Fall Semester is an experiment in attempting to mesh an economic restlessness, most obviously articulated in real estate speculation and infrastructure building, with globalized and digitized flows of knowledge and theoretical speculation. One resource is channeled to vectorialize some of this free-flowing theoretical work and performance into the city, which may of course ineluctably hoist on the project certain commitments and force it into certain compromises. But if these commitments and compromises are assumed, it is in the hope that they will be justified by enriching the understanding of the very context in which it happens; by enlarging the discursive range with which we speak about the very urban complexity in which we are enmeshed.
The Fall Semester, then, begins tangled in a complicated knot. The democratic potential that is always assumed for pedagogy meets the recombinatory potential, rarely thought of as democratic, of free-flowing Capital. Somewhere in an entwinement of these two things a series of public lectures and an active digital platform will find form. They will address the very condition of the contemporary city, as it begins to differentiate itself from the urban formations that we have become used to.
The aim of Fall Semester is to test what can be achieved in the sped-up production of discourse, what can happen when new material is introduced into local discourse–a bomb-drop of new data. Will such a thing have quantifiable effects? Will it be jolting enough to speed up our own desire for a deeper dimension of self-understanding and reflection? Will it, on the contrary, only be another event in which theoretical performance is put to the service of spectacle, showing up the divisions that we face daily? Fall Semester’s wager is laid down in the space cracked open these questions.
Having the general scheme of public lectures and a digital platform, it then becomes a question of what could be the most sensible thing that a project like Fall Semester to attempt, in its first iteration. What should be the topic that guides it? And the answer seems almost to force itself on us: the very city in which it is happening, since this city–Miami—may itself be a model of what the contemporary city is slowly becoming. Big investment in infrastructure as a way to position the city as a heaven for logistics-heavy transportation and hence turning it in a capture mechanism for free-flowing capital, a testing ground for both speculation on real estate and for the commodification of urban land, a reconfiguration of the uses of culture and cultural institutions, the establishment of new structures of social disparity–these events seem to presage what is coming. Miami is the future’s testing-ground. And as such, it may a good place to look at, not so much empirically, but in a speculative key, so as to understand as much the shape it is taking as the forces that are giving it this form.
Fall Semester has structured its first iteration around four basic thematic lines: The Urban Real; Architectural Weather; Plasticity of the City; and The Urban Unreal.
The Urban Real
Playing with the notion of the Real as that which recedes from common sense and empirical observation, Fall Semester sought to mesh it with the Urban, thinking that such a combination could be a prod to force us to look at the way cities are constituted by forces and flows that move beneath or above the surface of things. Disembodied materialities and global crosswinds organize urban space in ways that are often–seemingly–disassociated from the symbolic representation that cities and their citizenry rely on and adhere to. As buildings continue to go up and tunnels continue to be dug and highways widen, what is it that subtends all this activity? Enveloped in these very forces that are producing this new kind of city, from where can one assume a perspective on it? Is it possible to, in fact, find a place “outside” it from where to take stock of it? Are ‘congestion’ and ‘density’ terms that still capture something fundamental here–or do we need a new vocabulary?