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Marin von Osten





particularly in Casablanca and its influence on the revisin of modern arwere the subjects ofthe research, exhibition, and public events ofthe
exhibition "In the Desert of Modernity: Colonial Planning and After," held
in Berln in 2008 and Casablanca in 2009. '













national Congress of Modern Architecture). The group acquired the ame

"Team 10" because at the ninth CIAM meeting in the summer of 1953 they



















ready ended in conflicts with representatives ofthe older generation, such as

Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and Sigfried Giedion. Team 10 criticized the
cali for a functional separation between housing, work, leisure, and transport in urban planning in the prewar Athens Charter (1933), propagating instead the interconnectedness of housing, street, district, and city. The context for this discussion was a presentation by the architects George Candilis
and Shadrach Woods at the congress. There they introduced a grid, a sort
of explanatory chart with pictures and text, in which they showed not new
architectural or urban-planning designs but a bidonville that Moroccan internal migrants had erected on the outskirts of Casablanca. This shantytown
was presented as a teaching model for the architects and town planners of
the next generation. The young architects were also able to present their
colleagues with a completely planned and realized building that they had
constructed alongside the shantytowns in Casablanca as a sort of experimental structure for "Muslims." The new ideas of Team 10 and their critique of the older generation ultimately led to the dissolution of the CIAM
as an organization, and the members of Team 1 0 began to develop their
projects and organized meetings independently until 1981.
First presented in 2005, a large traveling exhibition called "Team 10:
A Utopia ofthe Present" and an extensive catalog have documented and taken a fresh look at Team 10's work.2 The equally interesting follow-up projects and historical research, however, tend to leave the colonial context














begun to circuate in countless international journals in 1953.

Even in current historiography, they also largely ignore the broader
planning structures in which Candilis and Woods's Casablanca constraction
project was embedded, as well as the resulting follow-up projects and inhabitation after Moroccan independence, or its influence on urban planning

today. The architect's view and the authorship ofthe object of his/her analysis and planning also remain unquestioned, along with the question of the
representation of the architecture itself, which is generally photographed in
the uninhabited state of its first completion. Above all, however, there is no
explanation of the motives behind the building activities in North frica.
The colonial and anticolonial conditions in which high modernism arse
got forgotten in the discourse about European postwar modernism, whether
it was being vilified or historically reconceptualized. But colonial-modern
governing strategies were firmly embedded in European postwar architectural and urban projects. Many new planning concepts in the colonies were
developed in response to the large numbers of migrants into the cities of the
empire. These modern modes of mass constraction, which were tested in
North frica in the 1940s and '50s, soon migrated to the peripheries of
western European cities where the all-too-familiar suburbs arse to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people. In many cases, the inhabitants living in the outskirts of Paris and London originated from the former colonies.
Simultaneously, architects attempted to engage in their projects on colonial
ground with the local conditions by synthesizing the way of living ofthe
colonizedusually labeled "premodern" and the project of modernizad on
into a new and "other" modernism. The experiments of modern architects in
the so-called colonial laboratories therefore played an important role in the
critical revisin of modernism and the emergence of postmodernism within
architectural discourse, resulting more or less directly in the crisis of modern planning altitudes. But the understanding ofthe modern" and "modernization" developed not only in relation to the so-called premodern and vernacular, but also to the state of emergency that was colonial rale.
The exhibition "In the Desert of Modernity: Colonial Planning and After"

















Les Abattoirs de Casablanca (2009) addressed these omissions. The research

and the curatorial concept tried to shed light on the entanglement ofthe
colonial modern in postwar architecture and inquired into the origins of the
"anthropological turn" in postwar modernism. The exhibitions as well as
the publication Colonial Modern: Aesthetics ofthe Past, Rebellions for the
Future (2010) reflect the epistemological shift or the so-called anthropological turn in the era of empire's decline.3 The project as a whole analyzes
the relation ofthe power/knowledge regime of urban planning and architecture and subject positions of architects and inhabitants in the very crisis
of high modernism. And it focuses on this background ofthe misrecognition

