Catalyst 2020. Architectures of Reassurance: Between Emergency and Play

We’re excited to be taking part in this year’s Catalyst 2020 and will curate a film selection and discussion on March 3rd and 5th, 4:30 PM, Rapson Hall 100. Come join us and the rest of the events in this wonderful series. Blurbs and posters below. Full map of events here.

Cities—who are they even for? Through a selection of cinematic “provocations,” we invite participants of the Catalyst workshop week to join an open-ended discussion about the tacit and not so tacit ways in which human and non-human agencies commingle in filmed urban environments and the way they represent, question, and perhaps even undermine the distributions of bodies, signs, and rhythms of the city.

Under the banner of “Emergency,” the March 3rd session will include short clips from The Battle of Algiers (1967), Brazil (1985), and Snowpiercer (2013). To what extent is the city a friend or foe of the insurgent? Can it help ameliorate the “emergency”—be it colonial oppression, state of total surveillance, or an environmental collapse? Is the city as we know it itself a catastrophe?

The March 5th session will shift our perspective to the city under in a state of “Play.” Here, we will approach filmic depictions of urban environments as audio-visual playgrounds. The state of such ludic habitats does not preclude emergency but lets it grow spontaneously and invasively, like weeds—or, quite contrarily, is preemptively sanctioned by the powers that be. Short excerpts from Man with a Movie Camera (1929), Koyaanisqatsi (1982), and 28 Days Later (2002) will help us meditate on the ambition of (cinematic) imagination, the human and not-so-human scale and speed of city living, and the revolutionary as well as reactionary potentialities and expressions of joy.

Full Description:


curator: Vahan Misakyan

This year’s catalyst will scrutinize the repository of architectural evidence produced by the militarization of the commons, or the ever-playful routines of the surveillant mandate. The latter verifies its apparent urgency as the space of public encounter, the quiet territory of civic life, becomes a new theatre of violence. That which is spatially articulated but remains unaddressed by the field; the protocols of control, rituals of reassurance, syntaxes of communion, artifacts of automation are only some of the elements of this assemblage. Its repetitive organization establishes the novel tectonics of fortification concealed within the rhetorics of play. The play then unfolds within the crib of collective physical performances of both human and non-human agents—the enacted societal composition of modern human life. The catalyst is organized upon scales: the scale of the installation, the scale of a city, the scale of the virtual, and the scale of the curatorial and discursive inquiry. These four sections share the overall brief but operate in discrete modalities; by building, mapping, virtualizing and curating. Driven by the overarching rationale of the inquiry, the guest faculty will propose a workshop addressing the questions of advanced representation within the given scale/modality. The role of the host faculty will be augmenting the pedagogy of the guests with the experience of their teaching at the U of M, School of Architecture.

* Any lectures or tutorials done by the guest faculty will be accessible to the students of all four sections. The current list of guest faculty is tentative; the final list will be announced at a later date.

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