Testing Grounds

Episode 8: Art Hub Copenhagen - Repairing the City

November 24, 2023 Nordic Alliance of Artists' Residencies on Climate Action Season 1 Episode 8
Testing Grounds
Episode 8: Art Hub Copenhagen - Repairing the City
Show Notes Transcript

How might a philosophy of repair change our approach to planning and architecture?

Art Hub Copenhagen is NAARCA’s Danish partner, and the only member residency located in a major city. It opened in 2019 as a place for artists, curators and creative professionals to gather, network and collaborate.

Jacob Fabricius is the Director of Art Hub Copenhagen. He tells us about Art Hub’s development, including its upcoming move to a new – old! – building that’s being refurbished with an emphasis on reuse, recycling and sustainability. Jacob also introduces us to our contributors, Søren Nørkjær Bang and Emmy Laura Pérez Fjalland. Søren is a curator with a background in art history and philosophy – and a passion for architecture – who now works for Copenhagen Architecture Festival. Emmy is a Danish-Colombian cultural geographer, writer, researcher and teacher with a deep interest in human-landscape relationships.

Emmy and Søren explore the potential for more collaborative, humble and regenerative approaches to architecture and planning, the idea of “repair”, and the power of author Ursula K. Le Guin’s “carrier bag theory of fiction”.

Find out more:
Art Hub Copenhagen (https://arthubcopenhagen.net/en/)
Copenhagen Architecture Festival (https://www.cafx.dk/)
Thoravej 29 – Art Hub’s Future home (https://thoravej29.com)

Jacob Fabricius, Director, Art Hub Copenhagen
Emmy Laura Pérez Fjalland, cultural geographer, writer, researcher and teacher (https://emmylaura.info/)
Søren Nørkjær Bang, Curator, Copenhagen Architecture Festival

Credits: Testing Grounds is produced and edited by Katie Revell and includes original music by Loris S. Sarid and artwork by Jagoda Sadowska. With thanks to Alex Marrs and the rest of the NAARCA team.

Contact us: naarca.art/contact-us

Who we are: Art Hub Copenhagen (Denmark), Artica Svalbard (Norway), Baltic Art Center (Sweden), Cove Park (Scotland), Saari Residence (Finland), Skaftfell Art Center (Iceland) and Narsaq International Research Station (Greenland).

Thanks for listening!

00:00 Jacob: Today it doesn't really matter where we are in Copenhagen because it's really, the skies have opened. It's raining constantly and you get soaked just walking out the door. 

00:18 Narration: Welcome to Testing Grounds, from the Nordic Alliance of Artists' Residencies on Climate Action. Episode 8: Art Hub Copenhagen - Repairing the City.

00:46 The Nordic Alliance of Artists' Residencies on Climate Action, or NAARCA, is a network of seven artist residencies across the Nordic region and Scotland. They've come together to explore what potential artists residencies have to be testing grounds - testing grounds for new ways of living and working that are ecologically, socially, mentally, and financially sustainable.

01:13 I'm Katie Revell. In this series, I'm talking to people in and around the NAARCA residencies about the themes, the challenges, and the questions they're grappling with, that we're all grappling with, in the context of the climate crisis. This is the final episode in the series - for now at least. And in this episode, we're visiting NAARCA's Danish partner, Art Hub Copenhagen.

01:39 Jacob: My name is Jacob Fabricius. I'm the Artistic Director of Art Hub Copenhagen, and then I'm also the Artistic Director of the Korean Pavilion at the next Venice Biennial.

02:02 ArtHub Copenhagen is situated in the Meatpacking District. We have very large windows to two street corners, and people are passing by, so it's a very urban environment. Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark, so it's a very busy, uh, busy area.

02:24 Katie: Can you give us a bit of an overview of ArtHub Copenhagen as an organisation, as an institution? 

02:31 Jacob: ArtHub Copenhagen came out of a survey that was done by Bikuben Foundation in, in 2016. And it was a survey among artists, curators, and professionals, people with an interest in the cultural field. And they all sort of pointed towards, we need a place where we can gather.

02:49 We need a place for residencies. We need a place that is a platform where we can meet and network. Their board decided to support a new structure, which was titled ArtHub, and basically ArtHub opened its doors in 2019. We're constantly developing, and we have a philosophy of giving time, space, and room to experiment and give artists voices, and we do that through different ways.

03:22 We have three in-house residents every half-year. We have also some shorter-term residents. Usually they're between five months and six months. So we have about between six and 10 every year. And then we have six, which we call "to go", basically where the artists stay at home. They have their studio. They stay at home.

03:44 They still get the benefit from us. They choose mentors and curators to talk to, and they get 2000 euros a month, uh, as a salary. Uh, so we have those two types of residencies, to go and in-house, and they get the same conditions, you could say. We don't ask them to actually do anything. We, we hope that they'll give a, like a public presentation of some sort, but that's about it.

