The Notion of ‘Community’ in Activist Urban Praxis: A Theory
Friday, April 1
The notion of ‘community’ has become a key term at the intersection of architecture, activism and design. Activist architects and designers, inspired by utopian groups from the 1960s and 1970s, continue to offer intelligence, resources and support to urban communities on their way to a more just urban commonwealth. However, the term ‘community’ is undeniably an ambiguous one: urban communities meander between inclusion and exclusion, between hierarchy and horizontality, between regression and emancipation. In this presentation, Louis Volont sets out to come to terms with the concept of community, and argues that artists and designers have a lot to learn from the notion’s theoretical and etymological underpinnings. Guided by empirical examples from northern and southern Europe, the presentation highlights the possibilities and pitfalls of community-based architecture and explores the implications for future artistic action.
Louis Volont is a Fulbright post-doctoral fellow at the Art, Culture, and Technology program at MIT. He studied sociology in Leuven and Milan, and defended his PhD in 2021 at the University of Antwerp (Shapeshifting: The Cultural Production of Common Space, Antwerp University Press). The main thread running through Louis’ research is ‘urban homo faber’, or: the exploration of human interference in the built environment – be it artistic, activist or professional. His work has been featured in journals such as Antipode, City & Community, Social Inclusion, Forum+ and Space & Culture (forthcoming). In the spring of 2022, his co-edited volume (with T. Lijster & P. Gielen) called The Rise of the Common City: On the Culture of Commoning will appear at ASP Editions. In 2020, he set up the project ‘Space for the Arts’ in collaboration with the Flanders Art Institute, which tackled the lack of art and studio spaces in Flanders’ urban regions. Before academia, he worked as a researcher within a Brussels-based artists’ cooperative, in order to strengthen the social security of cultural producers in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Part of the Spring 2022 Artistic Research Conversation Series.