As advertised last week I will relate to the summer school on ” Utopian Cities, Programmed Societies” in Victoria (Romania) that Leoni and I are attending this week.
It gathers students, scientists, and artists most of all from Romania, France, the UK, and Germany but also from all other parts of the world. The idea of the one-week-long summer school is to explore the relationship between architecture, technology and utopia, environment and industry, between imaginary communities and their development, in order to evaluate possibilities for transforming these forgotten places. The city of Victoria serves as a starting point to explore unfinished utopian societies. The city has around 7000 inhabitants and was founded as a socialist built from scratch town only 70 years ago accompanying a munition factory.
It always has been a town dependent on mono-industry. Nowadays the factory is owned by Americans producing methanol. In it’s “best” times it employed around 7000 people, now you will find around 300 people working there. What began as a growing “city of the youth” ideal for the (utopian idea) of “the new man“* became a “shrinking city” with nearly 50% of the population being pensioners.
The story of the city appears to be like a life cycle. It feels like after going through turbulent times, witnessed contrasting eras, it is now looking forward to slowly and peacefully retire. This is not meant to be a sarcastic comment. I experience it as a tranquil and in a special way colorful town in the middle of a beautiful landscape. To me thinking of ways to “revive” it seems an inappropriate intervention. This matches the fact that more and more people built holiday homes in Victoria. The potential of tourism is also a future that local authorities rely on.
Obviously, this is an insight into my very personal impression of being in Victoria for a week but as there is never only one story about anything (an aspect that Friedrich highly emphasized in his lecture on “Situated Drama aka Enacting Complexity” he gave this week), all of us collected completely different impressions and stories. I know that one group of students focused on interviewing children and teenagers to get an idea of their perspective and visions which is probably a completely different one.
And in this very moment (Friday night) most of the participants of the summer school are outside at the main square having a party with locals. This brings me back to the idea and structure of the summer school and its second aim: to encounter. People from different sciences and arts meet up and share their different ideas and lenses to look at the world. While during the mornings we were free but encouraged to dérive through town in groups, visit the factory and the landscape, the afternoons were dedicated to lectures on different topics in connection with utopia: architecture and utopias, technology and utopia, society and utopia and reinvesting utopias. In the following, I will shortly introduce some of the scientists and artists and their work so you can somehow benefit from this summer school as well! Unfortunately, I don’t have time and space to introduce all the great bachelor, master and Ph.D. students to you…;)
The summer school is organized and lead by Tincuta Heinzel and Dana Diminescu. Tincuta Heinzel is into electronic textiles and doing research on Cybernetic Approaches from an Eastern perspective. You can find more on her projects here. Dana Diminescu is an innovation scientist researching amongst others on Diaspora and launched an e-Diaspora Atlas. We also got to know Stefan Rusu who is a Moldavian artist exploring ways to re-use and re-function Soviet architecture, Georg Trogemann who is a professor for Experimental Computer Science at KHM (Cologne) and talked about the current boundaries of the machine learning and the problem that technology is not integrated in our culture, and last but not least: RYBN.org an art collective from France who is doing extra-disciplinary or speculative investigations on topics like “The Human Computer”, “AAI Chess” or “The Space Offshore”. Check them out here!
Back to Victoria, I finish with a short draft of an audio-visual impression created by Leoni:
June 2019 is coming to an end and so do my weekend readings for the moment.
I pass the baton on to Janne Nora Kummer.
Have a great summer!
*There was also a feminist approach (the new woman) to this concept brought up by Alexandra Kollontai.