04:09 Then we have different signature programmes. We have what, what do you call free lunch, which is an informal conversation around a lunch table. And the artist at the end of the table, they choose a partner or two partners to discuss with. It can be a windmill producer, it can be a poet, it can be another artist or curator.

04:28 And then they present a piece of work and they discuss that work. And then we have, um, Bar X, uh, we have different sort of like presentations that deals with, with words and music. So we have external artists, writers, curators doing these programmes. And every time we do a residency, we have one in Ghana, we have one in New York, we have the ones in, in, in Denmark, every time it's with external juries and the juries, they change all the time. And that's both to involve, give salaries to freelancers, uh, but also to have different voices. So we don't have a specific theme. If it's a theme, it's the jury that decides the theme. We want to give a space, a platform for external voices.

05:20 And, uh, the main point of us receiving the money, uh, from the Bikuben Foundation is to try and give it into the community. We are also, of course, very fortunate that we have a foundation that believes in the experiment, that believes in, okay, this may fail, this may be a wrong thing, but we are open towards failure and we are, of course, happy if it's a success.

05:45 Uh, but we need to accept all kinds of expressions, all kinds of voices within the art field, and, um, some are new and experimental and we need to give room for that. 

05:59 Narration: In a couple of years time, along with several other cultural and social organisations. Art Hub Copenhagen is going to be moving to a newly renovated building in another part of Copenhagen. The renovation project has a really strong focus on sustainability. 

06:15 Jacob: The Bikuben Foundation, which is, let's say, the mothership of ArtHub Copenhagen, the foundation that basically we get 98 percent of our funding from, they bought a building in 2021. It's an old building from '67. They had an architecture competition with several young architects.

06:33 The architect that won was Søren Pihlmann, and he wants to recycle everything. That's his philosophy. So like, uh, radiators may become tables, you know, pipes may become door handles and so on. Uh, so it would be a very transparent building, but, but the ideology behind it is recycling.

06:59 Katie: Could you just give us a few examples maybe of some of the ways that Copenhagen specifically, or Denmark more generally, is actually being impacted by the climate crisis? What are some of the changes that are happening? 

07:12 Jacob: Well, just these days that the rain is pouring down, like we're having a severe, uh, water problems.

07:20 I just saw on the news that Aarhus is making areas around the city – Aarhus is the second biggest town in Denmark –  they're making these fields into lakes, simply to prevent Aarhus from becoming Venice. We've also, like, two weeks ago, there was, like, huge problems with, with floodings around the southern eastern coasts.

07:45 And, of course, Denmark is as flat as a pancake. The water can just, like, flush in. So that's, of course, a main concern. And of course, then there's the farmers that may, uh, not have the water at the right times. Denmark is a, like, farm country. So, of course, not having water at the right times in the spring prevents them from actually having a harvest. So we haven't experienced the top of the iceberg yet, of course, but, but as you know, we're seeing the beginning.

08:19 Katie: Why did ArtHub Copenhagen want to be involved with NAARCA? 

08:24 Jacob: I think there's many possibilities within NAARCA. I think we need to gain, discuss, find new perspective and new methods of dealing with these issues. We need to be more aware and we need to be facing the climate changes and think of models in all levels of society.

08:47 Of course, the more we see the changes, the more everybody becomes aware of it. I think this direct awareness will influence politics much more because it affects daycares, it affects elderly. Uh, it's like everybody can see it, can feel it, and they know something must be done. We can't decide the politics, but we can try and look at the tools and methods.

09:13 And of course, I'm also aware that since we're in a capital, we deal with other issues than if you're in Svalbard or Gotland or Greenland. Completely different. We have a different infrastructure where we deal with how we build and how we live.

09:37 My hope is that basically all these podcasts and all these works of art and all these thinkers that have shared their knowledge have been observed, have been listened to by influencers, by local politicians and politician on a national, uh, international scale. I hope that that has had an effect. And we have a summit in, in May, 2024. So that will also be exciting to see and share people's opinions.

10:12 There's two people in this podcast. One is Søren Nørkjær Bang. He is trained within philosophy, and he's a curator, and he's a core member of CAF, which is the Copenhagen Architecture Festival. He speaks with another interesting person who is a scholar, a lecturer, a writer, uh, Emmy Laura Pérez Fjalland, and they are talking about the considerations around the city, like how do we repair the urban planning, the architecture, what is rural, what is urban.

10:53 How do we move away from the idea of the master plan, uh, the architectural master plan, the master architect, but towards maybe a more, let's say, a humble and collaborative way of thinking where we, uh, rethink, regenerate the, um, former 20th century architectural approaches of the, let's say the, ah, the genius of the master plan and genius of the individual.

