06.11.2003 — 21.11.2005
A Dynamic Equilibrium: In Pursuit of Public Terrain
Envisioned as working sessions centered around questions pertinent to the terrain of San Diego-Tijuana, the inSite_05 Conversations were conceived to rethink issues of local import within a broader frame. While the plan for each of the sixteen Conversations and Dialogues, which took place over a two-year period, suggested trajectories of inquiry, the robust discussions that unfolded were propelled above all by the divergent vantage points and rigorously reasoned convictions of the protagonists.
Mindful that there is no way to reproduce on paper the vibrant, visually extensive, sometimes performance nature of the Conversations and Dialogues, we have in this publication focused on three moments that resonate with each other thematically: the discussions of the opening weekend in November 2003, those of the closing afternoon in November 2005, and one brief exchange in the middle. We have followed the logic of not repeating writers contributing to the other two inSite_05 publications: Farsites and [Situational]Public. A few participants extended or revamped their texts for inclusion here. Teddy Cruz was selected to be the 2004–05 James Stirling Memorial Lecturer on the City; his Stirling Lecture amplified the paper he presented for the Conversations and sets the scene for inSite overall. Eyal Weizman and Keller Easterling contributed new essays, linked with butdistinct from their talks. Judith Barry elaborated her more informal remarks in conversation with Arjun Appadurai to serve as a point of departure for the book. The essays thus suggest the immediacy of each occasion, with the benefit of hindsight. The incisive exchanges that followed each Conversation are chronicled in the discussions, which appear in chronological context; where possible, those speaking from the audience are identified.
I am grateful for the good spirit with which each of the panelists and participants took up a challenge pointed by David Harvey in his essay “The Right to the City”: “If our urban world has been imagined and made, then it can be reimagined and remade. The task may be difficult. Bertolt Brecht had it right when he wrote:
It takes a lot of things to change the world:
Anger and tenacity, science and indignation,
The quick initiative, the long reflection,
The cold patience and the infinite perseverance,
The understanding of the particular case and the understanding of
Only the lessons of reality can teach us to transform reality.”
Drawn from the arenas of art and urbanism, geography and politics, history and philosophy, the essays in A Dynamic Equilibrium: In Pursuit of Public Terrain converge in their quest to make sense of the forces that form the places where disparate publics meet, from the new spaces of capital of Second Empire France to the transcendent twenty-first-century “zones of legal exemption”where local protocols are trumped by global loopholes. Authors probe the realms where consensus and conflict are enacted, pondering streets and plazas, and the networks of voice and ether where rumors circulate in hushed confidences and spin proliferates without remorse.
From the deadly daily routines of the fifty-yard flat expanse that is the border between India and Pakistan, to the mile-tall vertical reach—from aquifer to airspace—where the division between Israel and Palestine is enacted, the authors search the lived dimensions of experience for the dynamics that have produced them. The fraught urban expanse of San Diego-Tijuana figures centrally. Defended by its border wall, San Diego—“the world’s largest gated community,” as Teddy Cruz puts it—enacts a “puritan” urban planning of “segregation and control.”Tijuana sprawls nomadically, process overriding style, open-ended and improvisational. Here in this zone of migrant labor and itinerant capital, more people cross the border each year than anywhere else in the world.
The book begins with a journey—which unfurls across these pages containing my remarks, and beyond—charted in photographs assembled by Teddy Cruz. This expedition moves from San Diego’s North County housing tracts, south through downtown toward San Ysidro, across the border and past Tijuana’s Zona Rio to the informal settlements and gated communities which have made Tijuana one of Mexico’s fastest growing cities. Leveled by development and scorched by the wild fires that preceded by a few weeks the first inSite_05 Conversations in fall 2003, the San Diego landscape speaks to an uneasy coexistence of human habitation and cycles of nature. The Tijuana terrain points to three influxes: the impromptu alighting in search of a place to dwell that has shaped the unregulated schemes of the colonias, the maquiladora campuses that sprang up in office-park style after the passage of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the myriad miniature housing estates built by private developers with government sponsorship. This voyage by car, van or bus was the frame for the Conversations as they unfolded: nearly all of the panelists traveled this uneven and disrupted turf with Teddy Cruz soon after arriving in San Diego-Tijuana.
