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The ideal city has been a recurrent theme in Mediterranean imagination and intellectual tradition, from the myth of the Tower of Babylon, over Plato’s descriptions of the ideal city in his The Republic, to Leonardo da Vinci’s plans for an utopian city and Piero della Francesca’s famous painting La Città Ideale. A curious constant in this tradition – from the Greek temple builders to the Renaissance utopists – is the notion that the ideal city should be constructed according to the proportions of the human body.

Almost diametrically opposed to this imaginary utopian city, exists another city : the city of human activity, the organisation and occupation of space before and beyond the geometric occupations of city planners. The city that organically grows and adapts itself to ever changing human necessities. This organic city is real and palpable in the implantation and growth of souks and market places, the concentration of professions and trades in certain streets, the clustering of houses around fortifications to benefit from their protection. But it as also present in imagination in instances where function supplants form : the chair in the street that denotes a barber shop, the ambulant salesmen that temporarily create shopping malls on dusty squares, street restaurants that appear out of nothing during lunch time, the one room house divided into imaginary rooms by the organisation of the furniture : the bed in one corner, the television in another, the sofa in a third and the kitchen table in the fourth.

Nowhere as in the Mediterranean world, the human body and its necessities collides so strongly with architecture. Nowhere else, the imaginary city of everyday life defies so naturally the utopias imagined during centuries of city planning. In this project, an international multidisciplinary group of choreographers, theatre makers, architects and theoreticians will work together to do research on the Mediterranean city and create a multi-faceted work of art around the relationship body/city.

The project
For a period of one year, five teams of artists and theoreticians will work around the ‘imaginary sites’ of the human body and the Mediterranean city. They will work independently, but also have opportunities to exchange ideas and points of view and to jointly develop the project. Five co-producers in five European Mediterranean countries each support one creative team of their choice :
Alkantara – Lisboa, Bunker– Ljubljana, Carovana – Cagliari, L’Animal a L’Esquena – Girona and L’Officina - Marseille. Each team includes three artists (dance, theatre, multimedia) and one theoretician (arquitect, dramaturg, historian).

All five creative teams meet in the beginning of the project in Lisbon for a working period of two weeks (organised by alkantara). In this Encounter, all participants and a representative of each of the co-organisers present themselves and their work, gather information, exchange ideas and create a route map for the project. Then the teams split up and go each their own way, according to the project that has been outlined by the group. Each team will create a link between their own city and another Mediterranean city outside of the European Union, including a residency in the chosen place, so as to be able to get to know the place and its inhabitants, learn about its traditions and idiosyncrasies, do research and develop their artistic work. At this point the following links and collaborations are being constructed :

· Barcelona – Beirut by L’Animal a L’Esquena and Maqamat Dance Theatre (Omar Rajeh) · Lisboa – Beirut by alkantara (Mark Deputter) and Rabih Mroué · Marseille – Istanbul by L’Officina (Cristiano Carpanini) and Cati Studio (Istanbul) · Slovenia – Istanbul by Bunker and Dot Theatre · Cagliari – Beirut by Carovana e Roger Assaf

At the end the four teams meet again for another two week Encounter in Barcelona to join the 5 resulting ‘pieces’ into one ‘whole’. This doesn’t mean that the five pieces need to be forced into one performance, but that a common logic or parcours is established to link them together. The project ends with the presentation of the final result by the five co-producers.

“Sites of Imagination” is part of a long-term view on the cultural development of the Mediterranean Region, in which exchange and cultural dialogue are key concepts. All five co-organisers are long-time members of the network Danse Bassin Méditerrannée and have worked individually and together on ‘Mediterranean’ projects for many years now. By taking a millenar tradition of city planning and thought about the human body as starting point for this project, they aim at constructing a cultural dialogue, that is deeply rooted in Mediterranean history and reality, but also of relevance beyond the region.
(This document was not translated by Caroline Newman).
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