Pressemitteilung als PDF

The exhibition

Moving between urbanism, sociology and the visual arts, Spaces of Uncertainty is an international exhibition on the theme of the urban margin, by Kenny Cupers and Markus Miessen. Following their research and recent publication on the social significance of residual space in Berlin, the exhibition broadens this perspective of social activities in the urban landscape. With two extra case studies in Brussels and London, the exhibition ultimately addresses this question: when does the action of a few individuals start to create urban space?

Demonstrating how urban space is divided, conquered, left over and occupied again, the exhibition intends to show how marginalized social processes find their distinctive spaces in different cities. The visual research on these cities shows that the urban margin does not only exist in its very physical urban condition - in spaces outside the traditional understanding of public space - but in a number of phenomena that emerge in the actual social fabric of our everyday environment, outside the hierarchical organisation of space, time and energy.

The exhibition focuses on the issue of self-organisation in the urban landscape, and more specifically, on the continual emergence of phenomena that escape the restraints of organised public space and time. Although always manifested in space, these phenomena have three constituencies: space, time and energy. In Berlin, we have focused on spaces, as the phenomenon occurs in the margins and vacant spaces of the urban landscape that serve as catalysts for experimentation. Whereas in Berlin these marginalized social forces, were to be found in its free spaces and vacant land, in Brussels the phenomenon is more to be found in marginal activities that not necessarily appear in marginal places, but at certain times in the city’s dynamic everyday texture. In London, the existence of the phenomenon is challenged by the intense density and spatial pressure of a complex urban field, which is highly defined by economic power. Nevertheless, in London, where space and time overlap and different uses interact, kinetic energy rules the appearance of the phenomena, as they are still to be found in the small transitions of urban life, orchestrated by individual and collective energies of the city’s users. This particular reading of the three cities shows how, through the marginalized social processes that constantly question the restraints of its organisation, urban space remains fundamentally a space of uncertainty.

The exhibition consists of three elements: a video installation, a series of photographs and an interactive map/database that will be specially developed for Brussels in summer 2004. The video installation will simultaneously project visual documentation from the three cities Berlin, Brussels and London. A series of photographs from the three cities will organised in linear strips that allow for a close comparison between urban spaces.

The exhibition will be shown in Berlin (Gallery Framework and Urban Drift 2003), London (AA School of Architecture) and Brussels (Sint-Lucas Architectuurschool and Beursschouwburg (tbc)).

The publication:

&Spaces of Uncertainty’ is a new publication on the issues of contemporary urban space, from the particular view of two young architects, Kenny Cupers and Markus Miessen. Their photographic and theoretic research constitutes a double movement, which opens up the traditional architectural gaze towards the social spectrum of urban spaces, while simultaneously offering an original theory of contemporary cultural practice.

The issue of public space is one that crosses interdisciplinary boundaries and attracts high interest in the fields of architecture, urbanism, sociology and cultural studies. With Berlin as a case study for a globalised urban condition, the publication aims at a wide international public by providing a broadly conceived theory that approaches the city at the same time as a material phenomenon and as a social and philosophical idea.

Public space in its traditional interpretations is unable to follow the heartbeat of today’s rapidly changing city. Instead of adding force to an ongoing rhetorical discourse of loss, this publication acknowledges the existence of places beyond traditional definition. With a photographic essay on Berlin, it opens an unexpectedly contemporary view upon this agitated debate. Left with enormous amounts of infill and fallow land, Berlin is a city in which residual space and public space lose their definitions. As playgrounds for micro-political activities, permanent hiding-places or areas for temporary occupation, its residual spaces prove their necessity. Shy and unassuming, these very spaces of uncertainty show their value for public life in the contemporary city.

&A few years ago Liane Lefaivre characterised the work of Rem Koolhaas and kindred architects as ‘dirty realism’. Kenny Cupers and Markus Miessen have given a personal twist to this strategy and have developed their own version of dirty realism by looking at the marginal and interstitial spaces that Berlin – like probably no other Western city – possesses in such abundance. By focussing on these seemingly insignificant left-over spaces, they manage to provide an antidote for the nostalgia and the rhetoric of loss that seem to dominate the contemporary discourse on the city. In relying upon photography and textual arguments, the book denounces the power of architecture. It is, finally, an exercise in modesty.”

(Hilde Heynen, author of Architecture and Modernity. A Critique, MIT Press, 1999)

With contributions by Margaret Crawford, Hilde Heynen, Paul Davies, Paul Halliday and Jürgen Mayer H.

ISBN 3-928766-54-6
Müller + Busmann Publishers
Hofaue 63
42103 Wuppertal (Germany)
T: +49 202 2 48 36 53
F: +49 202 2 48 36 10

The authors:

Kenny Cupers (1978) received his Master’s degree in Architectural Engineering at the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium) after which he worked at Studio Daniel Libeskind in Berlin. He is now pursuing his Master’s in Photography and Urban Cultures at Goldsmiths College, London.

Markus Miessen (1978) received his Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Glasgow School of Art, after which he worked at Studio Daniel Libeskind in Berlin. He is now studying at the Architectural Association in London.


Kenny Cupers, Markus Miessen and Isabelle Doucet
in UK: +44 7931 91 27 61 or +44 7930 47 04 18
in Belgium: +32 496 15 78 89 or +32 478 90 13 64
in Berlin: +49 30 60 69 01 60