Coffee Talks

Coffee Talks is the title of a project that, through its Web-blog media format, aims to open up a discussion about the state of arts in public space of the city of Zurich. The intention is to seize the opportunity to create temporary interventions in the urban landscape of the city.

The essential take of the project is to try and understand Zurich as a fragmented space composed of collages, overlaps, and flows, and to apprehend it’s dynamics by means of critical analysis of the urban public space as a factor constitutive for such a dynamics.

Public space reinforces the idea of action, manifestation, and the possibility of creating cultural interceptions, both from political and social standpoints.

In that regard, a space for collaboration has been created involving the curator Candida Pestana and the artists André Catalão, Cornelia Heusser, Niklaus Rüegg, and Susana Pedrosa.  The invited artists share a common interest in social engagement through the arts and in modes of intervention with local communities. Today, theorists, artists, and activists such as Nato Thompson, The Yes Men, Improv Everywhere, Steve Lambert, Superflex, and Tutte Bianche mention the prevalence of collective action in public space. Numerous opinions are formed when it comes to urban occupation and many of them are gaining more attention – either from individuals or groups acting in public space. Their observations still remain up for a further debate.

These public manifests are transformative and themselves under the process of transformation, not only through a discourse but within an action as well.

As site-specific and event-driven project, Coffee Talks addresses multiple audiences, shakes up the city dynamics by ocuppying and creating small-scale events in public domain, and opens up the possibilities for sharing the vision behind those events, specifically through performative actions, with anyone who takes part.

The proposals of the involved artists challenges the public by raising urgent questions about the limits of the law. It is important to discuss public space as something that we are used to sharing. However, normally there are no references telling us how far we can go. The methodology applied in this collaboration is based on an exhaustive investigation about the relevant legal parameters centered predominantly on legal institutional entities; these are related to the notion and practice of justice, to the Swiss constitution, and to the cultural and subcultural urban groups whose primary nature is rooted in the visual arts. The research permits integration between the artistic context, on the one hand, and the context of the public law on the other, thus creating a natural platform for dialogue concerning aforementioned issues.

The artists are working with a clear collaborative spirit, investing in a strong community engagement as part of their operations. This engagement will define in the outcomes of their joint work. The resulting workwill manifest itself publicly ina series of events: a exhibition at Perla Mode, a message salon, located in one of the core and fast-living areas in the city of Zurich (Langstrasse). This urban zone – an ideal location for critical observation of the issues of legality and power in public space – has been intentionally chosen as a main punctum of the final display: given its local reputation (known for immigration, prostitution, second-hand shops, and art galleries) it becomes a zone of transformative potential inevitably connected to the everyday life practices rooted in the politics of the place.


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