Spolka: Spaces of Collectivity

25.9. – 9.11.2019, VI PER Gallery

The exhibition Spaces of Collectivity is a discussion and reflection on the collective and collective spaces, arising in connection with social changes in the current interweaving of creative work, activism and innovative business.

The questions on collectivity present a mise-en-scène of a theatre performance, where the language is both the space and the orientation in it. This exhibition draws attention to the fact that in collective organisation, the task of space is part of the communication, and it often depends on the space of how each given collective will function.
The exhibition operates on three levels of questions, each depicted spatially. The first level of reading and a launch into the discussion is set by the object of the central table, where the key question is:

What is the role played by physical space in the collective? The symbolic object of the round table forms an invitation to discussion and communication. Does the table create the space for communication, or is the space formed by the human collective? With tools and means which are at the architects’ disposal, they attempt a materialisation of these relationships into multi-functional objects, which allow for thousands of ways of communication. If we understand space as a language, these physical objects – artefacts that we use for communication – become the tools for a more precise, more effective construction of a shared space.

Can there be collectives without a purpose? The second level of reading the exhibition lays in the question related to three forms of purposefulness. First is the commons, i.e. the collective sharing of resources. The collective is created on basis of the management of these resources. Secondly, purposefulness is understood in connection with the acceleration of practices of collective existence, particularly for ease and instrumentalization for economic simplification of achieving targets. Finally, a collective can be the purpose in itself; in this exhibit, we discuss this idea specifically through utopias and new political imaginaries, where their sustainability is doubtful due to the “softness” of the ties between its members.

What spaces do collectives form? What do we regard as valuable and what as of poor quality? When does a shipping palette bench become a symbol of collective effort, and when is it a representation of failure? For many years, the DIY aesthetic formed part of the everyday life of the citizens of “normalisation”-era Czechoslovakia in the domestic environment, and so there persists a desire for a beauty linked to the new, to the real material substance or to another kind of innovation. In this aspect, it is possible to pose questions even regarding the functionality of digital space for collectives and the possibility of abandoning physical shared resources for the common sharing of the digital ones. This installation opens up various themes into the discussion with the aim of blurring the boundaries of notions, which excessive use has allowed to gain very definite contours. Through critique, we form our knowledge of what is for us the meaning of the collective spaces in which many of us spend our daily working hours. This admitted discovery, which is part of our work, creation, design, creation, communication and experimentation, has no clear boundaries.

Acompanying lecture and workshops

2.10. Tatjana Schneider: Spatial Agency and Architecture as a Collective Form (lecture)

In times when collectivity and notion of working-with have become magical solutions with which to turn around the fate of the production of space and decades of neoliberal exploitation, it seems apt to reconsider the potentialities of such concepts and their enactment. Hence, the short talk with subsequent discussion will focus on ways of doing that take into account the multitude of human and non-human relationships. It will look at why collectivity might be a concept worth investigating, why it might be worth fighting over and for, and why it might be a useful tool–together with a healthy dose of pessimism–to re-envision and make truly emancipatory futures.

Tatjana Schneider is an architect and academic. She is currently head of the Institute for History and Theory of Architecture and the City (GTAS) at the Technical University Braunschweig in Germany. From 2004 to 2018, she was a Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, England, where she co-initiated long-term research project Spatial Agency in 2006 that presents a new way of looking at how buildings and space can be produced. In 2014-2015, she held the post of the Professor for History and Theory of the City at HafenCity University Hamburg, Germany. Schneider was one of the founding members of the architectural workers cooperative Glasgow Letters on Architecture and Space (GLAS 2000–2007), a practice that worked at the intersection of theory and practice to produce alternatives to the capitalist production and consumption of space, and the Radical Architectures Network established in 2013.

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19.10. Spolka: Collective Site Maps (workshop)

What does it mean to act collectively when each of us is a carrier of our own perspectives, values, assumptions and also our own language? How is a whole made up of a number of miscellaneous parts? And what compromises does the road to collectivity require? We will look for answers to these questions together with you, through the collective mapping of public spaces of the reopened Invalidovna. The aim of the workshop is therefore twofold: to reflect together on the collective potential of the premises as well as on the mechanisms that can activate these potentials.

