Every new experience properly contemplated opens in us a new organ of understanding. (Goethe)

Projective City aims to advance, promote, and make visible the work of emerging artists through an ongoing, flexible and interconnected series of projects. Working on the assumption that bigger is NOT better, projects are for the most part designed to be smaller-scale and more intimate, aiming for more personal encounters between artists, artworks, and audiences. In April 2011 the organization began a series of pop-up exhibitions in Paris and established a temporary gallery space on Rue Helene Brion in the city’s mysterious 13th arrondissement, and collaborated with other Parisian galleries and organizations. Currently the gallery is focused on a collaborative project with Mixed Greens which allows people in New York to peek into a faraway gallery through a magical “Paris-Scope”.

Projective City is “projective” not only in the sense that it is loosely structured around a series of ongoing “projects”, but also in the sense that its artists often involve projections of or into other possible worlds. Their practices generally involve an intricate balance of imagination, rigorously developed techniques, and labor-intensive processes. We currently promote contemplative gestures towards the romantic, the absurd, the dismal failure, the mysterious, the inarticulate, the sentimental, the vaguely remembered, the attempted, the invisible, the foolish, the aporetic, and the sublime.

A NOTE ON “PROJECTIVE CITY”

Dans une cité par projets (projective city), l’équivalent général, ce à quoi se mesure la grandeur des personnes et des choses, est l’activité. … La vie est conçue comme une succession de projets, d’autant plus valables qu’ils sont plus différents les uns des autres. … Ce qui importe, c’est de développer de l’activité, c’est-à-dire de n’être jamais à cours de projet, à cours d’idée, d’avoir toujours quelque chose en vue, en préparation, avec d’autres personnes que la volonté de faire quelque chose conduit à rencontrer.

 

In the Projective City the general standard with respect to which all persons’ and things’ greatness is evaluated is ACTIVITY. … Life is conceived as a series of projects, all the more valuable when different from one another. … What is relevant is to be always pursuing some sort of activity, never to be without a project, without ideas, to be always looking forward to, and preparing for, something along with other persons whose encounter is the result of a being always driven by the impulse of activity.

-Luc Boltanski et Eve Chiapello, « Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme », Ed. Gallimard, 1999 – P. 165 – 166

 

The notion of the projective city comes from The New Spirit of Capitalism by Luc Boltanski and Eves Chiapello. In the context of articulating this “new spirit”, they use the notion of a city as a kind of metaphorical model, and describe the recent emergence of a seventh city, one they managed to detect in the managerial literature of the last half of the 20th century. In this new city, the central focus of life is on flexible and constantly changing networks of people and ideas which converge on diverse projects. Rather than the more hierarchical and monolithic structures that typified earlier times (and which no doubt still exist and play a considerable role in our economic situation), players in the new city are always hustling, “networking”, hooking up, dissolving, and reconnecting. This tends to involve the erosion of a distinction between work life and non-work life, and (worryingly) the commodification of personal relationships.

As one reads their description of the model citizens of this capitalist city, one cannot help but be reminded of contemporary emerging artists. Somehow, in spite of the generally left-wing and anti-capitalist postures of their predecessors, artists today function as the projective city’s best ambassadors (and thus as prophets of the new spirit), often without paying much attention to their ideological role. Hence we have a situation in which art today is both the exemplar of and the last exit from the most dominant cultural engine on the planet. This aporia of art is representative of the aporetic nature of life in this city which we all, to varying degrees, must inhabit. In such a situation, it behooves us all to project the best city possible.

Projective City is loosely “directed” by Benjamin Evans. Evans is the  former director of Eastern Edge Gallery in St. John’s, and of NURTUREart non-profit in Brooklyn. He has also worked with or served on the boards of several arts organizations in Calgary and New York, and exhibited his own work in a range of professional venues. He is currently pursuing his doctoral degree in philosophy at the New School for Social Research, working in the areas of early modern aesthetics, the history and philosophy of science, and the politics of the modern subject. He is also a contributor to Public Seminar, an online cultural magazine.