Displaying the Absent

Marin von Osten

of migration as cultural identity instead of acknowledging it as a stage of
becoming and/or a social movement that constantly calis the ability to plan
into question. The colonial modern in times of decolonization was understood as a space of negotiation among diverse actors with differing privileges.
Modernist Learnings
Already at the beginning of the modern movement, studies of vernacular
architecture in rural environments and in the whole Mediterranean regin
along with its aesthetics, functions, and structureswere partially synthesized into the most modern form of new industrialized building types.
Examples of this are the Arts and Crafts movement, the studies of the students of Auguste Perret, or the first Bauhaus-school phase in Weimar.4
Though modernism constituted itself due to hybrid, transcultural translations, modernist houses and settlements, with their whitewashed walls, created a rupture due to the idea of a "pur" ahistorical form and a hierarchy between the modern and the premodern.5 Even in opposition to their original
aesthetic resources, major modernists' town-planning concepts, such as Le
Corbusier's Plan Obs for Algiers, almost ignored functioning housing
structures or inhabitants who might have had their own logics of settlement,
although Le Corbusier took many of his urban and architectural ideas from
his travel to the M'Zab valley in Algeria.6 The double role of learning from
the vernacular, on the one hand, and of abstracting it from the everyday
context and translating it into aesthetic models, on the other, is grounded in
colonial perceptions and narratives. This role of acknowledging, translating,
and ignoring was bound to the idea of the tabula rasa, an uninhabited and/or
"uncivilized" space, a characteristic feature of the territorial imaginations,
practices, and representational policies of colonial modernism.7 Nevertheless,
the idea of also projecting the concept and technologies into an "empty
territory" to develop, plan, and order it is a central motif in the very emergence of modern urbanism and capitalist societies. By asserting a temporal
rupture between the contemporary and the traditional, modernism embraced
the possibilities of industrialization and standardized aesthetic forms. In
the final marriage of art and technology, of the artist/architect and technomodernization, the modern movement rejected a vernacular and colonial
past in its second phase, which is expressed in the Athens Charter.
This technocratic and formal approach of the modern movement experienced a deep crisis in the 195 Os, when the next generation took the dweller

environments of hut settlements on colonial ground into account in designing processes and models for urban planning. This crisis in high modernism
that carne about in the era of decolonization prompted me some years ago
to begin an investigation into the housing developments built under colonial
rule, mainly in Casablanca in the 1950s, on the outskirts of the French colonial city. The paradigm shift in the postwar years marked a great paradox,
as colonial modernity wasand isan articulation of the desire to plan a
society. As previously mentioned, colonial modernity also became a testing
ground for new discourses surrounding modernization and for the large
housing programs that were installed throughout Europe and its colonies
after the war to constitute a global consumer society and new export markets. As Frantz Fann argued,
In the early days of colonization, a single column could occupy immense
stretches of country: the Congo, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, and so on.
Today, however, the colonized countries' national struggle crops up in a
completely new international situation. After a phase of accumulation of
capital, capitalism has today come to modify its conception of the profitearning capacity of a commercial enterprise. The colonies have become
a market. The colonial population is a customer who is ready to buy
It was a shift in Europe's colonial modern politics at a moment when
decolonization was marching onward globally, and one that on another
level caused a rupture in the ability to plan. This was thrown into question
by a younger generation of architects in Europe who became interested
in the everyday, the popular, and the discovery of the ordinary. This shift
was celebrated by "as found" aesthetics, which encouraged a new relationship to the constructed environment as it is used and visually perceived
by photographs and anthropological studies.9
A result of this shift in perspective was the dispute at the ninth CIAM
meeting in Aix-en-Provence in the summer of 1953 where the team of young
architects that would form Team 10 presented new ideas on urbanism and
the function of architecture. This dispute was based on three visual urban
studies: the GAMMA (Groupe d'Architectes Modernes Marocains) grid,
generated by the Service de PUrbanisme from Casablanca (which included
the young Candilis, Vladimir Bodiansky, and Woods); a study of an Algerian
shantytown in the Mahieddine grid generated by Le Corbusier's office, main-

ly by the young Roland Simounet and others; and the Urban Re-Identification
grid by Alison and Peter Smithson, a study of the usage and meaning of the
street in East London's working-class and colonial-migrant district of
Bethnal Green.10 Mark Crinson has analyzed the latterusually described
as an avant-garde study of English working-class districtsas highly entangled with colonial modernization and the postwar, postcolonial crisis.11
Two of these contentious studies were investigations of the self-built
shantytowns that grew on the outskirts of the French colonial towns of
Casablanca and Algiers. But only two young architects from the GAMMA
group, Candilis and Woods, later leading Team 10 members, were already
able to present a completely planned and realized building that they had
constructed as an experimental high-rise structure for incoming Moroccan
workers alongside the shantytowns in Casablancathey had transferred
their analysis of hut settlements directly onto a modernist architectural project. In the framework of Casablanca's extensin plan, they built two experimental housing blocksthe cit verticalewhich synthesized their studies
of the reality of the bidonville with the modernist approach to planning. The
result was a design that integrated the bidonville's everyday vernacular
practices, local climatic conditions, and a modernist idea of educating people for a better future. On a formal level, the buildings can be seen as a type
of local traditional buildingthe patio housetranslated into a stacked
block of apartments.
All three studies resulted in discussions concerning how the ninth CIAM
meeting itself marked a worldwide shift in approaches to postwar modern
building due to its presentation of self-built environments as models for understanding the interrelation of public and the private spheres in relation to
a new concept called "habitat."12 Discussions stemming from the studies of
working-class districts and shantytowns led to a generational conflict that
marked the dissolution of CIAM as an international organization of the
modernist movement.13 The building model and shantytown study nevertheless had a lasting influence on a younger generation of architects, who witnessed modernism appearing to adapt to local climatic and "cultural" conditions and deviating slightly from its universalist path.14 And yet the basic
capacity for young architects to fully realize these studies in the shantytowns and a whole settlement was fundamentally bound to the circumstances of colonial occupation.
The new housing programs in Moroccoof which the cit verticale was
one among manywere an attempt by the protectorate to build modern

