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June 24, 2012 / Tamara Reynolds

Marking the Terrain

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I have recently gotten my hands on a copy of The Activist Drawing, a type of retrospective of Dutch artist Constant Niewenhuys’ experimental architectural vision of a possible future cityscape created in 1956; which he termed New Babylon. What brings this into current discourse is the uncanny resemblance to today’s world-wide web, reflecting Constant’s ‘unified urbanism’ and socio-political reconfigurations morphing almost as quickly as technology’s stratifigraphic formations. In New Babylon, every aspect of sensorial engagement would be plastic, reconstructed according to an individual’s momentary desires. He devised a parallel world where movement, not settlement would reign. Constant’s argument for such a possibility was seated in the discourse of a dialectical view of life, where one moment erases the preceding one; essentially a constant unfolding of experience. Keeping this in mind, one can readily see Constant’s deep involvement with Guy Debord and International Situationiste; even writing for the IS Journal during ’58. Often criticized for his dedication to what many thought to be an abandonment of current society, Constant believed his drawings and models to be an activist’s call to arms for a free and revolutionary culture.

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(1971) New Babylon, Nord 

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