Baudelaire describes the flâneur as someone who wanders around the city with the purpose of experiencing it. Since then, the concept of the flâneur has been used as a tool to help understand urban phenomena and modernity, in economic, cultural and historical terms. Walter Benjamin refers to the flâneur as a product of modern life, an asphalt botanist, and defines the city as the sacred ground of flânerie. Following the dynamics of the 20th century, the relationship between the art practice and the urban context, became particularly fruitful – as the so called spatial practices show, questioning the city with the contribution of different media and techniques, and defining the artist as a stroller, a wanderer, a flâneur.
Flâneur - New Urban Narratives is a network project based on an international partnership of some 20 organisations from 11 different countries. Its main purpose is to carry out artistic interventions in public spaces through contemporary photography. The Project encourages artists to create new interpretations of the urban terrain, having the concept of flâneur as a starting point and considering the physical context of the city as a social kaleidoscope in constant evolution. Besides the art projects and interventions in the public space, Flâneur is comprised of several other dimensions brought to light in workshops, masterclasses, artistic residences, creative camps and conferences – initiatives intended to foster a critical analysis of contemporary photography and contribute to a discussion about the public space as a social territory.
During its two year span, Flâneur will be represented in the 13 partner cities. The artwork is created by photographers invited to pursue artistic residences in each city, as well as local photographers, thus mixing outside and inside point of views, and it’s further complemented by the artwork produced in ateliers open to local residents. The work created in all these cities is presented in photo exhibitions in public spaces, bringing to the squares, parks and streets pieces of artwork, which would normally be enclosed in museums and galleries. It’s, at the same time, a process of deconstruction and democratisation of art enjoyment, sharing it with a heterogeneous audience. The exhibition display, based on modular backlit structures, allows for a specific design in each of the different spaces. The display itself becomes a replication of the city, open and accessible 24 hours a day.
Flâneur generates a transversal overview of the different social dynamics which are the fabric of the urban territories. The peculiarity of this particular “portrait” is the fact that it’s produced by a broad and diverse group of creators, who, with a common theme, take a fresh look at the plurality of realities that define each urban space. Flâneur shares with the public these contemporary and plural views, inviting you to engage in your own flânerie around your own city and rediscovering it.
The interventions of Flâneur comprise three main aspects:
1. THE CITY
The city, as a whole, is the geographic scope for the invited photographers. With the Project theme as a starting point, the photographers are then free to explore the city during the 15- day artistic residencies.
2. THE QUARTER
The Masterclasses and ateliers are organised preferably within the area of the exhibition, aiming at specific neighbourhoods or quarters and engaging schools and local associations in order to involve the local residents with Flâneur.
3. THE SQUARE
The square is the exhibition site in the public space, in a way, its point of convergence. From the point of view of the intervention, the square is the reflection of the city on a different scale. It’s also the departure point for the “Blindwalks” intervention, offering an interaction to the visiting public with the exhibition and the surrounding area.
“Walking on these streets, until the night falls, my life feels to me like the life they have. By day they’re full of meaningless activity; by night, they’re full of meaningless lack of it. By day I am nothing, and by night I am I. There is no difference between me and these streets, save they being streets and I a soul, which perhaps is irrelevant when we consider the essence of things.”
in The Book of Disquiet