settlements for the colonized workforce.15 In Morocco and Algeria, these
programs were a response to the growing influx of migrants from the countryside into the colonial city after World War II, for whom the French protectorate built fenced settlements far from the colonial city centers. Within
these, Moroccan settlers began building informal huts, which were then
termed "bidonvilles" after the materials used to build them (the term literally means "tin-can cities"). The shantytowns that emerged from mis limited
access to the formal city centers became the subject of the Service de
TUrbanisme project implemented in the last decade of French rule in
Morocco and led by Michel Ecochard, the director of Casablanca's urbanplanning office.16
The strategy of the protectorate from the late 1940s onward was to build
enormous numbers of housing estates within the framework of a large-scale
extensin plan of the city, one of the largest planning operations of the
time for the new sub-proletarian workforce. The strategies of Service de
L'Urbanisme varied from the reordering of the bidonvilles (restructuration)
to temporary rehousing (relogemenf) and finally to the creation of new
housing estates (habitation loyer moder) based on the standard Ecochard
grid of small, quickly built single-floor patio houses.17 These low-rise
settlements were originally developed to contain and govern the growing
number of inhabitants living in the shantytowns and working under miserable conditions in the nearby phosphate faetones; as urban strategies they
were from the outset located in the tensin between the emancipatory aims
of improving inhabitants' everyday Uves and the search for appropriate
governing tools that complied with these intentions. In 1952 general strikes
and several protest demonstrations, mainly organized by anticolonial activists from the Garrieres Centrales shantytowns, were violently suppressed.
One thousand French troops, including Senegalese and other colonial soldiers, were brought into Casablanca for the "protection" of the city. Besides
the high presence of military forces, tanks, and machine guns, the local plice carried out its role of repressing and terrorizing the emerging independence movement. On the morning of December 16, 1952, 500 houses were
searched in a plice raid on Garrieres Centrales, during which many people
were killed. 18 Construction of the new housing plan actually continued in
the midst of all this military action with tanks and heavily armed troops, arrests, and killing. Though it must nave been virtually impossible not to recognize the conflict, the optimistic young French planners remained virtually
unmoved by the conditions surrounding their work.19


Moreover, many ambivalent altitudes emerged on the par of the colonial
rulers toward the existing territory and its inhabitants. While the Ecochard
plan applied notions of "culturally specific" dwelling, taking their interpretation of local practices as a point of departure in developing a variety of
dwelling typologies for different categories of inhabitants, these categories
were still confined to existing definitions of cultural and racial difference.
However, it was only under colonial rule that they were reinforced and converted to technologies of governance.20 While the new housing complexes of
Garrieres Centrales, El Hank, and Sidi Othman, among others, were divided
both racially and religiously into developments for Muslims, Jews, and
Europeans, the estates for Muslims were built farther away from the colonial European city center, on the edge of an empty intermedate zone known
as the zone sanitaire. This striking spatial segregation was a legacy of the
colonial apartheid regime in which Moroccans were forbidden to enter the
protectorate city unless they were employed as domestic servants in European households, and likewise constituted a strategic measure, facilitating
military operations against possible resistance struggles.21
The shared concepts and singular works of Team 10 have been widely
discussed and researched by architectural historians of late, as a young generation of architects searches for an adaptable modernist language that goes
beyond the recent elitism of star architecture. But many recent reevaluations
have been blind to the context and conditions with which the Team 10 ideas
were connected, mainly as studies on vernacular architecture and large-scale
New Town planning in French colonies. Moreover, many authors have
claimed that Team 10 architects in Morocco were the only ones to have considered the possibility of appropriating pre-built structures in their plans.
Looking at the floor plans, however, one merely finds the inclusin of a
balcony as a patio-like space and various ways of connecting mltiple apartments to a communal rea, concepts still based on a European conception of
a nuclear family and hardly an incorporation of the needs and ways of living
of the people for whom it was built. As such it represents a hybrid of the
Euro American colonial modernity and its "culturally specific" conceptions.
Moreover, for the young European architects, the hut settlements and bidonvilles were merely the spatial expression of a rural or culturally specific tradition of unplanned self-organization, a natural consequence of the disorganized structure of the new suburban situation that demanded their intervention
and principies of classificationit was inconceivable that shantytowns
might have existed only because the protectorate forbade people from par-

