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The Momental

The Transient Institution — The Institute of Urban Memory

2006
Berlin, DE
Type: Research

Organized by Patricia Reed

The Momental

Credits
  • Project by Markus Miessen and Patricia Reed

What is an institution today?
Does it have to be physical?
Can it be temporary, ephemeral, re-occurring, or invisible?

Uncertainty and spontaneity are Berlin’s most charming characteristics. Its urban character is based on instant local action while Berlin as an urban landscape opens up an unexpectedly contemporary view upon recent debates on public space. The city’s vacant plots offer the possibility of an immediate kinetic energy that celebrates the missing, tucked into its marginal urban territories. These territories were part of a participatory investigation as part of Patricia Reed’s exhibition and event platform The Momental at Sparwasser, Berlin.

In a time in which the city is getting ever more populated by mediocre architectural intervention and homogeneous urban development, there is an ever more urgent need to stress the importance of marginal and transitory urban spaces as a focal component to the vitality of the city.

A discursive field research programme stimulated both an interaction with urban spaces, which are often neglected or overseen, and further an in-depth participatory research about the urban tissue of Berlin Mitte. In a non-cynical manner, the public field research group ventured out into the territory to explore the various facets and traces of a DIY Urbanism, which is often overlooked by traditional planners.

As a mode of exploration, the participants of the Workshop and subsequent temporary archive went through a couple of urban performances.

All participants received an Urban Research Kit and followed the structure of a two-day brief (either individually or teamed up in small groups), collecting physical objects, talked to strangers and set up a reference for their micro-urban archaeology, documented their findings using different media of their choice (photographic, written, verbal recorded, MiniDV), and left physical traces on site–as focal points of their micro-political action in the city. Return to Sparwasser, they presented and discussed their findings in an informal manner, stimulating discussion and debate regarding the spaces they traveled. Sparwasser HQ is a non-commercial artist run space. Interested in open, process-orientated participation, it is ultimately a platform for communication, where theory and practice, production and communication, politics and aesthetics collide as a form of alternative knowledge production.

Rather than trying to institutionalise such urban spaces, the aim of the field study was to establish a link between the institution (Sparwasser HQ) and the wider urban landscape it sits in, a feedback mechanism and hub for exchange, using the notion of the archive as something that is a memory itself as it disintegrates and is being fed back into the urban fabric.