The City as Negotiation between
Nature and Power

June 16 – 17

Infrastructure is a matter of shared concern, a politics in physical form. Tunnels, canals, dams, bridges and fountains – types of infrastructure are easy to enumerate, but their collective effect is more difficult to circumscribe. Contemporary discussions of urbanism favour a consideration of cities as networked entities. However these entities exist against the backdrop of natural constraints that play more than a merely passive role in its fate. The network has its nodes, but its topology ultimately fails to dematerialise the landscape. The railway bridge, for instance, does not merely connect two locations, A to B (and back again), but is also a negotiation between nature and power, between the law and the weather, engineering and gravity. Furthermore, infra-structure almost invariably represents the outcome of a contest between collective interests and private property. Infrastructure presents the history of both the struggles and dependencies between nature and power, and between individuals and groups, in concrete form.

The study of infrastructure is, in multiple senses, central to urbanism. In terms of function, financing, and scale, infrastructure cannot be understood in terms of individual agency. The capital concentrations necessary for the creation of infrastructural projects are beyond the means of the private citizen. In the now classic example of the «Deichgenossenschaft,» Ferdinand Tönnies argued that the shared effort of the construction and maintenance of dikes created the communal basis for Dutch society in the late middle ages. Tönnies argument can be read as a hydropolitical reflection on Hegel’s famous description of the tower of Babylon as a failed attempt at national unification: «it was built in common, and the aim and content of the work was at the same time the community of those who constructed it.» It is not merely that the community comes together to build infrastructure at its centre, but rather, that the building of infrastructure organises a community around it. At best, infrastructure is not merely a service provider, but becomes the basis for new kinds of social interdependency.

eikones NCCR Iconic Criticism in cooperation with
Deutsches Studienzentrum in Venedig and Pro Helvetia.

Deutsches Studienzentrum in Venedig
Centro Tedesco di Studi Veneziani

Palazzo Barbarigo della Terrazza
San Polo 2765/a Calle Corner, I-30125 Venezia

Palazzo Trevisan degli Ulivi
Campo S. Agnese – Dorsoduro 810, I-30123 Venezia


Friday, June 16
57th International Art Exhibition, Gardini

10.30Visit to the Swiss Pavilion with
the artists Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler
Deutsches Studienzentrum in Venedig
Palazzo Barbarigo della Terrazza

Deutsches Studienzentrum in Venedig

Palazzo Barbarigo della Terrazza

Chair:Adam Jasper
13.00Welcome and Introduction
13.15Hannah Baader: 
Liquidity and the Infrastructures of Materiality.
Ligozzi, Gaffuri and the Harbour of Livorno.
14.00Milica Topalovic: 
Earthworks: Rethinking Land in the
Century of Flattening.
14.45Coffee Break
15.15Philip Ursprung and Teresa Hubbard
/ Alexander Birchler:
A Conversation on the Film Installation
«Flora» (2017)
16.00Adrian Lahoud: The Number of Hours
16.45Maarten Delbeke:
The Final Cut. Water for Versailles
Through Eure et Loir.

Excursion to Porto Marghera with architect Sandro Bisà

Saturday, June 17
Palazzo Trevisan degli Ulivi

Chair:Stefan Neuner
10.00Sulgi Lie: 
Infra / Structural Slapstick.
On Comic Metonymies.
10.45Antonia von Schöning:
Infrastructures and the Technical
Imaginary. The Parisian Underground               
in the 19th Century.
11.30Coffee Break
12.00Barbara Berger: 
The Venetian Gasholders:
Symbol of Progress or Decay?
12.45Markus Krajewski:
Between Structure and Infrastructure.
A Brief History of the Flow Chart.

Konzept: Stefan Neuner, Adam Jasper Smith

Referierende: Philip Ursprung, Antonia von Schöning, Hannah Baader, Barbara Berger, Alexander Birchler, Sandro Bisà, Maarten Delbeke, Markus Krajewski, Adrian Lahoud, Sulgi Lie, Milica Topalovic

Downloads: Program, Poster