Learning from*
Cities of the World, Phantasms of Civil Society, Informal Organisation

The European City?

The industrial age and colonialisation first spread the European city model world-wide. This historically short supremacy of the cities of Europe and North America as templates for global urbanisation processes has long since ended. The UN predicts 33 mega-cities by the year 2015, each with more than eight million inhabitants. 27 of these will be in so-called developing countries ñ of the ten largest cities, seven in Asia, and merely Tokyo will be a rich metropolis. Due to their almost uncontrollable dynamics Mumbai/Bombayís population will quadruple in only 30 years. New urban cultures and city landscapes will push the model of the European city (in terms of city planning, culture and organisation) into the position of a rather insignificant regional variant.

Civil society, public space and the market have been the yardstick of the European city since antiquity. As a stronghold of civil emancipation, cultural diversity and economic innovation it mirrored the superiorly regarded history of European civilisation. If the normative model "European city" has up until the present day been considered an exemplary export model, it seemed to have degenerated in the last decade to the " backwards looking utopia ", "to the shell of the 19th Century society ", as expressed by the sociologist Walter Siebel. Recently it has suddenly returned: A tidal wave of publications, congresses and political targets now see the European city as a suitable example for town development in the 21st Century. Various contradictory images and meanings are thus mobilised. If one is concerned with the civilising role of trade, (which since the Middle Ages left the subsistence economy behind), the other is concerned with the specific quality of public spaces as a threatened property of urbanity, which absolutely must be saved. For some protagonists the structural-spatial qualities of the 19th Century city serves as a model, others stress the importance of social integration which ñ seen socio-politically- developed the model of the 20th Century European city. Clearly the European city and the myth woven around it radiates an imaginary force, not only noticed by nostalgics, rather for the most diverging analytical and political perspectives as a possible protection against the negative images of globalisation, and the resulting unpleasant effect. A globalised social split, which cements itself into fortified, gated communities for the rich and excluded slums and marginal areas for the losers, can be contrasted with the model of the European city which allegedly includes all social groups. Against commercial privatisation and repressive monitoring of urban areas, the allegedly unreserved mixture and meeting of all social strata and strangers can be positioned in relation to each other in the civil European city.

What is interesting in current discourses around the European city is above all its blind spots. The alternatives discussed are usually restricted to opposing models in the form of Medieval market society and the contemporary 'event city'. They seem to exhaust themselves between urban entertainment mall and Siena myth, between urban sprawl and block development, between the social nightmare 'Americanisation' and the social housing development. However the specific segregation and patterns of exclusion which characterise the European city, in its varying historical implementation, remain completely ignored.

Particularly a view of the 19th Century, which its disciples refer to so euphorically, demonstrates this point. Thus the construction of Paris in the 19th Century (which served as a model for urban organisation world-wide for many decades) made it possible for the middle class to distance the lower classes and banish them to the suburbs. Public and private (still closely connected in the diverse street life of medieval housing) became opposites in the bourgeois city. In the 19th Century half-public arcades or private salons already replaced generally accessible places and events. While the celebrated boulevards served to represent male citizens, the poor, workers and women disappeared from public life in the metropolis, relegated to private homes. Characteristically women were central objects of discipline in this European city. Private dwellings were considered the domain of the female sex, the public urban area however as a district for the man. However, since women did not let themselves be completely banished from urban life, the city had to be supervised in order to prevent possible temptations. Michael Zinganelís contribution uses Vienna as an example to show that the model of the civil European city in different historical phases essentially served only one class, which tried to remove its 'others' from its image of urbanity. The European city model was globalised in the 19th Century at the latest. In already de-colonialised South America, the rebuilding of Paris into a civil metropolis became a model of great significance in many places.

In Rio de Janeiro the civil boulevards formed paths built through the city centre which destroyed workers homes. Whilst displaced workers in Paris had to retire to the suburbs, in Rio the favelas were formed on steep uninhabitable slopes, informal settlements accommodating diverse types and large parts of the urban population today beyond the industrialised countries. Looking from the colonies at that time back to Europe refers to a further characteristic of the export model of the European city: The social segregation today regarded as a North American import was the central structural element of European town construction in the colonies. The colonial gentlemen reserved a European city for himself as an image of his respective homeland model, while a spatial cordon sanitaire split his zones off from the natives. Lindsay Bremner describes in her catalogue contribution, using Johannesburg as an example, how the city on the one hand started to develop according to European models and on the other hand even at the beginning of the 20th Century hygiene was cited as reason to destroy 'creolising practices' and to split the social urban area up according to race, leading to complete expulsion of non-white subpopulations from the city. Today as 100 years ago the middle class (still partitioned in immured enclaves) desire fortification in the urban life of a European, more precisely an Italian, city. This began as an anxious reaction of the whites to the growing resistance against Apartheid: In 'Siena' as an ideal of city life, members of the urbane bourgeois classes from Berlin mingle with each other. They have selected this phantasm in the post reunification era of the 90's and the immured elite of urban Africa as a role model of so-called 'critical urbane reconstruction'. Obviously the post-colonial influence is still omnipresent in African cities and thus part of a reality which is only selectively and fragmentarily conveyed to us. Christine Meisner focuses on how European stereotypes are engraved into architecture and thereby confronts her own European view. Interviews, which the artists collective "the trinity session" (Stephen Hobbs/Marcus Neustetter/Kathryn Smith) led with cultural creatives living in Johannesburg before moving abroad, show that the Brain drain of urban culture and the intellectual environment, has moved from re-democratised South Africa towards Europe and North America. This reflects the historical attraction which (post)-colonial centres in the imperial periphery still radiate. If one regards urban Africa however as merely derivative of colonial influence, one would be trapped in a Eurocentric view. The post-colonial African city, as the contribution of Kerstin Pinther shows, consists of one contested geography, whereby urbanity, understood as urban culture, is completely redefined. So Western implants are re-Africanised and apparently contrasting realities between the 'modern' and the 'traditional' are plaited together. The cinematic production of urbanism in video film culture represents the central theme of African city experience. When they join occult economies or ritual murders and the cosmopolitan, fragmented and thus globalised urban landscape together, many films highlight ambivalences in urban Africa. Whilst most cinemas are being remodelled into churches, fast moving and locally organized video culture likewise stands for an individualised society as for a shattered public space corresponding to the global trend.

