Sitesize

Joan Vila-Puig y Elvira Pujol Masip
www.sitesize.net

Created by Joan Vila-Puig and Elvira Pujol Masip in 2002, Sitesize is a platform that proposes and develops collaborative projects of a specific nature, all linked by the common goal of studying, in depth, the economic, geographical and self-defining tensions that affect new contemporary urban spaces. To this end, Sitesize has focused on metropolitan Barcelona, an especially dense field of study burgeoning with problems arising from a lack of clarity regarding production, ongoing cartographic reconfiguration and certain supplantings that have thrown the social memory of the territory into disorder. In response to these circumstances, Sitesize utilises a methodology of immediate dialogue based on the visual, on territorial representations and on the development of elements of community cohesion. As a result of their work, the practice of autonomous cultural production in a particular social space is reinforced, contributing to the identification, shaping and transformation of the dynamics of both the action and of the places where this action occurs in equal measure.

Due to the variety and scale of their projects, Sitesize work in a number of fields of action in which they use a range of approaches to explore urban paradoxes of various kinds and which, therefore, demand equally varied strategies of interpretation. First and foremost, they have run an entire series of projects that critically investigate the mechanisms of constructing self-defining stereotypes that sometimes mask the collective imaginary, which is rendered invisible. Four of their projects of this nature are especially worth singling out, each in its own way a reconsideration of the means whereby popular narratives are configured. Poble9, transformación local (2003; Poble9, Local Transformation) was an audiovisual documentation of the transformations in the Poblenou neighbourhood of Barcelona that compiled the testimonies of the people, collectives and social actors involved in the various processes of change that have taken place in this part of the city. Another project, along the same lines, is the exhibition VALLS-T (2003), which reflected on the territorial identity of the city of Valls (Tarragona) from a tourist point of view, taking as its starting point the city’s morphological characteristics and its cultural values and economic obligations. Riu Ripoll (Ripoll River) (2002-03) took two forms (a website, www.riuripoll.net, and a workshop, TAO RIU RIPOLL, Sabadell, Temporarily Autonomous Office) and, just like the aforementioned works, engaged in an exercise of representation, a “referential audit” according to Sitesize, of the space of the Ripoll River as it passes through the city of Sabadell (Barcelona). Finally, along this same line of analysis, we find Pasaje Chile_Calle Barcelona. Imaginarios cruzados (2007-08; Pasaje Chile_Calle Barcelona. Crossed Imaginaries), a project that sought to reclaim social memory from official narratives (both in Barcelona and in Santiago, Chile), which are characterised not only by the exclusion of individual contributions but which also use suspiciously similar imposition strategies.

Another course Sitesize’s work takes is made up of projects planned as collaborative initiatives, which are pursued through intense processes of dialogue, group learning and collective interpellation. Perhaps one of the most significant works of this kind was S.I.T. Manresa (2005), a service concerned with the territorial interpretation, research and dissemination of urban growth and expansion in the city of Manresa (Barcelona) and whose objective was to create a vast body of documentation for public consultation on the territorial narrative of the city, as well as the role it plays in relation to surrounding municipalities. A similar project was REGIÓN_ metropolitana _CULTURAL_ Comunitaria (2006; Metropolitan_CULTURAL_Community_REGION), a project that investigated the forms that define the social metropolitan space, taking as its basis the projects launched by various local communities that offered themselves as alternatives to the deterritorialisation of the regional imaginary and, at the same time, as paradigms of the cultural values of cohesion. Lastly, mention must be made of the workshop titled Ciudad Cooperativa (2004; Cooperative City), which attempted to revitalise the collective experience of the city by reconsidering both the symbolic potential of certain urban spaces and the recognition of ordinary local figures, as well as renowned citizens and those that have passed on.

Sitesize’s participation in the The Unavowable Community project attempts to revisit all of the initiatives previously referred to, amplifying them with specifically considered projects within their context and reordering them based on two distinct thematic nuclei: one that is grouped under the title Narraciones metropolitanas (Metropolitan Narratives); and the other that is called Aula permanente (Permanent Classroom).

The metropolitan narratives could be defined as an approach to the forms of cultural creation and participation that contribute to the act of defining metropolitan space. This conceptual area, thus, unites a complete series of works that revolve around notions of territory and community with the intention of proposing new geographies based on collective forms of thought and action. To this end, four different proposals are presented: La Puerta del Infierno (The Gate of Hell), a new investigation that explores the contrasts produced in certain urban spaces between the dynamics of use and the dynamics of life, focusing the analysis on the Barberà del Vallès zone on Barcelona’s industrial outskirts; S.I.T. Manresa, which compiles acts of diffusion/construction in the project’s archive on the city’s public space, thereby reclaiming the public space as a place of debate on the urban transformations of Manresa, while paying special attention to communities’ capacity for producing cultural content; Un conservador de las cosas que se tiran (A keeper of Things That Get Thrown Away), the story of the life of self-taught artist Manuel Sánchez, who not only embodies the imaginary of the Ripoll River as it passes through the city of Sabadell in the province of Barcelona, but is also a sort of exemplary model of the incarnate experience of the territorial; and, finally, a website that is intended to become a repository of autonomous metropolitan narratives.

In another distinct semantic space, we find the Aula permanente, a workspace inspired by libertarian pedagogies, defined as a learning community organised around the rereading and recomposition of the practices of the rationalist schools, trade unions and the libertarian cultural associations in Catalonia. The collective nature of pedagogical values means that here the construction of the community and the territory are linked and underpinned by education. Pedagogy thus becomes an action and enters political practice, since any activity acquires, in and of itself, a component of unavoidable learning. The three projects that make up the Aula permanente are acts of deed and reinforcements of meaning within the Campaña contra el Cuarto Cinturón (Campaign against the Fourth Ring Road in Barcelona), which views collective action as a critical stance and, at the same time, as personal involvement in the definition of the territory; an invitation to speakers that participated in the Repensar Barcelona (Rethink Barcelona) trips to rename, reinterpret and rethink concepts such as power, public space, assembly and urban ecology, all of which have been stripped of content; and, finally, Cuaderno pedagógico (Pedagogical Notebook), a publication that aims to rewrite autonomous social construction starting from the processes of the pedagogical avant-garde in Catalonia.

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