11:23 Emmy is also intensively interested in, um, landscaping and ecological practices. So that's also important when you think about collectiveness, togetherness, that we actually think about our surroundings as, um, as a whole and think it more circular and not as a, as a linear structure.

11:55 Emmy: My name is Emmy Laura Pérez Fjalland, and I'm a Danish-Columbian cultural geographer. I mainly work as a writer right now, but I've also been a researcher and I teach. 

12:11 Søren: My name is Søren Nørkjær Bang. My educational background is in philosophy and art history, and I work as a curator for Copenhagen Architecture Festival, which is a non-profit association that attempts to raise awareness about how architecture affects lives and worlds.

12:33 Katie: I'm curious to know, how did you come to be doing what you're doing? Why are you interested in these themes of design, planning, human landscape relationships? Why that interest?

12:54 Søren: I think to be honest, it's something I haven't chosen myself in a way. It's an inherited trait. I grew up with a family interested in architecture. So I think this idea of architecture and planning and cities as sort of an archive of past ideas about society and about the future and about the human and about nature is sort of addictive, when you first get it into your head. Like seeing architecture as a kind of machine that produces fundamental mental categories.

13:36 Katie: Can you just explain what you mean by mental categories - architecture producing those? 

13:43 Søren: Yeah. I mean, establishing the connection between, uh, how we think and how we inhabit the world, where architecture is this interface, you could say - like a machine that produces patterns of movement and behaviour and communication, which then underpins our philosophical ideas about the world around us and about ourselves and about the community we live in.

14:14 Katie: Yeah, that's a really interesting way of describing it. I've never quite heard it described in that way. Emmy, how about you?

14:20 Emmy: Yeah, so, um, I actually did not want to study and I wanted to become a contemporary dancer, but then I got injured and maybe I also was too fragile to become a dancer, in some ways.

14:37 Later, I have found out that I am also very much, in my writing, very much focusing on spatial movements, on spatiality and in rhythms. But then when I started university, I did actually not know what I wanted to study. So I studied humanities, like very broadly combining language with philosophy, with cultural studies, with media studies.

15:06 And then somehow I got super interested in a new education that just started when I was there and it was about planning. And so I got involved into planning and I was so attracted to, to space and thinking about space. So I ended up combining planning and geography. And I think that keeps attracting me, like what, what is space?

15:33 Where are we? What does it mean to know where we are? What makes a space? When does something become a space? And maybe also because I am an international, transnational, I don't know, child and continuously experience how space and identity are so closely linked. And for someone like me that, yeah, I was born in Colombia, I have grown up in Denmark, one of my parents now live in Spain and has done that for the last 15 years.

16:09 So I've always like had several homes and I still think that I'm like trying to find out what that actually means. If space is not like these fixed machines or fixed ideas, what is space then?

16:33 Katie: One of the things that came out, I think, in talking to both of you was this idea of repair. And first of all, I'm curious to know, where does your interest in that theme come from? And how does your work or your thinking relate to that theme of repair? 

16:51 Emmy: I was trained as a planner and mainly actually focused on urban environments, trying to, um, to understand, yeah, spaces and places and placemaking. Very much of this focused about, like, accessibility, uh, spatial rights, justice, diversity. And there are these feminist geographers that have been, uh, working together and written together under a joint name called J. K. Gibson-Graham. And when I then started my PhD, and it must be now almost 10 years ago, I had started working with cultural landscapes, and I felt so locked in, in my analysis.

17:32 And J. K. Gibson-Graham, they kind of made a, a critique that while we still have to be very critical about capitalist society and, and capitalist regimes, we must remember that not all our analysis only focuses on, on capitalism. We must also look for what what also goes on in the world. And they call us to focus on, on reparative practices.

18:01 So my interest in this comes from them or via, via them. But I call, like I say, we, we must look for, for the life giving potentialities, past and present, and start looking in the cracks of life, like what else goes on? What kinds of other world making might there be? And I kind of insisted on doing that. I mean, I was so good at like critical analysis and tearing everything apart.

18:27 And somehow I, I felt like, okay, now, now I really want to look towards social practices, economic practices, ecological practices, where someone tried to do something reparative or regenerative, like trying to build up. So insisting on trying to focus on, on those, those small cracks. 

18:49 Katie: Can you just explain briefly what you mean when you talk about cultural landscapes?

18:54 Emmy: Yeah. So this is a term that is used to describe agricultural land or pastoral landscapes where the human is is visibly redesigning the environment, but I would say that whatever they are going to call or define our time as, Anthropocene or what it will be, the human presence or the consequences of human presence is, is everywhere.

19:23 So when I say cultural landscapes, I, I actually seek to continue the work. There is a long history of working with cultural landscapes, uh, within geography, within landscape architecture, uh, landscape design. And I insist on cultural landscapes because I think there is a rich experience of thinking in entanglements between the cultural and the natural environment.

