Theatrum Mundi/Global Street
Presence and Absence in the City
October 12-13, 2012 • 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Columbia University, Avery Hall, Wood Auditorium
What differentiates presence and absence in the city? In Saskia Sassen’s conception, the difference is both physical, in the sense of who occupies space and is present in the street, and perceptual, in the sense of how aware we are of others. How do we account for or discount their presence in urban space? This conference explored how those considered invisible or inconsequential are enabled to ‘make presence’ in urban space, through their bodies, actions and activities. Presenters attempted to account for the roles of technological, trade, design, and politics in constructing presence and absence, and debated how to arouse people to want more engagement with one another, rather than retreat into isolation.
This year’s conference was a collaboration between Sassen and Richard Sennet (University Professor of the Humanities, New York University and Founder of Theatrum Mundi). It brought together visual artists, choreographers, architects and others with sociologists and urbanists from academia to discuss the changing urban landscapes of the present and future. Through theoretical conversations and discussions on real life projects the conference aimed to instigate new thinking about public space via the participation of architects, urban planners, artists, designers and social researchers.
This annual conference hosted by Saskia Sassen focuses on a specific issue involving cities and modern urban realities. Previous topics included China: Supercities and Mega-Migrations: China’s Urban Futures (2011), Cities and Eco-Crises (2010), and Cities and the New Wars (2009).
This conference was part of the Signature Research Project Urbanizing Technology: The Mobility Complex.