Critical interventions in the legible city

The notion of legibility is explored in relation to the city and its publics.

La Jetee is a design collaborative based in Milan and Eindhoven, initiated by Paolo Patelli and Giuditta Vendrame.

According to James C. Scott, the modern project of making the world legible takes place in three stages: firstly an institution or an organisation filters what it needs to know, the type of data, facts or readings. Secondly, the filtered information needs to be abstracted, flattened and spread out in a way that will make it readable. Then, to make this information useful, the body performing the analysis will reform the world in the image of that abstraction to resemble the administrative grid of its observations.

Today, we are getting accustomed to seeing the behaviour of citizens – users, customers, consumers – of any given city represented through spectacular real-time maps and data visualisations. These same data are being used by governmental agencies and private companies to model the behaviour and preferences of their objects of observation – users or marketing targets – affecting in return what citizens see, choose, experience. At the same time, tactical and critical interventions in different contexts, particularly in the art and design fields, are showing that as much as a sight from above, one from below is possible. Performative practices transform laws, terms, and conditions into fully visible agents. Ephemeral urban interventions provide possible models for opening up to new forms of civic and aesthetic engagement with hidden or abstract layers of the city.

In this paper, we would like to present a critical review of art practices and interventions that address legibility as a means to critical engagement with the city.

  • Friction Atlas, Plan (Novi Trg, Ljubljana)

  • Friction Atlas, Intervention (Novi Trg, Ljubljana)