Producing the Contemporary City

24 May - 2 September 2007
PowerNotes #07
Heterotopia and Posthistory: loose notes in the margins by Lieven de Cauter

Lieven de Cauter is a philosopher who wrote several books and teaches at several art schools and universities.

Brussel - Monday 4 June 2007



'tout pour moi deviant allégorie' (Baudelaire)


The opening conference was like one long Déjà vue repetition of the working conference. Déjà vue: the way this word is pronounced in English has all the charm of posthistory. The word group is a déjà vue in itself. The repetition of words and images, made the theme of posthistory the obsession of the day for me .


A message for Edi Rama: Impressive appearance, presentations with tons of charisma. But allegorical. First stage: colouring the gloomy city; Second stage: it becomes an art project, a biennale. Third stage: cleaning the city. Fourth and final stage: inviting star architects to turn it into a posthistorical city like all the others. I sympathise, but I fear that the third stage was too drastic and the fourth stage might be fatal. So my message is: You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, the saying goes. Fair enough. But spare some eggs, don't make too many omelettes. Just an idea. Who am I. Who am I to give lessons to the future prime minister of Albania.


(Standing in the courtyard reception after the opening reception in Boymans). The Kindergarten exhibition strategy is expanding. It is all over. People even seem to like it.  "Infantilisierung der Menschheit", as Adorno would have named it, or just growing old? What is the allegory behind it all? In posthistory all of us are children. Or: in posthistory children go en masse to museums (with school), so they are the main 'market'.  Or: it has scientifically been proven that the best way to communicate is to imagine an average intelligence: that is now considered around the age of 10.


Against the universal obligatory optimism shared by both the captains of industry, politicians and architects or urbanists, critical pessimism should be revived, reinvented. Has it ever existed? In prehistory maybe. With gloomy troglodytes like Adorno. No. Not fit for this posthistory.


And yet the conference was wonderful. Seldom seen so many wonderful people in one spot. Wish the conference nights were eternal. That would be my idea of paradise, of a fulfilled posthistory: meeting every night a wonderful group of perfect strangers. I love conferences. They are the best heterotopias around.


I congratulate the Berlage Institute and the Biennale with the visionary power exhibit. And wish to thank again Joachim De Clerck and Christine de Baan in person for all the trouble they took to materialize our almost impossible requests for the Hidden Cities pavilion.


Lieven De Cauter


"Capital City is projected as a designated center within an urban formation whereby political decisions takes precedent over market-controlled economic forces." (Pier Vittorio Aureli)