Imagining an Aesthetics of Reuse - Beta Competition

Imagining an Aesthetics of Reuse

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In 2017, a newcomer in Amsterdam, I visited ADM for the first time. The squat - home to more than 120 people – was then located in the western industrial port-area of the city. This haven of free cultural expression was celebrating its 20th birthday with a festival. I remember how a few days later a friend of mine who accompanied me to the event remarked: ‘This is how the world would probably look like, if it didn’t look how it does.’ The group’s cooperative, sustainable way of life unleashed the potential of its citizens’ creativity and produced an aesthetics that struck us, regular city-dwellers, as something alien. I will argue in my essay for an ‘Aesthetics of Reuse,’ and show that a progressive political project partly organized around ecological issues that would challenge the current neo-liberal order could similarly transform how we see our built environment. My theoretical point of departure will be the political thought of the Essex-school of Discourse Analysis as developed by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, most importantly, Oliver Marchart’s recent book: Conflictual Aesthetics. A key feature of this school of thought is that through conceptualizing the political as the ontological dimension, it enables us to see every (architectural) object and action as politically meaningful. To illustrate that what we perceive as beautiful in architecture is contingent on the political, and not only in small communities defined by interpersonal relationships, but in any imagined community, I will turn to the development of contemporary Budapest. As the main challenge to the current hegemonic (post-) political order is the rise of right-wing populist powers, the example of Hungary will be instrumental to illustrate how this transformation in the perception of architecture can be thought. While the issue of sustainability is far from being central to right-wing populism, the shifting of the political frontier towards questions of nationhood has produced a characteristic architectural aesthetic in the last decades