During the second week, the Academy went silent for some days, only to reemerge a quiet Thursday afternoon in the area around the city hall. In an almost pagan litany, the group carried around big red structures, which despite their seeming frivolity, were characterized by an alarming geometry. These were the outcome of the silent but frantic days, during which the participants conceptualized and created the structures. Arriving on the waterfront they tried to engage onlookers in their activities, to lure them into their heretic public behavior.
Whether because of the summer inertness, its rooted discomfort with the unconventional, or its inert resilience, the city avoided a strong engagement with the project. Many passersby looked, fewer asked, but virtually nobody decided to take part in the erratic walks. The municipality gallantly offered LABattoir and overall supported the project, but the city council politely refused to take part in activities when the Academy asked. Other institutions also found it difficult to deal with challenges posed to them and accept what was generally perceived as unconventional. However, during the last day people came closer and took part, especially a group of children –Syrian refugees– with their disinterest on decency and thirst for fun. The inclusion of this recent, but also latent, part of the city and the genuine enjoyment gave deeper political meaning in the act of having fun, as a participant remarked.
Lynn found the people that cultivate the city, that bring fertility in disused places, integrating them in the social space. As Dimitris from Peliti –one of the participants– eloquently said about PERKA, an abandoned military camp, people there “made fertile a place that was rendered sterile by soldiers’ boots performing military drills for years”. In the actions of urban gardeners, that bring the diversity of plants and varieties, tastes and scents, there is common ground. Despite their differences and degree of militancy, in their words one can find defiance. Without overstating the scope of their actions, there is a political thread that connects their efforts with general issues such as the economic crisis, unemployment, global agro-food systems and social justice. In this sense, Peemoeller’s project also elevates a latent aspect of the city, a group of people that grow awareness through practice, in a subtle but very committed way.
The project also included the savoring of the city’s flavors. The five different tastes were condensed from ingredients that came from integral parts of the city. This food-city was offered to its inhabitants, in an urban communion ceremony that made one the body of the city and the body of the dweller. A ceremony to bring about the togetherness of the inhabitants and a city, as well as to function as a manifesto for an urban space that integrates its own self-sustenance in its functions.
Although the residencies ended, both artists left a legacy behind. The participants of Perceiving Academy with the help and guidance of Ellingsen are taking their first steps to attempt more permanent interventions in the city, while Peemoeller is engaged in support of local institutions to a food waste reduction campaign. The food waste campaign has a smoother road ahead in a framework where waste and food are increasingly accepted as important issues, albeit the Perceiving Academy’s undertaking faces more challenges. The willingness to pursue these ends, the ideas and interest of the participants are there, as is the support of the artist and those that were involved in the project. What will pose the basic difficulty though would be the development of commoning, which though implicit underlines the practices of the Academy. Nevertheless, this is one of the aims of the project itself – that is to bring “Community” through communing, next to the “Radical Imagination” of the perceiving experiences.
The seed is sowed. It needs work and care to become radical.