Judith Barry’s “The Space that Art Makes” serves as a prelude to the Conversations, articulating with precision their implicit longing to locate points of leverage. Probing Arjun Appadurai’s potent notions of “the work of the imagination” and “the capacity to aspire,” Barry lays out a frame of art practices and projects that have proved “transformative.”Several intertwined questions thread through the texts: What processes form the built fabric? How does “the right to the city,” of which David Harvey has written so compellingly, play out in the “right to change” it?What does it mean to be a citizen—or alien—in the contemporary world, in which cities themselves contain borders within? How do artists intervene in this realm of flux and embodied experience? How to deploy and sustain their critical position or, as Shuddhabrata Sengupta puts it, “an ethic of radical alterity…to prevailing norms”?
The first of the Conversations focuses on Liminal Zones/Coursing Flows. Alert that at this juncture of the eighth largest city in the United States and sixth most populous in Mexico, people and goods circulate continuously through the frenetically reiterated boundary where a third layer of the border barricade is currently under construction, panelists probe the nature of the currents that forge, undermine and override such cartographic schema.
In “Border Postcards: Chronicles from the Edge,” Teddy Cruz delves into “the opportunities opened up by an insurgent, flexible urbanism that insinuates itself into the most rigid contexts using simple strategies of transgression and appropriation.” From La Mona, at once a “statue of liberty” and a 1989 addition to the house of Armando Muñoz, and the Toy an Horse made by Marcos Ramírez ERRE for inSite97, to the intermingling of private/public and residential/business uses in Tijuana, Cruz discerns a “fluid bed of opportunity” in place of “a rigid grid of containment.” “If contemporary art, architecture, and urbanism do not enter the sociopolitical, economic, and cultural dimensions of the territories they occupy, they are destined to continue being isolated formal events, perpetuating the idea of the city as a static repository of objects instead of revealing its potential as a dynamic field whose thickness is made of the complexity of its multiple forces and mutating histories and identities.”
Shuddhabrata Sengupta suggests “seepage”: “Can we as artists, as art practitioners, seep into the world, construct channels of meaning beneath the stable surface of culture that allow for an erosion of boundaries to occur in the natural course of time? The metaphor of seepage brings with it a notion of preliminary invisibility….” Re-envisioning the potential of “globalization,” Sengupta looks not to “the incessant rapacious expansion of capitalism,” but rather to the “subaltern globalization from below” which “embodies different wills to globality and a plethora of global imaginaries that are often at cross-purposes with the dominant rhetoric of corporate globalization.” Five “snapshots” comprise parables of laying claim to a commons of natural and intellectual resources essential to human survival: “Illegal emigration, urban encroachment, the assault on intellectual property regimes by any means, hacking and the occupation of sites of production by producers—each of which involves the accumulation of the acts of millions of people across the world on a daily, unorganized and voluntary basis, often at great risk to themselves—are the underbelly of this present reality.”
Contemplating the fluctuations of frontiers, Magalí Arriola contrasts Eyal Weizman’s analysis of the demarcation of Israeli and Palestinian territories in three dimensions with the obdurately two-dimensional delineation of the edge between the United States and Mexico. Arriola calls up the disarmingly ironic and wistful infiltration by artists of the no-man’s lands that snake across the globe where nations conjoin: “on the 27th of May 1992, the founding of the sovereign, inviolable and eternal State of Elgaland-Vargaland was proclaimed by Carl Michael von Hausswolff and Leif Elggren, who declared all the frontier zones dividing the world’s countries to be their territory and decided to annex and occupy—both theoretically and in practice—all past and future frontiers.”
David Harvey points to the relationships of social processes and spatial forms: “a process can create a certain form but, having created a form, then the process has to negotiate with it.”
For me of course the main social process that I have been interested in is the accumulation of capital and the circulation of capital and I am extremely interested in the whole question of how the circulation of capital constructs certain built environments, constructs certain kinds of landscapes….what this really means is that we can never treat space as something that is neutral. But at the same time we can’t treat space as if it is an activeagent. So actually what is it?
…I have always thought the way to think of this is that spatiality is what I would call a condition of possibility, and we therefore have to pay careful attention to that condition of possibility. And this is sort of an analogy with Marx’s famous statement about history—that we can make history but we can’t do it under the historical circumstances of our own choosing. Well, we can make spaces but we can’t make spaces except under the sort of spatial conditionalities that already exist….part of the dynamics we are always in is trying to transform what exists.
