Collective Anamnesis and Individual Identity: A Critical Reflection on Debord’s Theory to Interpret the Artistic Transformation of Symbolic Urban Spaces

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Nadia Bertolino, Sheffield School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, UK


    Assuming that the city corresponds to the ancient human dream of the labyrinth (Benjamin, 1940), this study investigates the linkage between the individual search for identity in the rhizomatic urban context (Deleuze,1977) and the collective appropriation of symbolic architectural spaces for creative purposes. Since architects act today as spatial organizers of social relations, an understanding of the balance between collectivity and individuals, situated into specific contexts, represents the starting point to re-form the design process and the final aim of the architectural agency itself. Introducing a contemporary interpretation of the Debord’s dèrive, it is argued that the autonomy of the individual experience is given through the creation of situations, moments of community formation, with a special focus on artistic and cultural practices. In these circumstances, the individual rediscovers his condition of subject who actively participates in the social scene. Assuming that the spaces’ value is given by the human interactions happening there, it is argued that some places are more relevant than other in the process of re-discovery of the collective memory. In the spatial framework of the historical city, it is still possible to identify those places as monuments and – overall – primary elements in the urban morphology, as demonstrated by the sophisticated contemporary dérive of the Chinese artist Liu Bolin. Therefore, the contemporary phenomena of informal uses of urban spaces, temporary architectural interventions – and even occupation- for artistic and creative purposes demonstrate that the affirmation of collective values can only take place through the appropriation of specific urban spaces. Following Debord, in this process, the individual identity is affirmed accordingly. Through a critical overview of selected case studies in Europe, this study demonstrates the evidence of the linkage between the creative actions, as a form of expression of the collective identity, and the spatial features of the places where they may happen.