Beyond the 'Civitas'

Structural patterns of exclusion and civilisation breaks were driven through not only by the European cities of the 19th Century with their extreme class contrasts, but also by those of the post-war half of the 20th Century. These are mostly ignored in debates on the European city. Thus refugees and migrants were excluded from important social achievements such as social housing developments or were disadvantaged within these systems, whilst they were simultaneously refused self-organised economic support structures. The European urban middle class is considered as tendentially anarchic, as they live an urban life distanced from high ranking and regulated divergent groups of inhabitants, yet however selectively prefer certain standards. At the same time on a global level (and this includes the European city) an everyday normality does exist which contradicts the concept of a civilly ordered 'civitas' and which essentially has two faces. One is the irregular, non-state organised city life, embodied through informal self-built settlements; the other is often a layering of state repression, private control and Mafioso violence. On closer inspection we can see how the two faces overlap; lacking legal standards, contradictions in local order and democracy, denationalised organisation of social life, illegal use of land, refused taxes, corruption and Mafioso structures.

With 'globalisation' it seems as if structures of the South are applied in the Northern cities. So the 'European city', as the Berlin city planners further propagate, is in fact shot through with a horizontal global 'normality'. Multinational immigration, sweatshops, poverty economies, corruption and private economically supervised areas, the portakabin cities of the wandering builder or the camp of the asylum seeker leave the norm of the civilly ordered city seeming increasingly phantasmagorical. What is jokingly called 'Byzan-tism', 'Clique' and, less generously 'Balkanisation', also in this country characterises rule violations which would secure lowest ranking according to the corruption list administration Transparency International

Informal structures also increasingly shape the 'developed' countries of Europe. The 'Polish market' in Berlin (in addition to the ES-express discussion between the Polish social office and G¸ls¸n Karamustafa), the Arizona market in Bosnia or the Warsaw Jahrmark delineate a completely different European city. Margareth Otti describes the Arizona market in the Br“ko district in North-East Bosnia Herzegovinas, Europeís largest informal market. In its emergence and development closely connected with the international SFOR troops, this market developed an organized system with different zones, social organization and information structures. The 'Jarmark Europe' spreading out in a closed down sports stadium in Warsaw, which the contribution of Minze Tummescheit brings up for discussion, is a goal of many suitcase traders from the former Soviet Union, who transport goods personally over the border. Such forms of organized informal economies can be observed in Istanbul, also a European city, which as one of the oldest urban civilisations is usually excluded from Europe. Istanbul developed in the 90's to the most important Euro-Asian textile trading post. A broad palette developed informally, half-illegal and illegal production and commercial structures, which are internationally interlaced. The contribution of Istanbul Tekstil of the Learning from* AG tries to contradict the usual conception of global cities on the basis of three examples, which are subjected to the analytic view of official and globally active large concerns and service industries.

Not only economic but also political and spatial (geographic) structures such as the neo colonial rule over ex-Jugoslavia through occupying forces (KFOR, UCK-Paramilitary), aid organisations (NGOs) and trans-national protectorates (high representatives of the state community in Bosnia-Herze-go-vina), 'national free zones' in East Germany, the gated communities in the catchment areas of the French suburbs (partitioned against the municipality), dirty civil wars in Northern Ireland contradict the ideology of a coherent, civil European city model. Long before the 'war against terror' the 'dirty war' in Ireland immobilised the protection of civil rights and private sphere. The urban 'low intensity war' was trained by the British army in the 'fighting town centre' in Berlin-Ruhleben and carried out in Belfast ñ so the photo series of Andree Korpys and Markus Loeffler. In Belfast bus lines have long not passed through clearly divided residential areas, whilst at the same time mixed areas like the city, university or villa areas are being comprehensively rigged up and fortified. As John Duncanís photo series documents, the civil war in recent years yielded the promise of a Belfast boomtown.