19:50 And I insist on that, like, what might we learn from this and what kinds of specific entanglements between natural and cultural worlds are unfolding? And, um, these can be very, very different and can have very different consequences. So I think, yeah, I really want to focus on, on the ways that certain landscapes enable certain kinds of, of lifestyles and lifeforms - human and non-human and more-than-human.

20:22 Katie: Am I right in thinking that most of your work more recently has been focused - and I suspect this will be a contentious term for lots of reasons - but focused on rural landscapes, as opposed to urban ones?

20:34 Emmy: Oh yeah, urbanities, suburbanities, ruralities, and yeah, well, actually because I live in the city, so, uh, so the urban natures, uh, very much also central to my work, but actually, I mean, it sounds ridiculous, but when I started working with the rural, it was kind of, uh, I experienced because, I mean, around, I can't remember when, but it was the time when the UN like claimed that, oh, by 2050, 70 percent of the world population will live in cities.

21:09 And I mean, urban planning had been like, untrendy for a lot of years after the '60s, '70s, and the failure of like the great master planner and stuff like that. And then it had like a revival. And when I started my education, it was part of that revival. So the urban question was overall, and somehow the urban idea had become like this idea of like isolated place. So when I started working with the rurality it's like, like, okay, where, where does the city or the urbanities actually start and, and end? I mean, it's all about these mobilities and exchanges. Yeah. So to say, well, physically, yes, I have worked with shepherds, I work with vegetable farmers, I've worked with, uh, seaweed farmers, I've worked with a hennery, and most of these are located in what would be defined, yeah, ruralities, but urban natures, uh, and the relations between the urban and rural are, like, very, very key to what I do.

22:15 Katie: Something I'm interested in is binaries in general, you know, and I think that's one where, as you say, I mean, it's convenient and it's necessary, obviously, in lots of contexts to have that distinction, but it's a bit of a nonsense really. Where do you draw the line, how do you define it? 

22:33 Emmy: Yeah, I mean, I work with waste systems and I work with food landscapes and it's just like, who feeds the cities? Where does the waste go? And then when you start tracking like vital infrastructures, the spatial boundaries or, yeah, that you kind of created mentally, as Søren also, uh, touched upon, then yeah, it all falls apart when you start looking at it. 

22:57 Katie: Søren, again, coming back to this idea of repair or yeah, reparative practices, where does your interest in that come from and how does your work tie into that?

23:06 Søren: I think working in an architectural institution or working with architecture, thinking about architecture and like laying out infrastructures for conversations about architecture, I think it's a necessity to think about repair and transformation and recycling, like just the fact of living in an age where 40 percent of all CO2 emissions comes from the building sector is like, I think that's the answer, in a way, and then I think thinking repair, like as the fundamental motives of architecture also is a good way to challenge our ideas of what the architecture is and does. 

23:57 Like our narratives of architecture. So Emmy also touched upon this, the death of the master planner. I think repair might be a good way to come out of this narrative, to like stop thinking about architects as individuals operating in this no man's land and instead come up with like alternative narratives of architects working like in this intersection of forces and different kinds of entities, like across ontological boundaries and biological boundaries and identity boundaries. 

24:40 One could think of it as like, paraphrasing Ursula Le Guin, one could think about what a carrier theory of architecture like might look like or sound like if like the tools of architecture stopped being like weapons, like pens and and rulers and paper, and it instead could be material banks and urban mining, or like tools for carrying the past, like the fragments of the past, into the future.

25:15 And I think coming up with these narratives is as essential as making these practices possible, which is of course also a question of law and economics and politics, like making certain practices of building new and extraction impossible. 

25:37 Katie: Can you explain what this carrier bag theory is? I, to my shame, have not read any Ursula Le Guin.

25:43 Søren: Yeah. Okay. This is a huge question. Okay. I have to be really humble here. Okay. In the spirit of the theory, also. Maybe, uh, Emmy can also help me out a bit. I think the starting point of Ursula Le Guin's carrier bag theory of fiction, which is from the mid '80s, disputing the idea that the spear was the first technological device. And like as an alternative model Ursula Le Guin then like tells a story about like an alternative history or origin point of human technology, human instruments, which is the history of the carrier bag - which is to say that the first technology was not an instrument of violence, or it was not a weapon.

26:45 It was not, uh, this kind of heroic concept of technology, but it was a concept of technology that was about care and embracing and carrying with you. And this becomes a conflict between two models of science fiction as well, or fiction writing. Like, the linear, heroic narrative, and the more collage like, the construction of worlds instead of, like, linear developments.

27:21 It's a long time I've read the text, but I was just reminded by it, because this question of narratives is really essential in architecture. Because if anybody like the architect has been this heroic figure, right, like this kind of overly masculine figure, the genius creating something out of nothing and so on. It's a nice, like, antidote to that kind of idea. 

