Place: Intermediae-Matadero, Madrid. Paseo de la Chopera 14, Madrid

This seminar, organised by Intermediae-Matadero and Medialab Prado in the context of Grigri Pixel program, invites us to explore invites us to explore which are the common challenges and contemporary urban problems in African and European cities in alliance with six contemporary thinkers and creators: Marina Garcés, Achille Mbembe, Abu Ali, Paz Núñez, Ken Bugul y Simon Njami.

# Common life / Public space / Peripheral knowledge / Post-colonial technologies / Urbanism / Free culture / Collaborative practices / Collective imaginaries / Magical objects

Dialogue #1: Marina Garcés + Achille Mbembe
Living together. In common within the difference. The symbolic and experiential.

Dialogue #2: Abu Ali + Paz Núñez + Ken Bugul + Simon Njami
Common spaces and imaginaries. The urban. Other ways of doing and making.

Final forum (1h): The six speakers together with local and African experiences.
Limits and possibilities of collaborative practices and free culture arts, design, architecture and technology for a life in common.

Africa has experimented a process of rapid urbanisation fuelled by the assamblage of practices which are seemingly opposed but which actually, in practice, work together. This capability for the appropriation and manufacturing of hybrid forms that lie between the public and the private, the formal and the informal, the sacred and the profane is a constant in the history of Africa as well as in its contemporary practices. As a result, in these cities, unprecedented forms of sociability and of relating to the territory arise, driven by innovative and intriguing citizen initiatives. Many of these initiatives turn to DIY and jury-rigging culture – via exchange, donation, offerings or self-management – as the basis of their experience.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the modernising discourse of the planned city has been crumbling for years. The city-framework model of functional division of territory and prediction of the urban environment is splintering. As a response, during last years in many European cities, and particularly in Spain, we have seen processes of citizen self-organisation appear with the aim to create and revitalise common urban spaces: community gardens, self-managed social centres, FabLabs and a vast range of networks that tie them all together.
Despite the evident points of connection, we guess that know-how and digital, artistic and making practices among communities from the African continent are barely known in Spain. In Casablanca, Dakar, Johannesburg, Lomé, Bamako, etc. there are numerous diverse cultural production and citizens initiatives and projects capable of intervening in their modern cities while simultaneously recovering and valuing traditional know-how and practices.

In this context, Grigri Pixel program aims to visibilize and pool these transformative experiences together in order to weave an intercontinental network of contemporary urban spaces, practices and knowledge that enable the construction of common spaces for diverse and pluricultural citizenships.

Grigri Pixel deploys a program of residences, meetings and workshops devoted to the creation of magical objects in urban spaces based on collaborative practices and manufacturing strategies from the African continent. Part of its aim is to reconnect experiences related to city-building in Africa and Europe in order to formulates shared questions able to showcase synergies, points of intersection and differences in regard to practices and processes of care and maintenance of public spaces in both territories. It is an initiative that operates by generating alliances with local spaces and communities from participating cities for the purpose of organising workshops for collective construction of public copyright street furniture elements designed and manufactured in a collaborative effort between European and African cities.

Recently, as a result of the terrorist attack in Barcelona, ​​the debate about the terrible collective effects of invisibilization, discrimination, displacement and lack of recognition of some groups and communities, such as Muslims, that inhabit the city has intensified and spread. In this sense, if the private and personal spheres tend to converge towards sameness, unity and homogeneity, a challenge that arises is how to create public spaces and common experiences more permeable, more broad and open to the encounter, difference and recognition, through contact and shared activity … such as possible neighboring spaces. If the others are us and the way we perceive, look, signify and imagine the other reflects the way in which I signify myself, then we will need to create and take care of spaces, moments and experiences that allow us to know ourselves/others better, to facilitate mutual respect and understanding.

However, when the experience of public spaces is so crossed (and differentiated) by questions of race, purchasing power, socio-economic differences and geo-political borders, we ask you (by appealing to your particular experience and feelings, in different areas of work and interest): How to make the city a place of coexistence and respect, where to take care of the public space as a common good for the use and enjoyment of all? … How to make public space a habitable place that allows us to build a broader notion of “we”, with enough space for differences? … How to make the public a common space-time with capacity for contact, encounter and mutual recognition? … What spaces, moments and forms of naming us allow to share our conditions and experiences so as to favour the creation of the common? … How to live in common the public accepting certain differences while fighting the inequities and their effects of exclusion? … What other experiences, symbols and imaginaries of public space can we activate, name and facilitate to achieve it? … How to build, care and maintain among all these urban public spaces?

 

Complementarily, Grigri Pixel seminar operates as a reflexive space to think and debate publicly about those intercontinental practices and knowledge that may help us to create and take care of common urban spaces for living together in diversity. In alliance with six contemporary thinkers/creators coming from different areas such as philosophy, postcolonial studies, audiovisual, architecture, art and urbanism, Grigri Pixel invites us to explore which are the common challenges and contemporary urban problems in African and European cities.

As a kind of grigri or collective amulet, Grigri Pixel seminar aims to explore and invoke the cultural, socio-technical and spatial imaginaries, but also the tools and strategies from both continents that might be creatively shared or combined in order to protect us and mutually empower us in the struggling and mundane process of living together.