Ute Meta Bauer considers ways that artists have effected change in the world. If madeinbarcelona succeeded in deflecting the privatization of a stretch of coast and the collateral destruction of neighborhoods, then Volx- TheaterKaravane set up a twenty-four-hour “No Border Camp” in front of Museum Fridericianum in Kassel during Documenta11, making visible the programmatic deportation of Roma families from Germany. Titling her essay “Why don’t we do it in the road? or the rediscovery of the street,” Meta Bauer invokes the 1968 Beatles song, with its proposition that “no one will be watching us, why don’t we do it in the road?” “Much has changed since then…there are a lot of people watching us, and a lot of surveillance has taken place in the road. But to re-discover the road and to re-negotiate what actually each one of us can do there is still an important condition we should argue for. In particular, since it is so much under surveillance, that also means we have to fight to regain a real public sphere, and if it comes to conflict it is very vivid….”
Manuel de Landa articulates a Deleuzian ontology which presses towards “concrete historical analyses” of the embodied world based on material processes—at once specific and complicated. Deleuze “has managed to create a new vision of the material world, a re-enchantment of the material world, which is also necessary as a companion to a social philosophy because we as social entities cannot separate ourselves from the ecosystems and other physical entities with which we interact.” Deleuze frees us from a dualism that is linguistic and abstract rather than material in its insights: “What we inherited was basically a breaking down of the social world into two layers. The micro and the macro, individual and society, agency and structure, choice and order. There were always two layers. And sociologists and economists of the past tended to identify with either the one layer or the other layer.” Deleuze, instead, impels us towards a more nuancedmode of analysis: “the farther we get from the micro/macro thing, the less we are inclined to speak of society-as-a-whole, the less we are inclined to speak of the system, the establishment, the man, or for that matter the capitalist system, which is another bogus entity….” And the import of this is momentous: “only within the new materialist ontology…can we approach this frontier situation in its own terms.”
In The Embodied City, Eyal Weizman and Keller Easterling implicate architecture and infrastructure as complicit with power—both military and monetary. Weizman’s gripping elucidation of the “politics of verticality” reasons that two-dimensional maps and plans are inadequate to delineate the workings of the world. Viewed in these terms, the relationship of the West Bank and Gaza can only be understood in its layered dimensions: “a new way of imagining territory was developed for the West Bank. The region was no longer seen as a two-dimensional surface of a single territory, but as a large ‘hollow’ three-dimensional surface, within which the West Bank could be physically partitioned into two separate but overlapping national geographies. Within this volume separate security corridors, infrastructure, over-ground bridges and underground tunnels are woven into an Escher-like space.”
The politics of verticality are central to recent military action: Weizman’s “Thanatotactics” delineates the recasting of space in “targeted assassinations.” There is nowhere to hide, as vision penetrates walls and prevails from the sky.
Within Palestinian towns and refugee camps Israeli soldiers do not use the streets, roads, alleys, or courtyards that constitute the syntax of the city, as well as the external doors, internal stairwells, and windows that constitute the order of buildings, but rather move horizontally through party walls, and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors.
Rather than submit to the authority of conventional spatial boundaries, movement becomes constitutive of space…. To complement military tactics that involve physically breaking and walking through walls, new methods have been devised to allow soldiers to see and kill through walls.
Weizman—working with the Israeli Human Rights group B’tselem—discerns an ominous scenario in which the conceding of territory is feigned, transforming “a territory-bound system of control into one based on remote policing undertaken primarily from the air.” With this veiled scopic military maneuver, a “new type of territorial compromise has thus been conceived: an archipelago of isolated bits of ground territory would become, if the Palestinians so wish to call it, a Palestinian State, while the occupation will be transferred to the skies.” Revamping the relationships of space and surveillance, the “imagined geographies of vertical power have thus completed a ninety-degree shift, placing ‘the orient’ no longer in the east, across the horizon, but vertically under a Western aerial civilization manning, or remotely managing, airborne platforms above it.”
Easterling ponders the blunt and insidious impact of infrastructure and organization that often goes undetected: “manipulating the mixologies of duplicity is a craft that, for many, is involuntary, under-rehearsed or under-analyzed. Rather, daily protestations about communication seem to return to the fairy tale desire that people should mean what they say….Architects are often strangely unaware of the political consequences that are running through their hands in the shaping of space and urban organization.” In the chasm between what is said and what is meant, motives are camouflaged in apparently guileless details. “One is accustomed to the idea that a building or a component of urbanism can express some subtext of political intention (e.g. a signal on the façade, a hierarchical organization of rooms). One is less accustomed to expressing aggression or violence in terms of organization.” And therein is an opening: “Architects and urbanists can establish sturdy resilient spatial dispositions that must be constantly tuned to redirect or fool political forces away from the most venal actions embedded in the most banal spaces.”