27:49 Emmy: I have a tendency to forget that it's the carrier bag theory of fiction. I, I keep all the, all the reality kind of, uh, the carrier bag theory of reality. And especially in relation to repair. I read this by coincidence. Just as I was reading J. K. Gibson Graham and now I also use it both together with my, my students planning and architecture students and it really makes us rethink everything like what is the relation between everything, right?

28:19 And somehow it's splinters up, but also makes it possible to question if architects should not make new buildings or be someone who make new buildings, then what would you do as an architect? I think for me, there is just like so many ambivalences. I've really loved planning and I really find architecture an, uh, super potential in, in so many ways, because it's, it's the practices that are somehow able to, uh, speculate and to create scenarios about what kinds of landscapes do we want to survive in?

28:55 What kinds of environments do we want to live in? What kinds of cities? Um, so. It is, like, inherent in the architectural and spatial planning practices to think in futures and also think in long terms, right? But it's also a field that is so heavily affected still by, like, very, engineerical minds, economic minds.

29:21 Engineerical thinking and economic thinking can be done in a manifold of ways. It's not to say that all engineerical or economic thinking, but there is a tendency to, uh, to also forget the more, um, aesthetical and the lived life considerations. 

29:39 Søren: Just a small note, it's, it's just, um, like mentioning the thinking of the engineer and its influence on architecture. Like one way of thinking about this could also be like through the dichotomy between, I think this is Derrida, like between the engineer and the bricoleur. Like seeing architects as like a bricoleurist, or a scavenger, or as this kind of figure that like collects and assembles, and instead of this kind of blank paper logic of sitting at your desk, like maybe the side of architecture should become the building again instead of the desk.

30:24 Emmy: And I think what is wonderful about it is that it introduces something else to think with. I mean, like new ideas to think with, like, okay, now we have told the story of the violent competition, the strong things against other strong things. What would happen if we started to describe humanity or describe the emergence of civilization, not from the things that killed other things, but to tell stories about sharing, about a collection, about endless stories, I actually also think, the stories that goes on and on, and then we collect it?

31:06 So kind of these stories of continuation. And I think I have been, maybe also because I started studying humanities, I was very much interested in, in storytelling and the story parts of planning. I worked a lot with, uh, with the redevelopment of the Colombian capital, Bogota, where they used a lot of, uh, Antanas Mockus, who was one of the mayors who initiated some of the change of the city and started it.

31:37 He, for instance, dressed as a superhero. If we have to imagine that things could be different, then we have to start kind of, um, playing or stories or trying to reformulate the stories. Scenarios, visions, plans, visualisations, they are all parts of stories and part of creating desired futures. So, yeah, I, really much agree. And I think that Le Guin kind of also could help us also just introduce other worlds to think with when we work with, with planning and, and architecture. 

32:18 Katie: There's something very freeing about that, I think, about that as a kind of tool for, for thinking. And there's so many parallels I can think of in other areas of life. You know, in farming as well, there's really that contrast between these very sort of aggressive, competitive ways of thinking and then other ways which are much more collaborative and caring, I suppose. 

32:44 Emmy: We have a tendency to think that care is just good, uh, but what actually I think that the carrier bag does is that somehow things are together, I mean they can bump into each other, right? It can be difficult. I mean what the carrier bag theory also introduces is to me also just to work with longer time spans to see how things have been relating in different ways throughout time. But what it also does is, is not to say, oh, everything is related. Yeah. But how are things relating to each other and how could they relate in other ways?

33:19 I mean, care can be performed in a manifold of ways and, and, uh, to care is not always easy. It can be burdensome and, and to receive care can also be, but it speaks to like different kinds of relating in the powerful and burdensome and troublesome ways that, that, that can be done. 

33:39 Søren: Maybe the most important thing one could take away from Ursula Le Guin's theory is like the dismantling of the idea of a beginning and an end, as Emmy also mentioned. And this of course, like connects strongly to the idea of repair and transformation in architecture and planning. Like, what would it mean to think materials beyond like the, the life and death of particular built structures? So I think like just taking this kind of linearity or this kind of narrative structure away from architecture.

34:21 It would be a really productive thing to like acknowledge that you are just arriving in the middle of the unfolding of a kind of story or in the middle of the unfolding of a world. 

34:34 Emmy: If we also think about the whole building, right, when architects do, then they, their project finish. Uh, so have a tendency to think that the building finishes. Because we have like this whole project mentality that something starts and ends, and when I teach I really wanna like take this out and say like the building should never finish, it should never be done, you should think like how, how to implement the continuous care for this building, the continuous way of creating certain kinds of life or lifestyles but trying to integrate. Because I mean, if a building enables a lot of maintenance, then it's usually thought of as being a bad, bad work.

