METASITU is a strategic art collective and urban consultancy founded by Eduardo Cassina and Liva Dudareva. The expertise is contemporary and future urban challenges, which they address through their research-based practice. The medium is mostly video, but they also work with performance and installation.
METASITU was founded in early 2014, at the time they were urban researchers at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow. They were born with the goal of expanding the discussions surrounding the inhabitation of the territory to different and wider audiences.
For METASITU, the urban fabric is the point of interest: the different fibres that weave it, the social and communal layers, the built matrix and the infinite networks that traverse it. From this departure point, their intention is to dissect the inhabited territory and bring architectural and urban sociological research to a wider audience through art in order to bridge the gap that currently exists separating urbanites from a global understanding of their immediate surroundings.
The practice is research-based and highly mobile, relying on the transnational networks, virtual and physical, where they draw their inspiration and fascination from, but also where they unfold their nomadic existence.
One of the lines of work that they have been developing throughout the past year is Urbanography Series. These are intimate portraits - fictional short films of buildings or territories. So far there are three Urbanograhy films in the series and one under development – ‘Stop Over City’ about the future of declining Moscow International Business Center, ‘The Visit’ about the suburb of invisible city in Miziara, Lebanon, ‘Memento Loci’ about the souvenir culture and their hidden agendas, and ‘Tristan da Cunha’- a film that they will produce following the expedition to the Edinburgh and The Seven Seas settlement located on the island of Tristan da Cunha - the most remote inhabited place on the Earth (more on this project below!)
Check out the videos!
Liva Dudareva (Jelgava/Latvia, 1984) was trained as a landscape architect in Latvia and Sweden. She then continued her studies in landscape architecture at the Edinburgh College of Art, before joining the award-winning landscape architecture firm Gross.Max. She then moved to Moscow to explore new ways of representation and urban research at the Strelka Institute.
Eduardo Cassina (Móstoles/Spain, 1986) is an architect and urban sociologist trained in the United Kingdom, Portugal, The Netherlands and China. He has worked as a researcher and exhibition designer for the Guggenheim museums in Venice and New York, as well as for the Netherlands Architecture Institute (Nai). After working as an urban researcher for Goldsmiths, where he developed new methodologies to visualise the sociological phenomenon of Chinese commercial landscapes in Southern Africa, he moved to Moscow to join the Strelka Institute, where he continued his exploration of representation of urban data in new and innovative ways.
In February 2015 METASITU curated a show called “Welcome to Ecumenopolis” at metamatic:taf in Athens, Greece, that represented works of international and greek artists touching upon the notion of Ecumenopolis, and has served them as an inspiration and basis for the book they are working on at the moment ‘I <3 Ecumenopolis’.
For the past year METASITU have been working with the idea of Ecumenopolis. [from Greek: οiκουμένη, meaning ‘world’, and πόλις polis meaning ‘city’]. Ecumenopolis is a term coined in 1967 by the Greek planner Constantinos Apostolou Doxiadis.
[We all live in the same city. Not cities that resemble one another, but the same. The divorce between concrete and urbanization means that our existence now takes place in a series of complex networks that transcend urban/rural dichotomies; local, regional and national borders. No place on the planet has escaped the consequences and effects of modernity and urbanization.]
The urban fabric in our world has transcended the concrete and the mere inhabitation of the territory. Beyond the built environment, the urban space is continued through intricate networks of stock exchanges, flight routes, data servers, internet cables, facebook friends and international financial remittances.In this planet-wide city, new strategic situations emerge, a series of spatial strategies that require a new lexicon. New tactics of inhabitation that, like franchised fast-food chains, can be exported to different areas of this planetary city.
METASITU propose a new redefinition of the urban realm. A theoretical framework that suggests that the whole world is urban. A city of planetary dimensions, walled by the stratosphere. Metropolis, Acropolis, Necropolis, Technopolis and all other -polis in fact have become Ecumenopolis.
In the era of the Antropocene there are no cities, there is just a cosmopolis. An all-embracing Ecumenopolis.This, of course, leads to new spatial products, like Free Trade Zones, or Cable Landing Stations (where the submarine cables that contain this information –the internet- land and meet their terrestrial counterparts) or Carrier hotels: whole buildings hollowed out just to be filled with servers right at the core of Financial Districts.
But Ecumenopolis is not just a mere ‘urban’ condition, it transcends its own borders and applies to multiple fields. have recently been looking at souvenirs: trinkets made in Guangzhou, bought in Agra, displayed on a fridge door in Sao Paulo. They serve to perpetuate political narratives, and spatial hegemonies. For example, in the city of Vienna, all the souvenirs one can find are from a period that spans 150 years… whereas the city is over 2000 years old. They don’t mention WWII or the Ottoman period.
For their research, METASITU have been invited by the Clipperton Project to join them in their expedition to the Island of Tristan Da Cunha, a British Overseas Territory, a volcano in the South Atlantic. It is the world’s most remote inhabited place. You can only go there by boat. It takes a week from either Cape Town or Rio. They want to go there because in 2005 this community wrote a letter to the British Parliament asking them to please change their postcode into something more ‘UK-sounding’ so that they would be able to buy things on ebay and amazon, because their island was not on the list of countries they delivered to. But basically, even these people, the world’s most remote inhabited place, is subject to the same patterns of consumption, the same capitalist ideas and communication desires as any other patch of the World.
Besides artistic and urban research work METASITU have led numerous workshops about the above mentioned topics. To name few – workshop ‘Welcome to Ecumenopolis’ at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design, ‘’Emerging Public Spaces’ that they conducted as part of the ISEA2014 Dubai, and ‘Yantra’ that was designed in particular for the EASA2014 in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria.
They also have worked with International New Town Institute, Placemakers and UN Habitat on their latest collaborative project about public places in Nairobi, Kenya, and consulted Cushman&Wakefield about the future prospects of the development of the middleweight cities.
Apart from video and urban research, they are also interested in the performance. In particular, METASITU have been investigating performance in the context of urban research, data gathering and representation. They have created several performance pieces that deals with the representation of the interrelationships between different elements that make up urban fabric. Weekend Routines that was produced in collaboration with other researchers at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design and performed last year at the Garazh Museum for Contemporary Art was capturing the weekend routines of Muscovites in the Park Gorky.
The performance explored the opposites of active and passive places, noise and silence, places for lovers and street animals.After setting up METASITU, it became obvious that they needed to explore more places ‘on site’: they wanted to explore how the whole world acts as a global city, so they needed to be on the ground. So they decided to be nomadic for the first 18 months of their project. They went to places like the futuristic Masdar, in Abu Dhabi, or the empty speculative project of Seseña in the barren land of Toledo, Spain. The longest time they have spent anywhere has been three months in the West Bank, where they worked with some great people such as Nick Axel, Eyal Weizmann, Sandi Hilal or Alessandro Petti on the stone industry and stone extraction in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Since its inception, METASITU has worked in Serbia, Russia, Lebanon, Bulgaria, Scotland, France, Greece, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Austria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt.
The next destination is Ukraine, where they will spend two months looking at the city of Mariupol, in the partly occupied province of Donetsk, in Eastern Ukraine… and of course, the island of Tristan Da Cunha in January.