In The Average Citizen and Public Domain: Enclaves and Data-Dreams, Måns Wrange and Maarten Hajer probe the formation of public opinion and public domain. Wrange turns inside-out the abstractions and fictions that come to represent ordinary citizens. His project The Average Citizen exposes the assumptions that render statistical portraits incapable of accurately identifying genuine exemplars of their target populations. “The notion of an ‘average citizen’—that is, a fictive person supposed to statistically represent a larger group of people—has been one of the most influential ideas in the construction of the Swedish welfare state. By incarnating the modern project’s dream of translating a complex reality into a rational and transparent model, statistical averages have laid the very foundation of the Swedish art of social engineering.”Marianne, the “average” citizen identified by Wrange and his colleagues through statistical modeling, is hardly typical—a childless single woman. In a media campaign enlisting celebrities, politicians, journalists and actors, Marianne’s positions are insinuated covertly and in passing into political speeches, news reports and soap operas, the effect on public opinion duly charted in polls.
Wrange’s Good Rumor Project, for inSite_05, traces the flow of perceptions through social networks, touching finally on the very nature of democracy and the role of the citizen: “A phenomenon that has been going on for a long time in the US, but in the last decade has become more influential in Sweden, is lobbying. It is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. So I was interested in this relation between what constitutes a citizen from the state’s perspective and how democracy really works from a citizen’s perspective….” And, it would seem, vested interests have increasingly gained ground: “According to a report on democracy commissioned by the Swedish government, the political involvement of citizens has diminished at the same time as the political influence of major corporations and special interest groups has increased through professional opinion-forming and lobbying.”
While in The Average Citizen and The Good Rumor Project, Wrange wryly muses over the nature of citizenship, Hajer has searched out new public domain that transcends the “archipelagos of enclaves” that by design avert conflict. “Whereas the early era of modernity was about social mobility and confrontation…, late modernity is an era in which we have been able to organize social life in such a way that it is possible to almost completely avoid conflict or the confrontation with the proverbial ‘Other’.
Modernity is still all about mobility but now we are the masters of avoidance too: mobility is not used to engage in excitement; mobility is used to avoid trouble.” In this circumstance, the conducive ground where we encounter unfamiliar and even adversarial co-habitants of our cities is lost. “Our metropolises have not become a ‘non-place urban realm’ as Melvyn Webber predicted in the early 1960s; our metropolises are organized as archipelagos of enclaves, as I call it with Arnold Reijndorp in the book In
Search of New Public Domain. In this archipelago all social groups have their own places to visit and places to avoid; and the only space we share is, ultimately, the infrastructure related to the freeway.”
In The Compromise House, Wrange and his collaborators accede to the decorum of town zoning regulations, producing the “John Malkovich floor”—a study or a studio with a ceiling high enough only for sitting. If Wrange’s Compromise House attests with dry wit and uncanny pragmatism to the unlikely solutions that can be produced by negotiation, Hajer inquires ardently into those interventions that might prompt “the meaningful articulation of conflict.”
The essays suggest ways to move ahead and modes of crafting public terrain. Teddy Cruz’s “stealth urbanism”and Shuddhabrata Sengupta’s “channels of meaning” shift things, all the while below the radar. Artists reconnoiter consciousness and perception—with the wit and wiliness that Magalí Arriola underscores, in the spectacles and public actions recounted by Ute Meta Bauer, in the sly maneuvers deployed by Måns Wrange. If social processes and spatial forms unfold in dialectical relationship, as David Harvey makes clear,and “matter matters,” as Manuel de Landa insists, such that social processes must be understood in relation to material processes—then it is intricate work to sort out and affect the dynamics that are rarely in the equilibrium that Mondrian envisioned. If space is never neutral, as Harvey demonstrates, then it needs to be interrogated with the searing precision of Eyal Weizman, the savvy skepticism of Keller Easterling, and the impassioned constructiveness of Maarten Hajer.
Most of the texts include a story or two. During the final day of the Conversations, Cuauhtémoc Medina called up artist Francis Alÿs’s account of When Faith Moves Mountains in Peru: “On April 11, 2002, five hundred volunteers were supplied with shovels and asked to form a single line at the foot of a giant sand dune in Ventanilla, an area outside Lima. This human comb pushed a certain quantity of sand a certain distance, thereby moving a sixteen-hundred-foot-long sand dune about four inches from its original position….” The project emerged from Alÿs’s visit to Lima in October 2000, during the year preceding the collapse of the Fujimori government. “It was a desperate situation, and I felt that it called for an epic response, a ‘beau geste’ at once futile and heroic, absurd and urgent…. When Faith Moves Mountains attempts to translate social tensions into narratives that in turn intervene in the imaginal landscape of a place. The action is meant to infiltrate the local history and mythology of Peruvian society (including its art histories), to insert another rumor into its narratives….”