35:19 And of course it can be like a very bad work, but like trying to think that the building is, is not done. I think also this opens, uh, up for like a bit of a continuation of what you were saying, Søren, trying to implement the unfinished or implement the, the maintenance in the work of, of both landscapes and, and building, building scale.

35:47 Katie: In quite a practical sense, I guess, If we were to focus more on this idea of repair, if we were to prioritise that more, how might that change our approach to the way that we design landscapes, and maybe specifically urban landscapes? But as we've established, that's a bit of an arbitrary distinction. What are some of the implications you think that could have? 

36:09 Emmy: Yeah, no, but I think it also depends on what scale we are talking, like very specific material that can be used in like different kinds of ways. I'm super interested in material geographies, um, but I'm also interested in, in the landscape scale of these.

36:28 And I think when I think of repair in terms of the landscape scale, I mean, currently, we have like a very fragmented, monocultural, and in many ways also very inaccessible countryside or ruralities, but also more urban space, I mean, most of it is taken up by, by car traffic or by parking lots. And so I think also this this idea of repair could adapt to the urban landscapes.

37:02 So what I think about when I think about repair is also about specifically creating environments that also enables another kind of ecological life, making more space than we take up space. So how can we create space? We don't have to go very much back in history to see how radically different our landscapes were, both rural landscapes and, and, and urban landscapes.

37:32 And I think we can get a lot of inspiration from a more polycultural and multifunctional way of organising the landscapes. We could think much more extensively, but also much more creatively, both for humans and for non humans. But when I think about repair, it can both be like repairing very, uh, specific things, or repairing very specific places, like people get hurt at this street all the time.

38:05 I won't say how, like, the overall, uh, space of Denmark should be repaired, but initiating some reparative practices in ways like saying, okay, we, we have to be here in a much more meaningful way. What does that mean? What does that look like within this, uh, certain region? What kinds of productions could unfold, but also what kinds of recreation could unfold? And thinking about that.

38:36 Søren: When talking about the semantics of the term repair, I also see some problems like coming up, one of them being that it's a concept that contains a readiness for action. And, um, I think especially like talking about architecture and planning, or we should cultivate an, an idea maybe of repair that repair could be a passive gesture, like that it could be withdrawing and observing and maybe not taking action and not building like saying no to projects.

39:12 Because we come from this, uh, like recent past where like the slogan of architecture since the end of the nineties or so has been "yes is more". Maybe the most productive thing would be to say no, or to just sit back and observe things without judging or without an idea of intervening, so like cultivate an idea of the action of inaction would be quite productive because it's, it's also when we are thinking about repair and thinking in terms of actions, we also must remind ourselves that maybe the problem is that we think that we are the ones that should repair things.

40:01 And like architecture has a long history of like architectural determinism that we take like economic, social, ecological question and turn them into architecture. Which puts us in this techno modernist position where we come up with naive and like shallow solutions to really deep problems. So for example, the energy conservation of buildings increase.

40:31 This is a really good technological development, but on the other hand, the number of square metres built each year totally undermines this good technological development. So maybe like cultivating a kind of aesthetic position and like, uh, thinking about what we shouldn't do might be like a good way to repair our, our situation.

41:01 Katie: There was an idea that you mentioned when we spoke previously, this idea of fasting, urban auto, uh, autophagy, autophagy? Um, and I wonder if you could just talk about that briefly. Cause I thought that was a really interesting idea, really interesting provocation.

41:20 Søren: Yeah. And of course it's also like connects to ideas of asceticism and asceticism in architecture. And it also connects to a long and also really problematic tradition, but also a really interesting and inspiring tradition of, of seeing cities as organisms. So like the idea of, uh, autophagy, phagy, it means like self-eating. And it's a state which in the body is put when limiting the input of, uh, food.

41:56 And then like the process that is, is beginning is that the damaged cells are eaten up and reduced within the body. So it's like a natural repair process that every organism kind of have. So one can think in this analogy and say like, what would it mean to like fast the city or to, to put like artificial limits on the influx of resources and energy and create like artificial states of scarcity?

42:29 And then the theory of course, would be that something similar would happen that happens to an organism. That the city would start to look inwards and see what kind of resources is there, both spatially and in terms of materials and energy that is unused or underused because cities has like a tendency to sprawl and to, uh, to maybe not use space and resource in the most effective manner because they are based on extraction from areas outside of the city.

43:10 So, so it's a way maybe to push an idea of self sufficiency, which I think is needed within urban planning, because I think everybody is acknowledging that cities are too taxing in terms of what they extract from other areas. So this is kind of the idea in a nutshell. 

43:33 Emmy: I've also worked about like this, uh, idea of the self sufficient farm. And I actually think there might be some like key ontological problems with thinking and self sufficiency. I don't have really words for it, but I just, it worries me a bit to thinking these terms, whereas I, I think we definitely need new ethical practices, like being very specific, very situated to specific situations and landscapes, thinking about like, how are we disturbing and how are we not disturbing, and constantly thinking about what kinds of life and what kinds of life forms are we making possible? But always being aware, like, for who is what good?

