press release

How do people organise their space? Or do they allow themselves to be organised? How do unregulated private initiatives contribute to the development of a city? Are there any guidelines, and when do the upholding of public order and legislation start to impact this process? The exhibition 'Soft City' presents existing and new work by the international artists Azra Aksamija, Pushwagner and Dubravka Sekulić. Their work represents the extreme ways in which people create urban (living) space. And how the authorities play a role in this, or, in contrast, are completely sidelined. Their work shows attention to the mental, psychological and socio-economic consequences of this process.

In his graphic novel 'Soft City' (1969-1975), the controversial Norwegian artist Hariton Pushwagner (1940, Oslo) sketches standardised daily life in an Orwellian city. With compassion, a sense of the absurd and an occasionally satirical outlook, Pushwagner follows the life of the residents. This is the first presentation of his work in the Netherlands.

For four years, Azra Aksamija (1976, Sarajevo) observed the 'Arizona Market', the largest black market of the Balkans. She describes this 'city' as a 'bizarre organism, surrounded by minefields and ruins'. Impressed by the residents' vitality and self-organising capacity, Aksamija created the installation 'Arizona Road' (2002). In addition, the exhibition shows her brand-new work 'Contraption' (2009).

Architect/researcher Dubravka Sekulić (1980, Nis) shows portions of her project 'Belgrade, Belgrade: Ongoing Archive of Unruled Practices'. She inventories informal building practices like the proliferation of often illegal but imaginative urban expansions on top of existing buildings.

Parallel to this exhibition, in the entrance area, Stroom offers presentations by three research teams focusing on the influence of informal, social and cultural structures on the environmental development of Yogyakarta (Indonesia), Kumasi (Ghana) and Tbilisi (Georgia).

The economic recession forces us to reconsider the usual shapes taken by urban development. Out of necessity, priority is presently given to informal structures and organic planning. The exhibition and parallel presentations combine examples from all over the world with works of art that under the present circumstances prove visionary. Works of art and studies about informally developed cities and refugee camps contrast sharply with Pushwagner's graphic novel.

Acknowledgement: Mondriaan Foundation, Generali Foundation Wien, The Netherlands Architecture Fund, Foundation Design Den Haag 2010-2018.

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Soft City:
Azra Aksamija, Pushwagner , Dubravka Sekulic