So not the 'American city' or 'Tokyo' are the opposing models to the 'European city', rather the separate embedding of a metropolis in the network of the ëglobal southí, that which was formerly called the third world and now also by definition anchors migration in industrial countries. The eurocentric view does not recognise that the growth of cities in the north and the south is based on the knowledge of the immigrants, that they have a better chance of finding work, education and social advancement there than somewhere else. The large cities of the 'Global North' are not only runways to business class, but also landing strips for people searching for asylum and economic survival.

Model of the global South

The mega-cities of the ëglobal Southí have up until now been seen as deterrent city growths. Catastrophic imagery displayed giant cities characterised in the magazine 'Der Spiegel' special 12/1998 as uncontrollable places of 'mass poverty and race riots, traffic chaos and waste mountains'. Gita Chadha and Shilpa Gupta for Mumbai and Orhan Esen for Istanbul demonstrate how much the talk of mega-city 'traffic chaos' simplifies complex function systems, as much from a European perspective as from the elite of the industrial countries. In Istanbul particularly the bourgeois car driving class articulate a nightmare scenario of everyday traffic chaos, which in reality contrasts with a variety of well thought out and self initiated transport systems. The urban traffic in Mumbai, above all the public transport is considered there as particularly chaotic, slow and unreliable. A complex system of meal distribution is nevertheless carried out every day by over 10.000 'dabbawallas', who by bike, bus and train punctually deliver home made packed lunches to respective family members at their jobs in the city.

A further cliche concerns the relationship between irregularly built marginal quarters, be it gecekondus, favelas, barrios, bidonvilles or shantytowns - and the regular, civil city in the mega-cities. Urban disaster discourses usually discourage splitting the area up into two parallel worlds: an allegedly parasitic and an allegedly productive urban society. However, each precise observation of urban everyday life shows how much these different worlds are economically and socially interlaced with one another. If for instance the 'irregular' inhabitants take over the 'bad jobs' in households from the service economies or industries then how will the urban culture from the poor areas be renewed, when almost all globally marketed cultural movements such as carnival, samba or Hip-hop comes from the favelas. Folke Koebberling and Martin Kaltwasser use Istanbul as an example to thematise the civil view on informal 'gecekondu'. They contrast this view with different statements of gecekondu inhabitants, who often have their informally established dwelling as their only security. Alexander Jachnow's catalogue contribution shows that at the same time there is no reason to romanticise the initially united and anti-capitalist land occupations or self organised urbanisations. Most informal settlements are also shaped by capitalist soil markets and corrupted political entwinements, by national repression and informal dependence leading up to mafioso structures. Economic informality was always very attractive to the local state and the residents, as it meant the absence of national rules and inviolable social rights. A self organised economy (with individual risk), and self-built basic structures (roads, supply of water or electricity) made low wages possible and urbanisation nearly free of charge for the state. Recently the images industrial countries have of such structures in the mega-cities of the global south have shifted radically. The migration from the countryside into large cities should be fought with influx barriers, the 'population explosion' should be hampered by abortion and birth control and the overdevelopment of the cities should be held back through 'slum clearance' and 'bulldozing'. Such preconceptions and martial practices are undergoing a revision at present. The previously unpopular conditions of the 'global south' now seem to be a yardstick of future town development. The images which exist in industrial countries of the mega-cities of the global south are noticeably shifting. As the fulcrum of this shift one could name the Berlin World Conference 2000 (co-organised by the German Federal government) Weltkonferenz zur Zukunft der St”dte URBAN 21. If so far illegal land occupation was heavily fought, then self organised units in the area of a neo-liberal city and economic policy are now increasingly being recognised. Simultaneously the welfare state 'existence protection' of northern metropolises is being criticised by a rigid austerity policy. The view of the north now combs through individual survival strategies, collective organisation and informal economies of the poor in southern metropolises for their 'potential' to manage social crises, how in the northern states they can also break with global competitive politics and reduced social welfare. The contribution of Elmar Altvater and Birgit Mahnkopf addresses how the informalising of the urban area is to be read in the context of the neoliberal hegemonic project world-wide. Not least the informal sector now serves as a 'sponge' for all those workers who became redundant as a consequence of the global location competition "survival of the fittest". Both authors oppose a solidarity economics which co operatives can use against informality, which is about to reappear in the countless mega cities of the south.

Learning from *

Learning from * - the exhibition and the available catalogue addresses urban realities beyond a European understood ëcivitasí. The goal is it to serve neither pre-conceived images of chaotic structures or the political-instrumental perspective of neoliberal teaching which take in automatically organised survival strategies beyond the welfare state or even cast a romantic view of urban everyday life in the midst of crises and conflicts. Therefore, artistic projects and documentary analyses are presented which demonstrate the range of 'dirty realism' in the cities of the world ñ between markets and traffic, conflicts and architecture. It will especially focus on forms of organisation within seemingly chaotic systems and on irregular instances within seeming order.