44:22 We have touched a bit upon it, but I mean, I think planning and design is full of stories and full of storytelling, also the most, uh, engineered and, and economic ones, and stories are fall of ethical questions and ethical considerations, just as planning and architecture and design is. Because planning is the distribution of interests, values, resources in time and space.

44:54 And in that sense, we are constantly like making decisions about what kinds of life forms can unfold within certain environments.

45:16 Katie: The next question I was going to ask kind of follows on from what you were just saying, Emmy. I'm someone who, since I left home aged 18, I've always lived in cities. In a sort of abstract sense, I'm very conscious that all of us exist as part of ecosystems, however conceptually divorced we are from them. And I'm curious to know if we, acknowledge that reality, what implications might that have for the way that we live in cities and the way that we design them, the way that we plan them?

45:46 Emmy: Maybe can I answer on something else that I thought of, is that what I think sometimes is the issue within our practice is that we are solutions oriented and solutions tend to be closures, right?

46:03 So of course, sometimes we need a kind of closure to make new openings, but sometimes things move so fast and there are so many presumptions that are taking for granted that we kind of keep coming up with the same solutions because we don't have time to, uh, maybe start, asking different kinds of questions or exploring in other ways.

46:27 And like a very significant part of what I do and what I write is these, I call them small meditations. They started as a thing saying like, oh, how would this landscape look like if you were a bird or you were the small ant moving across this? What would happen if we asked this and this, how would you experience the space if you could not use one of your senses and being much more explorative in a sense that what we're doing right now doesn't seem to work and is not very good in a longer term. So we should do something completely different. And I think that that is one of the ways I think that urban environments could be full of natural experience.

47:09 I mean, rain and wind and, and, uh, there's a lot of forest birds who have inhabited the cities. And so I think that we could create many, much interesting, uh, urban environments in that sense, but I also think that, I mean, it, it does make sense that humans take up much less space and we take up less space also living in smaller apartments instead of the urban sprawl that Søren also mentioned.

47:38 I mean, that physically takes up much more space. And people also have a tendency to have maybe one or two summer houses and an apartment or one, two cars. I mean, we take up a lot of space. And in that sense, I think that, that we could think the spatial distributions and it will be, it will be a mess and you will be like very, very unpopular.

48:00 But I think we need to think about the spatial distributions in, in like radically different ways. I think urban natures somehow should be rethought. And then, I mean, it could also be amazing that we could rethink the urban spaces. I think isn't it around 25 percent if more of the space is taken up by car traffic, private car traffic?

48:22 Everyone is talking about the electric car as some kind of a huge change, and I know the change of energy systems is a big leap, but it's not a big change in mobility. I think, I mean, it keeps up taking up the same space and, and the social injustice in producing these energy systems is also, uh, immense.

48:43 So I think it would be radical to rethink the whole mobility systems and spaces of transportation and what these kinds of spaces also could be used for. But then also I think for experiencing, I think that we also need to rediscuss what, what is an experience of the connections to the natural world. It comes through everything that we live in, that we wear, that we eat, the air. So there is a lot of re-narrating also these kinds of natural environments. And then the larger, and if we talk about wilder ecosystems, then there should also be space for that. But, but I think there will be too many conflicts, too many space wars, right? 

49:29 Katie: Søren, what are your thoughts on that? 

49:32 Søren: I think, first of all, thinking about the city as an ecosystem means thinking about the city as a, like, entity or as a system, as like a system of integrations.

49:46 And maybe it also makes us think about, like, the city as a subsystem of a, like, larger ecosystem. Like, those dependencies for, like, pollination and soil production and atmospheric purification and all these services that the city draws upon and is reliant upon. And, and this might connect to like a more, maybe more normative way of thinking about the city as a ecosystem, because I think there is like a consensus that the city should try to internalise some of these ecosystem services to store more fresh water and think about the nutrition circulation in the city and so on. And this has actually been proposed, like as a concept within biomimicry, this concept of ecological performance standards, that we should look to local mature ecosystems.

50:59 And there are ecosystem services, and then make these standards, the standards for how we plan our cities. So learning from the ecosystem when we design the city, and of course, this would push urban development in a totally different direction that it is heading now, but it would also like put us in a position of humbleness.

51:26 Like to say that there is actually systems out there working with like huge degree of complexity in balance. And like, how can we learn from these systems? So I think this is a really productive concept. Uh, ecological performance standards as like an aspiration, what would it mean to think really deeply about the city as an ecosystem, not just metaphorically.

