[urban interfaces] research group at Utrecht University

[urban interfaces] Blogs

16 - 17 May 2019
Amsterdam, Belle van Zuylenzaal

Urban Crisis-Scapes: On Walks and Ruins

[urban interfaces]’s Sigrid Merx participates in the following event:

Urban Crisis-Scapes: On Walks and Ruins

Workshop organized by Eva Fotiadi and Maria Boletsi, in collaboration with Ipek Celik (Koç University), Amsterdam, Belle van Zuylenzaal, 16-17 May 2019

The workshop will focus on city-scapes that have recently been radically reconfigured through pervasive frameworks of crisis – financial, political, humanitarian etc. We want to explore alternative experiences of urban space, new artistic imaginaries, and innovative cultural initiatives emerging from such urban crisis-scapes by centering on two distinct but interrelated thematic lines:

Ruins (day one)


Sadia Abbas (Rutgers University), Ipek Celik-Rappas (Koç University), László Munteán (Radboud University of Groningen), Dimitris Papanikolaou (Oxford University), Dimitris Plantzos (National & Kapodistrian University of Athens), Daan Wesselman (University of Amsterdam)
Recent crisis-frameworks have produced new material ruins and transformed the functions of past ruins. The workshop will explore the new meanings and the sociopolitical and affective functions of ruins in crisis-scapes, as well as figurations of such ruins in cinema and art: ruins that range from monuments or antiquities to vestiges of disaffected zones such as derelict factories, deserted buildings, and abandoned construction sites. Images of ruins often exemplify the material consequences of crisis. But ruins are not only markers of decay and desolation. They often become the ‘canvas’ for creative projects and artistic interventions (e.g., through street art) that mobilize ruins to articulate alternative modes of being in a present of crisis and of envisioning the future. Ruins may thus be involved in subaltern narratives, suppressed histories or radical imaginaries that challenge crisis as “judgment of failure.” But they can also become commercialized and fetishized (e.g., in crisis-tourism or ‘ruin porn’) or revamped as fashionable objects. In cities with a dominant presence of ancient and historical ruins – such as Athens or Istanbul – new ruins interact with ruins of the past, reconfiguring the traditional functions of the latter. New artistic and cinematic languages seek innovative ways to explore the relation of material ruins and precarious subjects afflicted by crisis. What new meanings and operations do ancient and modern ruins assume against the backdrop of pervasive crises? Can ruins and their cinematic, literary or artistic figurations contribute to alternative narratives of modernity, the nation, crisis and futurity?

Walks (day two)


Angeliki Avgitidou (University of Western Macedonia), Efi Giannetopoulou (University of Amsterdam),  Sigrid Merx (Utrecht University), Asli Ozgen-Tuncer (University of Amsterdam), Kathrin Wildner (HafenCity University Hamburg)
Initiatives that use walking as a medium – springing from art projects to architectural research and crisis-tourism – have become increasingly popular. Some walks aim to observe and reflect upon the transformed urban space: vacant housing and commercial spaces, the new homeless, waves of migrants and refugees or the graffiti on derelict buildings. Others show interest in forgotten layers of a city’s turbulent history, which re-emerge through such initiatives and assume new meanings and affective functions in a turbulent present. In other cases – as for example in Athens – guided tours are organized by homeless people or by theatre makers, who set up performative walks aiming to reconcile citizens with the new poor and with districts considered dangerous or ‘migrant ghettos.’ Many of these walks and tours could be considered as crisis voyeurism or as unsolicited quasi-anthropological inquiries that produce (new) social and cultural alterities. However, some of them can also be seen as attempts by locals to make sense of their own situation beyond dominant and over-mediatized crisis narratives. When artists adapt ethnographic methodologies in such initiatives, are they inescapably trapped in a “realist assumption” about the “Other” or in their own “presumptions of ethnographic authority” (Hal Foster)? Can such initiatives contribute to opening up alternative futures for cities in crisis and their inhabitants?