The workshop is led by collective Spolka. The workshop is open to everyone, regardless of profession, experience or site knowledge. The number of participants is limited, there are 15 places at the workshop. Please register via spolka@spolka.cc

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25.10. Giacomo Pala & Jörg Stanzel: Déjà Vu Futures Prague’s / Speculative Past (workshop)

In this workshop, we will work on the Invalidovna: a baroque block in Prague, formerly used as a dorm for war recovery patients and now abandoned. Taking advantage of today’s debate over possibilities of using the building, the workshop’s participants will be asked to develop fictional narratives, imagining possible uses and transformations for the complex, both in terms of use and form. In order to develop such narratives, we will focus on the concept of Uchronia: an alternative present. We will be looking at the history of the place, imagining fake historical developments, in order to infer how space could be used today. As in a Déjà Vu, we will use the past as something of the present, already lived, but an alternative to reality. The objective will be the one of providing new futures, while searching for it in the past: in what could have been, rather in what will have to be. In this sense, the building will be showcased as the container and the product of a different form of social and cultural communities. It is the space that can host different forms of events, and the expression of different – more or less fictional – social conditions. Ultimately, the workshop will investigate the complex relationship between communities, politics and architecture in a speculative manner. The workshop’s outcome will be a chrono-map where space and time will be represented following different alternative paths and on which the participants will be asked to develop their vision, producing collages, images and/or drawings.

Giacomo Pala is an architect and researcher. Currently Research assistant at the Institute of Architectural Theory, University of Innsbruck, Austria, where he co-conducts the “ArchiFicture” studio under the direction of Bart Lootsma. PhD student under the guidance of Peter Trummer at the same university, his interests lie at the intersection of architectural theory, history and design. More specifically, he is conducting a research about ways of looking at history as a non-linear narrative that can be used as a design method - parachronism - as well as a tool for speculation: a new contemporary way of dealing with canons and mimetic references. Beyond his academic career, he has worked in several offices, including Coop Himmelb(l)au and in 2013, he has co-founded the cultural association Burrasca.

Jörg Stanzel is an architect, designer and researcher living and practising in Innsbruck (AT). His current architectural research deals with the idea of the real and the fake in the architectural world, its influence on our design-methods and on the interpretation of the architectural object. He graduated in 2019 with Prof. Peter Trummer, at the University of Innsbruck's Institute of Urban Design (IOUD), whose team he is joining for the current semester. He is collaborating with design- and architecture-studios, such as Swarovski, developing digital tools, computational design and visualizations. Beyond his academical interests, he has work-experience at several architectural offices including UN-Studio (Amsterdam) and GRAFT-architects (Berlin).

The workshop will be lead by architects Giacomo Pala and Jörg Stanzel and held in English. Maximum of 15 participants. Registration at spolka@spolka.cc.

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6.11. Elena Markus & Nick Förster: From Collective to Commoning (workshop)

The socialist ideal of collectivity given a concrete shape on a large scale between the 1960s and the 1980s reflected an ideology, which was intended to contradict the capitalist environment representing the victory of individual demands and desires. The cold war narrative vanished apparently with the “end of history” in the early 1990s. However, currently there is once again, a demand to reject the hegemony of neoliberal economy and private interests in both former east and west along with the global north and south. Therefore, the aim of the workshop will be to explore collective needs and individual aspirations: For understanding the intricate relationship between the historical experience of the collective and the present discourse on the commons we’re going to have a closer look at the various concepts of collective as ideology and vision in the context of the political constraints of the 20th and 21th centuries. To study the issue of collective and collectivism within the scope of architecture, we’ll focus on the housing estate in the Invalidovna district in Prague, realized between 1960 and 1967, and in particular on the experimental housing Expo hotel building designed by Josef Polák and Václav Šalda. On the basis of a number of reference points the workshop participants will trace the utopian past as well as examine current opportunities for commoning spaces, e.g. spaces for “us”.

Elena Markus studied architecture at the Universität der Künste, Berlin. Between 2011 and 2014, she was a curator at the S AM Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel. Since 2014, she has been teaching at the chair of Architectural and Cultural Theory at the Technical University of Munich.

Nick Förster studied architecture in Munich and Aarhus. He worked with Raumlabor in Berlin and participated among others in the project Lückenfülle for temporary use for an empty site in Munich in 2016.

Elena Markus and Nick Förster founded the Agentur für Architekturarbeit in 2018 with their research and exhibition project “SiedlungsRequiem”.

The workshop will be lead by Elena Markus and Nick Förster and held in English. Maximum of 10 participants. Registration at spolka@spolka.cc.

Accompanying text

A key component of the exhibition is the brochure to the exhibition Spolka: Spaces of Collectivity

picture credits: Peter Fabo