Marina Garcés

Philosopher and Spanish essayist, professor of Philosophy at the University of Zaragoza. One of the central concepts of her thought is the common as a way for the development of alternatives that help to face the present crises. Her work focuses on the field of politics and critical thinking, and on the need to articulate a philosophical voice able to challenge and compromise. She is the author of En las prisiones de lo posible (Bellaterra, 2002), Un mundo común (Bellaterra, 2013), and more recently of Filosofía inacabada (Galaxia Gutenberg, 2015). She has also contributed by writing in multiple magazines and collective publications. Since 2002, she has been promoting and coordinating the “Espai en Blanc” project, a collective commitment to a committed, practical and experimental relationship with philosophical thought.

 

Achille Mbembe

Theorist of Postcolonial Studies, Professor of History and Politics and Researcher at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) of the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg. He has worked as professor of History at the Columbia (New York) and Pennsylvania universities and has led the Council for the Development of Social Sciences Research in Africa (CODESRIA), based in Dakar. Renowned author both for his articles in the Spanish version of Le Monde Diplomatique and for his contributions to the books coordinated by Gilles Kepel, Las políticas de Dios (1995); Jérôme Bindé, ¿Adónde van los valores?: coloquios del siglo XXI (2005); Fernando López Castellano, Desarrollo: Crónica de un desafío permanente (2007) and Okwui Enwezor, Lo desacogedor. Escenas fantasmas en la sociedad global  (2007). He has also published the influential book De la postcolonie, essai sur l’imagination politique dans l’Afrique contemporaine (‘On the Postcolony’, 2000), Sortir de la grande nuit – Essai sur l’Afrique décolonisée (2010); Critique de la raison nègre (2013) and Politiques de l’inimitié (2016).

 

Abu Ali – Toni Serra

Videocreator and author of texts and other submedia. Co-director and founding member of the OVNI Archives [Unidentified Video Observatory – www.desorg.org], where he works on research, programming and writing texts. Through his videos between experimental essay and poetry, he has explored different visions with a constant presence of the notion of trance and the realities of dream. In his early works, he questioned beauty, the mystery of the ephemeral and the marginal. Since 1994, he starts with the series of TV Code videos, a personal immersion in the critique of the alienating mechanisms of mass media. The progressive ascertainment that critique must be a mean to help enlighten and know new worlds makes him reflect and experiment on the relation of video with the visionary, with the inner experience and the visions that move between worlds, spaces and times, between the real and unreal, the sleep and wakefulness, the poetry and the prophecy… like a trip that not only crosses, but also blurs these limits and borders. He currently lives between Barcelona (Spain) and Duar Msuar (Morocco).

 

Paz Núñez

Architect specialized in urban planning, technical specialist in restoration of historical heritage and technical in cooperation for development in basic habitability. She is associate professor in the Department of Architecture of the University of Alcalá de Henares, in the Architectural Construction Area and the Master’s Degree in Advanced Architectural Projects and City. She has been invited by universities and public and private organizations from Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and Spain to teach seminars and lectures on architecture and construction, recovery of historical / vernacular heritage and cooperation for development in basic habitability. Director of research projects related to Basic Housing and the state of housing in situations of vulnerability and social exclusion. She has published books about the construction of low-cost housing and articles in international journals on basic habitability.

 

Ken Bugul

Ken Bugul, “the one nobody wants”, is the pseudonym of Senegalese novelist Mariètou Mbaye Biléoma. In her work, she uses her autobiography to explore the dilemmas of women in the Senegalese diaspora and the colonial heritage. After completing her university studies in Belgium, she returned to Senegal in 1980, where she got married, becoming the twenty-eighth wife of an elderly Marabout, becoming part of his harem. When he died, she worked in Dakar, in the Family Planning Department for Senegalese Wellbeing, and between 1986 and 1993 for the NGO International Planned Parenthood Federation in Nairobi (Kenya), Brazzaville (Congo) and Lomé (Togo), becoming the director of the organization for the African region. She currently resides in Zurich as a writer. Her work, practically biographical, has the titles: Le Baobab fou (1982), Cendres et braises (1999), Riwan or le chemin de sable (1999), La Folie et la mort (2000) and De l’autre côté du Regard (2003).

 

Simon Njami

Writer, essayist, art critic and curator. Visiting professor at the University of San Diego, California, and visual arts consultant at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He published his first novel Cercueil et Cie in 1985, followed by Les enfants de la cité (1987) and Les Clandestins and African Gigolo, in 1989. He has written two biographies, about James Baldwin and Léopold Sédar Senghor and several short texts and scripts for films and documentaries. He is also co-founder and editor-in-chief of Revue Noire. He has curated several art and photography exhibitions in Africa and among his exhibition projects are Africa Remix (2004-2006); the first African Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2007) and A Useful Dream: 50 Years of Photography in Africa (2010). Artistic director of the Dak’art 12th edition (2016) of the Biennial of Dakar, the 13th edition in 2017 and the next edition in 2018; and, since 2001, artistic director of the Rencontres Africaines de la Photographie, of the Bamako Photography Biennial. He has been a member of many art and photography juries such as the World Press Photo. He is also artistic adviser to Sindika Dokolo Foundation (Luanda) and artistic director of Donwahi Foundation (Abidjan). He currently directs “AtWork”, an itinerant and digital project conceived together with Goethe Institut.