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The City Is My Frankenstein

knorle & baetig contemporary

Wintherthur Urban Art Festival

August 22 - September 27, 2014

This exhibition borrows its title from Mary Shelly’s classic novel about a mad eclectic scientist named Victor Frankenstein, a genius born in an affluent family in Geneva. He grew obsessed with occult scientific experiments, which led him to create a grotesque creature that would eventually ruin his life.

The story is all-familiar, as it had become the bible of every horror story ever since it started to earn popular recognition.  It gave us an archetypal story in which our desire to create life will be the very reason for us meeting our death. 

Our world would show that horror manifests in bigger things—human creations that are, in fact, possibly too big for us to see. This refers to a place where people live, and that this place, which is the city and its dwellers, have become our world’s new Frankenstein. The city that we have nurtured has grown, evolved, and died—yet it keeps moving although it is dead.

The Frankensteinized City has transformed our lives with its own characters (or Frankensteins) that do not outwardly manifest any emotion but feel a lot. Like the famous fictional monster created from re-purposed body parts, the Frankensteinized City and its characters have become uncontrollable, as they recognize their death and awaiting a new form of resurrection. The “City Is My Frankenstein” brings to the fore an idea of how modern cities are constructed and planned, exploring new formats in the venture of negotiating space and innovating such in other ways.

 

Is the City then a Monster?                                 

 

With the ever increasing urbanization brought about by globalization and development, half of the world’s population now resides in cities. In 2011, according to the United Nations World Urbanization Prospects, “52.1 percent of the worlds population now lives in urban areas and it will continue to rise to 67.2 percent in 2050.” The Economist also cites that “three out of five people will live in cities in 2015” and the increase will be most dramatic in the poorest and least urbanized continents.

This global phenomenon of mass migration to the city has put forward problems especially concerning natural resources in relation to energy, transportation, environmental impact, and uncontrolled urbanism. This of course, also implies cultural assimilation and the inevitable clash of cultures between groups and individuals as well has as the valuable inculcation of tolerance and peace.

The changing genealogy of the city has generated new spaces of contention, borders, welfare, history and overall identity. A direct reference to Henri Lefebvre’s “The Production of Space” where he champions that the processes of urban space(s) (in this case the city) is very much  “a social and political product.” In this light, this exhibition will explore the nuancing of how to approach living in a community inside a city and how the human spirit endures and strengthens the constant flow of people that creates a new fabric of urban patterns and local culture.

The exhibition focuses on the urban context of the local city in contrast with other cities of the world as an attempt to locate problems that needs addressing in a time of rapid reconsideration of modernity and its various articulations. This will be put to the fore by exhibiting discerning photographs from Ferit Kuyas (1955) that evokes the cul-de-sac of artificially made cities from China to the reflective squalor of the City of Guatemala.  Habib Asal (1974) on the other hand, offers an immersive brick installation that tackles a carefully well-researched piece on the city of Winterthur, raising questions on the play of structures and mass migration. Lastly, Lena Maria Thüring (1981) provides the exhibition with an eloquent video piece that alludes to the diverse urban sociology and anthropology of memories and personal histories.

It is hoped that the artistic reflections of the exhibition can bring new discourse and achievements to the burgeoning debates on modern cities and the future it holds to the brave and courageous hearts of men/women, an attempt to control the horror of an un-guided monster that is about to eat everyone up only to spit them out after - lifeless and ruined. But then again can a monster see itself as a monster?