After a presentation of the New New Babylon project by Jonas, we sat down for a few questions.
Through Constant 101 you continuously explore how the world of ideas of Constant and New Babylon continues to relate to our present time through the work of artists, cultural projects, symposia, etc. How do you see the world’s engagement with New Babylon taking effect?
When you study the projects/exhibitions that Constant’s work is linked to, the themes always focus on contemporary issues like refugees, power, utopia, the playing and creative human, urbanism, architecture, freedom, activism, space travel, work, time. Or like this project envisioning a sustainable future. During Constant 101 we did projects about the democracy of the public space, gamification, the connection between humans and technology and where that border starts and ends, activist architect, again refugees, decolonization.
All these subjects can be projected on New Babylon because they are already ingrained in it or because Constant left room for the viewer to project on it.
Which aspects of New Babylon prove relevant time and time again?
On one side New Babylon is based on long term trends that were prevalent in 1950-60s and which we are still experiencing: the expansion of “free” time or the role of free time and the work life balance. This started in the end of the 19th century and is still a topic. Global connectivity, nomadic pursuit (whether voluntary or not) and automation.
On the other hand, it captures the most alluring traits of his time (50-60’s): the optimistic vibe of the reconstruction, the sense that “we” will never let that happen again, which of course, pertains to WWII. Rebellion against the status quo which opens up space to think about alternative realities, the feeling that we, the people, have won our struggle against nature through technology. I think that optimism is a lot harder today but it does hold a great attraction.
And, in a way New Babylon seems to hold all these metaphorical elements of creativity: basic needs are met, having the time, freedom to move around, explore and congregate at will, being empowered to transform or influence our environment, there is a playful purpose and Constant still hints to a history. Which can be seen in his maps, where he places the New Babylonian structures on top of existing cities. He doesn’t imagine the destruction of what is but he integrates it into his ideas. For these reasons I think New Babylon keeps its attraction and its relevance.