The face of the city | Íñigo García Odiaga

Murals, 2012, Busan Hendrik Beikirch, alias ECB
Murals, 2012, Busan | Hendrik Beikirch, alias ECB

Already for years the city has gained his pulse to the field. The city is synonymous of urban life, of economic activity and of cultural and commercial offer, but not always it it is of well-being or quality of life.

The big cities of the Asian southeast are the cities of the planet with major pace of growth, but also they are those who condense worse living conditions. This model of unlimited growth has placed in addition the gravit center of the city in his economic development, forgetting completely social componente of the city. If we do a tour for the centers of all these megacities, we will discover a species of not place, of common place where the elements repeat themselves copying the same model who is the one that it seems to lead to the financial success, but that for against has erased any own feature of the local identity. This included lack of identity has erased also the subject, the person, so that it would seem that the big cities are lived today by brands and lobbies instead of by persons.

b-hong-kong- “Inside Out The People’s Art Project”
“Inside Out: The People’s Art Project”, 2011, Hong Kong | JR

The world of the art has realized this drift and already it has begun to question and to criticize her by means of concrete actions it.

The German artist Hendrik Beikirch, more known by his alias ECB, has never just inaugurated in Busan, South Korea, the major identical mural in Asia. The piece of 95 meters of high place is a portrait of a 60-year-old fisherman of age, who confirms with the crudeness of complex of skyscraper Haeundae I’Park designed by the architect Daniel Libeskind, a financial complex that wants to be raised as the new icon of the city. Libeskind is also the architect responsible for the new towers of the World Trace Center in New York, and of fact the design of both financial complexes is similar.

“Inside Out The People’s Art Project”
“Inside Out: The People’s Art Project”, 2011, Hong Kong | JR

The mural criticizes the rapid growth and the modernization of South Korea and serves as a follow-up of the roots of the city in full financial district. Busan was once a small people of fishermen in the south of Korea. While the city was transforming and was turning into an international center, the essence itself was getting lost of this one. The portrait of the fisherman is not only a recollection of the past, but also of those that still are employed at his oldness at the wharves without rest. A consequence of the intensive growth that has forgotten the social aspects and has harmed to the least favored classes.

“Inside Out: The People’s Art Project”, 2011, Hong Kong | JR
“Inside Out: The People’s Art Project”, 2011, Hong Kong | JR

With the same attitude the urban artist of French origin JR has inaugurated his new project in Hong Kong. In the down town of the city, in a zone of immense skyscrapers in which space does not stay for the pedestrian, JR has used precisely the last redoubt of the citizens, a pedestrian step raised to save the tangle of traffic that runs under the towers, as support for his installation.

Sixteen inhabitants’ anonymous faces of Hong Kong, large-scale forms, cover the cover of the gangplank. Anonymous faces that look at the fronts of the towers and whom they live claiming a space, a place for the citizen, in the transactions and strategic movements that are negotiated in these offices.

Face to Face, Palestine, 2007 | JR

Maybe more provocative it was the intervention of this French artist on the wall of Gaza.

In the year 2005, it decided to travel to Middle East to quarrel why the Palestinians and the Israelis could not find the way of coexisting together in peace.

He strolled for the Israeli and Palestinian cities trying to obtain information and to understand the situation. It discovered that these places are sacred for the Judaism, the christianity and the Islam, and also he stated that the area is paisajísticamente impressively, a place where there come together the mountains, the sea and the deserts in scanty kilometres. But somehow, the territory, the landscape or the religions had put over the persons, who seemed not to enter the equation.

Curiously the persons on both sides of the wall have the same aspect, speak almost the same language, they might be like twin brothers raised in different families.

A religious Palestinian has his counterpart in another side. A peasant, a taxi driver, a teacher, have his equivalences opposite them. For the artist the solution was evident, it was necessary to put facing the conflict, identify the persons to erase the differences.

Face to Face, Palestina, 2007 | JR
Face to Face, Palestine, 2007 | JR

The project Face to Face consisted of taking portraits of Palestinians and of Israelis making the same work, stamp them on big formats, and place them in key places on the wall that separates both villages. In the Israeli side the portraits of the Palestinians were placed and vice versa. This project, it was never maybe the major artistic illegal exhibition outdoors organized. This effort for placing inside the conflict, to the persons in the first place, ahead of religions, economy or power, supposed a deep shock, for what it was prohibited by the Israeli government.

It can turn out evident that the city, the territory or the architecture is constructed for the persons, but in cause the power of the same creations, his scale or his inertia, they are separating the human being of the center of the speech. To recover the faces of the inhabitants of the cities is something more than an artistic act, is definitively an act that tries to return the protagonism of the city to the citizen.

Íñigo García Odiaga. architect
San Sebastián. Octuber 2012

It´s published inZAZPIKA 21.10.2012


Íñigo García Odiaga

Doctor Arquitecto y profesor asociado de Proyectos Arquitectónicos, ETSASS. Editor de NOMU. 1/5 del estudio de arquitectura VAUMM. Vivo en Donosti.

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