The first night of the transmediale 2016 festival was splendidly closed by the architect Liam Young’s live cinema performance, “Hello, City!” – a brilliant take on the possible future of the city.
As the curator Daphne Dragona explained, the program researches the power and the politics of today’s infrastructure, freedom, and safety of connectivity in order to empower a new form of infrastructures. As Dragona states, “to understand is to control”. Therefore it is now time to question the existing systems and networks, and imagine a new future.
© Liam Young
Exactly what Liam Young is doing when questioning the role of the technology, networks, and operating systems and their influence on the way we now shape and imagine our cities. The once traditional and now speculative architect is trying to explore new possible futures for the cities of tomorrow, and re-imagine them through the eye of the new networks and infrastructures. Infrastructure is not just the roads or the sewer any more. Nowadays it is drones and Wi-Fi reception. In the digital age accessibility is no longer physical. We can instantaneously move beyond our immediate surroundings, and influence faraway places by our choice of product purchase. The way we lead our lives has changed, and the architecture has to follow.
The performance itself was conceived as a live a storytelling of an imagined future city. A city of technology shown through the eyes of the digital user. Directed by Young, written by Tim Maughan, and accompanied by Aneek Thapar.
In the same way Italo Calvino imagined his "Invisible Cities", the performance takes us on a tour through the author’s imagination and an already existing city of data. The border between the real and the unreal blurrs and leaves us captivated through the whole performance. A bold, funny and innovative way of questioning the policies and forces that shape our daily lives and urban surroundings.
In this story the city becomes a digital organism evolving on its own. Human scale is no longer the measure of the space. The “control rooms” is empty. Like a dystopian Sci Fi novel, Liam Young’s story of the digital futuristic world is highly imaginable and very possible. With a mixture of digital maps and viral YouTube videos, excerpts from the film "Where the City Can’t See" and drone footage, the three-screen simultaneous video asks us to re-evaluate our own conception of the world we live in, and take active steps into creating the future we want.
With this European premiere of Liam Young’s new work, the main question for the next phase of urban and architectural planning in the digital era we are already in is not if the city will evolve, but will it evolve before us? If the physical cityscape is now comprised of drones, cranes, antennas and LED screens, what is the invisible landscape that we as humans create every second? And who has the power and the right to use it and in which way? As the driverless taxi takes us for a ride through the digital city, are we "the effortless passengers" or citizens, and not only consumers, of a digital city?
In case you missed out on this thought-provoking performance, you can see more of Liam Young’s work as a part of the Public Art Lab initiative at Collegium Hungaricum until 7 February 2016.
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Collegium Hungaricum Berlin / Dorotheenstr. 12, 10117 Berlin, U Friedrichstr. / ongoing until 07.02 / more info
Haus der Kulturen der Welt / John-Foster-Dulles Allee 10, 10557 Berlin, S+U Brandenburger Tor, Bus 100 / ongoing until 07.02 / more info