We are, here, in the territory onto which Allan Kaprow’s work opened a half-century ago. It makes sense that he should have the last word: “Power in art is not like that in a nation or in big business. A picture never changed the price of eggs. But a picture can change our dreams; and pictures may in time clarify our values. The power of artists is precisely the influence they wield over the fantasies of their public.”
 “Dynamic equilibrium” is Piet Mondrian’s language: a summing up of the nature of being in the world, and the grounds on which he based his art of “real abstractions”: “First and foremost there is the fundamental law of dynamic equilibrium which is opposed to the static equilibrium necessitated by the particular form. The important task of all art, then, is to destroy the static equilibrium by establishing a dynamic one.” (Piet Mondrian, “Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art” , The New Art—The New Life: The Collected Writings of Piet Mondrian, Boston: G.K. Hall, 1986, p. 294.)
Mondrian’s early twentieth-century convictions—attuned to the insights of relativity as much as to the vantage of Theosophy—pointed, in “a future perhaps remote, towards the end of art as a thing separated from our surrounding environment, which is the actual plastic reality.” (Ibid., p. 299.) “For the future, Neo-Plastic demonstrates for every area an organization of equivalent relationships and not a new form.” (Piet Mondrian, “The New Art—The New Life: The Culture of Pure Relationships” , The New Art—The New Life: The Collected Writings of Piet Mondrian, p. 266).
 David Harvey, “The Right to the City,” in Richard Scholar, ed., Divided Cities: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2003, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 103.
 See David Harvey’s essay in this book, and his Paris, Capital of Modernity, New York: Routledge, 2003; the phrase “zones of legal exemption” is Keller Easterling’s, in this book.
 Teddy Cruz, “Surgical Urbanism in San Ysidro,” C3 Views (July/August 2002), unnumbered pages; and “Border Postcards: Chronicles from the Edge,” in this book.
 Judith Barry, in this book. See Arjun Appadurai, interview by Arjen Mulder, “The Right to Participate in the Work of the Imagination,” in Joke Brouwer, Arjen Mulder and Laura Martz, eds., TransUrbanism, Rotterdam: V2Publishing/NAi Publishers, 2002, pp. 32-47; and Arjun Appadurai, “The Capacity to Aspire: Culture and the Terms of Recognition,” in Vijayendra Rao and Michael Walton, eds., Culture and Public Action, Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004, pp. 59-84.
 Harvey, “The Right to the City,” in Divided Cities, p. 83.
 Shuddhabrata Sengupta, in this book.
 Cruz, in this book.
 Sengupta, in this book.
 Magalí Arriola, in this book.
 David Harvey, in this book.
 Ute Meta Bauer, in this book.
 Manuel de Landa, in this book.
 Eyal Weizman, “Ariel Sharon and the Geometry of Occupation…” (part 3), www.opendemocracy.net, p. 4. See Weizman’s 2002 discussion of “The Politics of Verticality,”
www.opendemocracy.org; and A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture, eds. Rafi Segal and Eyal Weizman, London: Verso, 2003.
 Eyal Weizman, in this book.
 Keller Easterling, in this book.
 Måns Wrange, The Average Citizen, unpublished text; What People Want—Populism in Architecture & Design, ed. Michael Shamiyeh, Basel: Birkhauser, 2005. See also www.averagecitizen.org and www.ombud.org
 Måns Wrange, in this book.
 Maarten Hajer, in this book. See Maarten Hajer and Arnold Reijndorp, In Search of New Public Domain: Analysis and Strategy, Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2001, p. 53.
 Wrange, in this book.
 Hajer, in this book.
 Cruz, in this book.
 Harvey, in this book.
 de Landa, in this book.
 Francis Alÿs, “A thousand words: Francis Alÿs talks about When Faith Moves Mountains,” Artforum (Summer 2002), pp. 146-47.
 Allan Kaprow, “The Artist as a Man of the World” (1964), Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life,
ed. Jeff Kelley, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003, p. 53.
A collaboration of INSITE, the University of California, the San Diego Department of Visual Arts, and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
Panta Rhea Foundation
James Irvine Foundation
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
City of San Diego Commission for the Arts and Culture
Ronald and Lucille Neeley Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts