in stark contrast to contemporary architectural practice in which professional courage seems to have been translated into structural “virtuosity” of surfaces. This conference seeks to map out and expand on the methodologies of architectural action and reinvigorate the concept of dissent within the architectural/spatial field of the possible. A more historical thread that runs through the programme will seek to weave the genealogy of political/spatial practices from the Cold War dissidents of the Soviet Bloc to the activists of South American favelas.

Dissidents in the former communist countries used a specific set of codes to question the ideological doctrine of the state party. Architects who were otherwise employed in state run architectural collectives, or as staff in architecture schools met to produce writings, private lectures, secret installations and architectural articulations of allegories and legends – activities that challenged the ’stifling’ standardized language of Soviet architecture. Many of these ‘paper architects’ questioned the relationship between art, architecture and politics, but also, and significantly so, the ideological, and thus also ethical function of various forms of ‘creative practices’. The political melt-down of the Soviet Bloc reconfigured this complex field of political codes, architectural gestures and references. The withdrawal of the architect from large ideological concepts regarding social utopias mirrored that fragmentation and dissemination of (neo)liberal market structures. Large ideological battles were replaced with a multiplicity of local, or issue-specific conflicts within which forms of activism have been integrated. Dissent against large integrated and complex networks is no longer possible. All that is left is to navigate the complex fields of forces in a reflective and innovative manner. But can the assemblage of gestures and techniques of past struggles and ‘dilemmas’ of working in politically suppressive regimes help to inform those of today?

The conference thus seeks to attract contemporary spatial practitioners, architects, urbanists, journalists, activists, filmmakers and curators, asking them to reflect upon contemporary forms and conditions of dissent and their potential problems and inevitable paradoxes. It welcomes, too, the reflections of architects and architectural historians to reflect upon previous articulations of political dissent through architectural practice.

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