How do you bring together six separate sites and six different groups, held apart by disparate geographies, nationalities, disciplines and intentions, and yet bound together by a commonly held interest in the “wasteland” status and an as yet uncertain source of funding?
The answer: FICTION.
FICTION is a love letter written by an avatar who knows no borders, addressed to the object of her desire, a suitor whom she cannot meet. Wearing a white suit with zips instead of seams, the avatar searches for her lover through a series of urban wastelands linked by a system of portals. On her journey, she encounters Roma occupying an abandoned velodrome; maverick Bitcoin users; precariat rabble inhabiting a post-industrial landscape; an empty island that will become the EU; the burned remains of an illegal occupation driven elsewhere; and market speculation on everything, even on the very air itself.
Sometimes, the objects and situations of science fiction materialise in the world. Indeed, urban planning itself could be seen as a form of science fiction. Take, for example, Seasteading – new, modular cities with discrete governmental models, planned on the surface of the ocean by former Paypal millionaire Peter Thiel – or the Startup City Project, where participating cities are used as testing grounds for new planning policy. Such projects are a conscious application of the principle of “regulatory competition”: that is, a system where individuals and businesses “vote with their feet”, setting up in locations that present the optimal conditions for success. Regulatory competition relies on the assumption that cities and jurisdictions will generate efficient models of government only when they are subject to the logic of competition.
Using its all-knowing, infinitely mobile avatar, FICTION upturns this rather questionable principle and applies it to wastelands – those inefficient, stubborn, unintegrated corners of the world. Which country, which city, presents the urban wasteland with reasonable conditions for existence? Does the wasteland, indeed, need this support at all? Or is it better off unnoticed, its small freedom and wildness untouched by regulation and exploitation? How, despite all this, can globally disparate places find a way to be together?
FICTION will be published in a series of instalments on the Wasteland Twinning website. Like a uniform, it presents participants in the Homey Island project with a common point of contact to disagree with, together.
“One feels oneself to be properly free in a fruitful friendship, in the satisfaction of being together with others. The total individualisation to which the neoliberal regime leads us does not really make us free.”
“Being free means nothing else than realising oneself amongst others.”
– Byung-Chul Han, Psychopolitik, Fischer Verlag, 2014, pp. 12-13