I used to work for this guy, back in the years when I was a pub waitress, who was an ageing hippie with a goatie, a piano degree, and the complete collection of Omni magazine. His theory was that we tend to build cities, to like cities and to kind of actually need cities, unlike other animals who are perfectly fine in the wilderness, because we are in fact aliens who came from a planet where cities were (and possibly still are) the natural environment, so we are merely recreating our natural habitat.
We never discussed Coruscant, or Trantor, now that I think about it.
Anyway, I have always wondered why I feel totally at ease in some cities, to the point that I am able to inhabit them effortless and seamlessly, me, a keeper of mason bees, and what I noticed along the years is that in order to feel myself at home in a city I need a certain amount of disruption. Not necessarily ruins, not exactly decadence, certainly not squalor, but active disruption. What makes me feel good is a landscape of culture that gets destroyed and reinvented, physically and visually. The possibility to inhabit postmodern ruins, to heal scars of the recent past.
I’m not thinking of obvious landmarks, like Tacheles. What I’m thinking of is old flats in Prenzlauerberg or Friedrichshain just before the Kosmetische Renovierung. Holes in the crumbling floor of my fifth-floor balcony in Kreuzberg, holes in the actual reinforced concrete that allowed me to see tiny people five floors below. The broken window in my Hammersmith room that gave on a huge Pink Floyd wall, the view over Wandsworth (Wimbledon hill dark at night) from the brutalist building where an old boyfriend was staying (I suspect that place will be gentrified sooner or later). Sitting on small plastic chairs in Saigon at night, eating street food, sweet old colonial buildings lining the street.
Therefore the notion of ripping, tearing away posters from the walls of the city, taking some glue and plaster with them, forcing the passing of time on them, makes perfect sense to me. This is what you want to do with your city, to give it your voice and to love it.
Mimmo Rotella. Décollages e retro d’affiches, at Palazzo Reale in Milan, now closed (Chagall is next).
glue paper plaster