By thinking walks and ruins together, the workshop will address the following topics, among others:

  • Walking as methodology in artistic, architectural, urbanist and other research
  • Revisiting “the artist as ethnographer” discourse
  • Tours around ancient, modern and contemporary historic sites and ruins and spaces of daily life; graffiti tours; “torture and freedom tours” (Documenta14 in collaboration with ASKI, Athens)
  • New significations and functions of ancient and modern ruins against the backdrop of crises
  • Literary, photographic, cinematic and other representations of ruins and narratives of walking within crisis-scapes
  • Alternative uses of ruined, derelict, empty spaces and their relation to subjects who squat, reside and interact with such spaces.
  • New collectivities and social practices emerging from walking and engaging with ruins
  • The role of ruins in shaping alternative narratives of modernity, the nation, crisis and futurity.
  • The (ir)relevance of established theoretical approaches to walking as a cultural practice, from Benjamin’s flâneur to Michel de Certeau’s tactical consumer

To Apply:

RMA and PhD students who wish to attend the workshop may apply by sending an email to NICA (nica-fgw @ uva.nl) by March 1, 2019, with the subject line: Urban Crisis-Scapes: On Walks and Ruins. The workshop will be limited to 25 participants.


RMA students and PhD candidates can earn 1 ECT for their participation in the workshop.

Credit requirements: Participation in a preparatory session of the ASCA research group Crisis, Critique and Futurity (15:00-17:00 Friday afternoon, date and room t.b.a.) and preparation of key readings common for preparatory research group session and workshop by selected workshop speakers; attendance of both workshop days.

The workshop is open to scholars or artists interested in the topic. The workshop is already full for graduate students and Ph.D. candidates wishing to earn EC points, but anyone who wishes to attend (part of) the workshop (not for credits), can register by sending an email by May 6, 2019 to: m.boletsi@uva.nl  and s.e.fotiadi@gmail.com

We will accept registrations for attending the workshop on a first-come-first-served basis, taking into account the seats available in the workshop venue, so don’t wait too long!


May 15 (Wednesday)

(location: OT301, Overtoom 301)

19:30 – 21:00                       Film Program curated by Geli Mademli

A compilation of shorts from the recent Greek film production reveals the agency of urban landscapes and human geographies that resist the obvious taxonomies of crisis, and invites the viewers to wander through newly established archaeological sites, preserving alternative narratives for future presents.

Entrance: free

May 16 (Thursday)  – Ruins

(locations: Panels I & II: Belle van Zuylenzaal / Panel III: De Doelenzaal; both venues in the University Library)

10:00-10:15                         Introduction and welcome

10:15 – 12:15                      Panel I (Belle van Zuylenzaal, UB)

  • Dimitris Plantzos, Ruin-Scapes: Rebranding the Classical Present in Post-crisis Athens
  • Sadia Abbas, “Transcreation:” Quratulain Hyder’s English Rewritings of Her Urdu Novels, the Discourse of Ruins and Colonial Taxonomy

12:15 – 13:15                      Lunch

13:15 – 15:15                      Panel II (Belle van Zuylenzaal, UB)

  • László Munteán, Ruin, Rubble, Wreckage: The Afterlife of the Ruins of the World Trade Center
  • Dimitris Papanikolaou, Dancing on the Ruins of Modernism

15:15 – 15:45                      Coffee break

15:45 – 17:45                      Panel III (De Doelenzaal, UB)

  • Ipek Celik-Rappas, Shooting in the Ruins: Producing Space and Value on Screen
  • Daan Wesselman, Aesthetic battlegrounds in Amsterdam Nieuw-West

17:45 – 19:00                      Borrel

May 17 (Friday)  – Walks

(location: Belle van Zuylenzaal, University Library)

10:00-10:15                         Introduction

10:15 – 12:15                      Panel I

  • Angeliki Avgitidou, Walking Art Methodologies and the Public Space
  • Asli Ozgen-Tuncer, Walking as Cinematographic Labour: The Aesthetics and Politics of the Embodied Long-take

12:15 – 13:15                      Lunch

13:15 – 15:15                      Panel II

  • Sigrid Merx, From Actual Walking to Imaginary Walks: Between Realities #Athens
  • Efi Giannetopoulou & Thomais Dermati, Athens Calling: The Commodification of a Landscape in Crisis

15:15 – 15:45                      Coffee break

15:45 – 17:00                      Panel III

Kathrin Wildner, Walking  Spaces –  A research Tool in Urban Ethnography

17:00 – 17:40                      Final discussion & closing remarks