How do we keep in time (aka aiming for extinction)?

Fran Edgerley

Fran Edgerley is an initiator of the research network ab__ and a founding partner of the architecture and design collective Assemble, with whom they worked for 12 years to look critically at the processes produced and reproduced by our built environment. Through work with Assemble, an interest in how the physical world is made evolved into a commitment to develop projects with communities, distributing the power of making and remaking the world. Fran’s practice includes work with architectural design, construction, pedagogy, somatic explorations of space, sound, writing and filmmaking. Over the past decade, they have worked on a range of projects – material and/or relational. For ALLES IST SCHON DA, Fran is bringing in questions about the value of urban curating being in aiming for its own elimination, amongst others.

“Creativity is for the gifted few….this is a culturally induced and perpetuated lie…”

“Abolition is not absence it is presence. What the world will become already exists in fragments and pieces, experiments and possibilities”

(thank you Simon Nicholson) (thank you Ruth Wilson Gilmore) (obrigada Clarice Lispector) (thank you jane bennett) (obrigado Sergio ferro) (thank you angel) (merci charlotte maltese-bathes) (thank you immy kapour) (thank you amica dall) (obrigada Donna rita von hunty) (thank you wassily kandinsky) (merci loic jeanson) (thank you michael rothberg)

As it comes into being named, the value of urban curating is in aiming for its own elimination. To establish resources, atmospheres, networks so that everyone has time, community, education, capacity to curate their own way.

But how do we do this in a way that doesn’t undermine the ends ? Means do not always justify or cohere with the ends and sometimes they carry us actively (even if subtly) away from them.

We must find ways to create equity without falling prey to the traps of accumulation. Find these ways whilst and as still making safety for our future aging selves.

The ((system)s) are stacked against us in our education(s), in common sense, in academic publishing requirements, in rent, in age old traditions of lineage – claiming concepts for individuals rather than attribution to the assemblages of blurry-edged conditions and relations that made all those expressions possible. We track nodes of authorship and give them power, but as Jane Bennett observes “the locus of agency is always a human-nonhuman working group”.

Without material conditions – famously a room of one’s own, poêle (stove) heating, the leisure of time (Descartes)– it is much harder to reproduce your value through thinking. Maybe dualism was also a function of the distance afforded by time for Descartes? If he had been doing, in body, in action, perhaps he wouldn’t have been able to distinguish the mind from matter? Then would we have had a different sense of responsibility for our vibrant material world?

I’m not aiming for headiness, but change. The struggle for freedom and equity away from the hegemony of multinational corporations, towards a world of smaller systems of nourishment. We’re beginning to understand ourselves as what Michael Rothberg names the implicated subject, receiving histories and, in a contemporary sense, with our participation in global supply chains. But exploitation and forms of extraction also reach into the future, rippling out from our actions and our consent. To escape these systemic spirals ‘urban curators’ and all those related in navigating the reproduction of the built environment have a key role to play. What could be our new approaches in relation to land, in relation to food, in relation to education, material processing, how we make space for and support access to culture? Say we continue the logic from the graphic novel in the Architectural Review: ‘A Global Moratorium on New Construction’ by Charlotte Maltese-Bathes and Zosia Dzierżawska where Architecture is replaced by ‘members of the community fluent in reparative designs’ – material nurse, building surgeon, seed librarian, design psychologist, disassembly engineer, cleaner executive officer (CEO). If there is no new construction in the city what would that mean for the breaking down and detailed multiplication of ‘urban curators’ to roles specifically to reorient power dynamics and invest in timely needs.

We need to shed skins, work with what makes sense and is possible now. ALLES IST SCHON DA (everything is at hand). Can we question the unseen contingencies we’re swimming in? Let’s follow in the footsteps of architect and writer Sergio Ferro’s “professional suicide” by demystifying the power dynamics through which we operate. Where are the intersecting commodity chains stretching out in front, and behind us? Where have they come from and where do they go? How do we trace the deeper political economy reproduced by our work? Can we apply ourselves to see the contingencies of the is, and work with clearer vision on longer-term repercussions?

I know one angel who has taught me something with time:

Tracing back the etymology of time leads you from, to from, to from, to a suffixed form of the root Proto-Indo-European root meaning dā- “to divide”.
A clue I think. Not just our capacity for units or calendars. But the difference between now and other. A division of what is now that is no longer what was.
We meet things/projects/people/plants as they come to us. We, with our worlds and histories of our own. Them with what is theirs. Two sides meet for conversation. Two sides that are no longer sides.

The answer I think is engaging with the is of now. The já-instante. Already just happening.

How can we work in a way that is tirelessly the child of its time?

Recently, a data scientist spoke to me of their distinct experiences working between art history and archeology academics, informed, he suggested, by the political logic of their subjects. Art historians whose subject is defined by lineages of recognition and reflection of the powerful and their value systems. Archeologists who scrabble around in the dirt looking at peoples rubbish and remains. What are we looking at? What does our work strengthen?

When we gather for conferences like this one what are we reproducing? What do we look to? When we work with resources and pass them among each other where do they go? what do we protect? What timelines are we afforded? What do we seek?

Urban curating blurs lines between ‘disciplines’ and so includes forms of work that are also done outside of it. We need to be wary of not generating abstracted professionalised hierarchy blind to what is already happening daily on/with/in the ground. People are doing this same work shifting systems though not framed as academic research or as cultural work, with their bodies ‘out there’. A carnival of forms of criticality occupy the greasy spoons. We need a strategically redistributive practice moving towards extinction of itself in the knowledge that the type of work we do, the contexts and priorities that exist now will shift and change continually through time.

One of the most impressive examples of this practice - where no urban curator was needed, showing us what another world is already, is l’Après M. To read more and donate please visit:

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