Milano master-class

21. The Trail as a Political Space

#lesson2 #lesson3 #lesson5 #conversation #publicspace

We started off by talking about the materiality of this trail, and it’s something that we haven’t much developed: the durability of a trail, this path that is also a story, that tells something, that is a metropolitan narrative, that offers different perspectives, that brings order to a collection of spaces …. It’s also an open public space and so there is a political dimension to drawing paths and bringing people on foot to these areas. Tending to a public space, caring for a space, and motivating communities who dwell in this space: that is the political side of drawing these trails.

We end up being responsible for this trail, for this open space we open for others, either through the paths themselves or via the groups we bring on tours. I think it’s a wonderful thing because this is something we can do: caring for a public space is a unique form of political action.

The political dimension of what we do also includes a rejection of the dominant discourse. We spoke a lot about that yesterday during our walk. In other words, we can walk through an area, consider it in a respectful way, listen to what people have to say about it, and at the same time reject what is before us.

As we walk through it, we may question the form projected onto a space, and think of other possibilities. I can walk around or through a space and see it in another way, projecting myself into the space differently; it’s a way of reinventing a space. Our walk through the deserted space—not exactly a wasteland since it is still inhabited—of the Milan World’s Fair is an example. The space is falling into ruin, or at least the idea of the space is in ruins. When we walked through this space, we were overwhelmed by the failed aspirations of this project. Yet, despite whatever we may think of this space, when walking through it, we see and imagine it differently, rejecting the usual narrative associated with it. So perhaps that is a political dimension these trails can offer.

Finally, the third political aspect of this endeavor is to enter into an ongoing conversation amongst ourselves and with others. Here again, several times yesterday we stopped to hear people’s stories, some very moving, stories of action, by residents or groups of residents, in a space; and it’s the act of walking through these spaces and stopping in them for a moment that gives us a glimpse into political action we would never otherwise see. There’s the group of young people breathing life back into the social center of the Quarto Oggiaro; there’s the organization that has established a restaurant in a prison and is helping train prisoners there … you invited us into the restaurant, we toured it, we listened to what the people there had to say, and that completely changed how we viewed this space. I believe that entering into conversation in this way with places and people is a new form of political action.