How can we transform the city from being an impossible ecological problem, into being the ecological solution? For most of the past decade, imagining how cities might become truly sustainable has taken up a considerable portion of my time. In short, the question I have been asking is: what is the possible city?
In this time, my partner Suhee Kang and I have looked into both the rural and urban sides of this question, for they are in reality, inseparable from each other. Our questions eventually turned into a journey, to hundreds of sustainable farms and communities in East Asia and Europe, where we spoke and worked with scientists, urban planners, and politicians on the one hand, and farmers, craftspeople, and philosophers on the other. These two sides are not the opposites that so many media pundits would suggest. They are, in fact, much closer than we had ever imagined.
The place where their voices meet, is in their common understanding that if we human beings are to build a sustainable society, we must first learn to be a part of the ecosystems we live in. Without this, neither city nor countryside can work. Not sustainably, anyway.
I like to call this the art of remembering that we are ecological beings. Biologically, this is indeed what we are. Even if we live in a city, the walls of glass, steel, and concrete can not preclude us from our role (and our duty) as ecological beings within the larger ecosystem.
So what is the possible city?
Our solutions in this realm will probably look fantastical, backwards, or hopelessly idealistic at first. This of course, is a general rule of progress, that the radically truthful, honest, and realistic things will almost certainly never look realistic to us at first. Getting to the place we need to be as humans then, will require us to stretch our imaginations to the edge of what we know to be possible.
Over these past years, I’ve worked in many mediums with this question in mind, producing conceptual exhibitions, festivals, making films, writing essays, academic book chapters, and entire books. This series of drawings and “blueprints” takes another route.
Consisting of simple, large-scale drawings, these works are contact-printed onto paper by sunshine. The process is that of the original ‘blueprint’ technique, a relic from our civilization’s architectural past, made to represent a possible future. The images reflect simplicity, a distillation of years of field studies in locations around the world.
These Blueprints for the Possible City imagine ecologically possible cities, which at their heart can quite simply be described as: a continuum of human and natural infrastructure, intertwined.
A common ground that scientist, farmer, designer, and politician stand on, together.
The exhibition of these works is paired together with a series of oshibana artworks by Suhee; arrangements of flower petals which she has dutifully — and joyfully — collected from various locations on our journeys.
14–26 July 2020
Art Spot Korin, Kyoto, Japan
part of the “Ways of Thinking” exhibition series, with Suhee Kang and Joseph Calleja
produced by Lateral Lab & LOCALSHIP
with support from British Council and Creative Scotland