51:58 Katie: I like that idea as well, I think, because as you say, it's aspirational. My impression with a lot of current performance standards is that it's all about cutting down and reducing and, you know, necessarily of course, but it's, yeah, there's a bit of a mindset shift, I think, if you start holding up natural systems - again, there's a conversation to be had there - but you start holding up ecosystems as the aspirational standard rather than thinking, how can we reduce the amount of damage we're doing?

52:28 Søren: Yeah, of course, this also connects to the, the attempt to shift from sustainability as like a nexus of discourse to the regenerative. How to create cities that contribute in terms of ecological services instead of just being neutral? So it's much more aspirational when it comes to, its like emotional undertone, which is a good thing.

52:58 Katie: So I have one more question. We've talked a lot about storytelling and narratives, so maybe this is a chance to do a little bit of that as well. I'd like you to imagine that you're, you're walking around Copenhagen in, let's say, 50 years' time. Can you just describe what that experience is like? What can you see? What can you hear? Maybe what can you smell? What do you observe around you and how has the city changed in that time? And this might be a sort of blue sky thinking aspirational thing, or it might be a bit more pessimistic depending on how you're feeling. But yeah, what, what do you imagine? 

53:41 Søren: I think not because this is the way I feel every day, but because I think it's the ethically right thing to do. So I will opt for the optimistic way of narrating. So one thing I could imagine Copenhagen doing and in 50 years' time is, and this is really a, would really be a foundational shift in how we think about planning and cities, would be to de-financialize architecture and the housing sector.

54:18 So, like I could imagine that we created a public fund that sort of absorbed the profits from the real estate sector or a majority of the, the gains. And that did these, uh, resources would like go to public institutions, to greening, to establishing these ecological services that we were talking about earlier, to try to create what some have called like a luxury in, in public and a scarcity in, in private, like, or sufficiency in private.

54:57 Just think about how public space could be more appealing and how private space could be more limited, or at least not as space for luxurious consumption. So I think just doing this, making this shift would like change the whole dynamic. Also like housing would stop to be this investment product. And then we will probably stop like investing in so many square metres, like to live smaller and we would get more affordable cities.

55:33 So I really think like this is a major problem within cities, like to keep the housing sector away from being this financial product. 

55:46 Katie: Emmy, how about you? 

55:48 Emmy: Yeah, so, I will be 86 at that time, and maybe not that able to move. But I actually imagined that I would have a little boat, and I have a sense of mould, and swamp-ness.

56:11 And I believe that we have found other ways to live together. I believe that we have reinvented the concept of the commons, and reinvented the concepts of the kommune, the commune, that are actually able to support and secure housing and welfare and health and is able to create some kind of livable environment for us.

56:43 But I also believe that we today are entrapped in so many ways and we are tied up so heavily that some collapses and some breaks will have happened, and that if we are on the other side of those in 50 years, then we would have created other kinds of cohabitating policies and also that would be some kinds of of repair politics, like repair the trauma that people must have experienced in a manifold of ways.

57:28 And it's not because I don't want to talk about the natural environment, but I really fear that we will end up in an emergency situation, and in emergencies, social systems have a tendency to collapse. So yeah, I'm actually very afraid that we will end up in an emergency situation. I think that at that time we will have moved on and found another way of, of living together.

57:57 But I also think that Copenhagen would not be based here where we are. I'm currently on an old landfill, but I think that, uh, that we would have moved, that we will pack our stuff and then we will move to, uh, to higher grounds. So, I don't hope that was too depressing, but I think that, um, that that is what we should rethink and, um, learn to live with the water in different ways.

58:54 Narration: To learn more about Emmy's work, visit emmylaura.info. For more information on Copenhagen Architecture Festival, visit cafx.dk. And to find out more about Art Hub Copenhagen, visit arthubcopenhagen.net. 

59:14 Thank you for listening to this episode of Testing Grounds from the Nordic Alliance of Artists' Residencies on Climate Action.

59:22 You can find out more about the project at naarca.art. If you enjoy the podcast, please do tell your colleagues and friends, and leave us a rating and a review. This episode featured Jacob Fabricius, Emmy Laura Pérez Fjalland and Søren Nørkjær Bang. It was produced by me, Katie Revel. lOur series music is by Loris S. Sarid and our artwork is by Jagoda Sadowska. 

59:49 Thanks also to Alex Marrs, Charlotte Hetherington, Lena Keela, Alexia Holt, Vibeke Koehler, Pari Stave, Rose Tytgat, Helena Selder, Lisa Autogena, and Iben Mosbæk. The members of NAARCA are Cove Park in Scotland, Saari Residence in Finland, Skaftfell Arts Center in Iceland, Artica Svalbard in Norway, Baltic Arts Center in Sweden, Narsaq International Research Station in Greenland and Art Hub Copenhagen, in Denmark. NAARCA's initial three year program is generously supported by Kone Foundation and Nordic Culture Fund.