ticipating in the colonial city itself. Moreover, these self-built settlements
were the locus of the first encounters and negotiations with the modern city
for a number of people moving to the city from rural reas. Horia Serhane,
an urban theorist from Morocco, has stated that people in the hut settlements
learned about building practices in the medina city quarter, which was already a multiethnic town structure before the French occupied the country
(it was only subsequently "museumized" by French colonists).22 The concept of the medina house is that of a growing house, one that is built according to the needs and developments of a family or community. This strategy
was applied by newcomers in building their huts in the bidonvilles, which is
still the case today. Trise self-built houses not destroyed by bulldozers or
owned by slumlords mightand often dogrow into brick homes over
time, and into stable city districts. The urban fabric of many other southern
Mediterranean cities is filled with these "spontaneous" settlements, in addition to the hut settlements.
The specific urbanand already moderncharacter of the self-built
environment, which was a means of coping with modern city life (as well as
colonial subordination), was not taken into consideration by Western planners, and any sympathies they might have had for the liberation movement
have never been expressed in their writings. On the contrary, the architects
positioned themselves as representing the needs of the local people while
barring the same population from participating in their decision-making
processes. For them, learning from the inhabitants was a matter of adjusting
their planning and architecture according to ethnological findings. Their
concept of observing everyday dwelling related uncritically to already existing ethnological and anthropological studies and orientalist narratives of
African space. In the postwar era, vernacular practices of dwelling and building were reinterpreted as "essentially human" and simultaneously as "evolutionary," as a way to "become modern." In most of these practices any reflection on the colonial or postcolonial conditions in which they took place
was absent. Architectural theory had never fundamentally questioned these
relations, or characterized them as important motivesthe ethnographic
regime of colonialism that reemerged in the early debates of the postwar
modernists was merely confirmed. Simultaneously, the struggles of the anticolonial liberation movements had been negated and as a result also the
postcolonial subject as a subject of the modern project itself.
In the case of the architects of the GAMMA group, this blind spot is
striking. The construction of the cit verticale, for example, was paralleled

model in the 1950s: Fordism. This model held that the organization of labor
and the systematic redistribution of wealth to all social classes would engender entrance to mass consumption and thus to new lifestyles. Housing
was believed to play a pivotal role in this access to consumer society.
Further, both progressive modernization and the global colonial liberation struggles began to trigger movement: the migration from the south
to the north. But not only people moved from colonial territories to the
West. The specific approach to dwelling environments, which had emerged
in North frica, also migrated from the North African suburbs to the peripheries of European cities. Under the slogan "Building for the Greatest
Number," a large-scale planning initiative, plan million was introduced with
similar notions and social and urban technologies: the reordering of slum
settlements (restructuration), temporary rehousing (relogement), and finally
the creation of new housing estates (habitations loyer moder, or HLM),
grands ensembles. This massive planning initiative was mainly built in the
banlieuesthe outskirts of large cities like Paris, Marseille, and Lyon.
Often they were erected alongside migrants' hut settlements and with their
labor forc, but were planned for the French lower classes, to crate a new
consumer society.
Throughout France, and in several other European countries, the approaches of "building for the greatest number" were comprehensively applied affecting not only the dwelling environment of numerous people but

the result of colonial spatial politics and resonated on different levis with
interior and international migration as well as with conflicts inherent to colonial biopolitics and power structures. But it was only when the buildings
lost their symbolic role for this new modern consumer society that the
grand ensembles went through a social decline and transformed into conflict
zones. In 1961, the team of Candilis- Josic- Woods won the competition for
the new town Toulouse Le Mirail, a satellite city for 100,000 people, and
one of the most prestigious projects in France. Constructed from 1963 on,









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Colonial history thus returned home to the European metropolises.

















political groups from the French banlieues cali themselves Les Indignes










by demonstrations and violent protests in the specific sites where it was being built and by the ubiquitous presence of the military, arrests throughout
the city, and evictions and clearances of entire bidonvilles. The general strike
in December 1952, which was violently put down by the military, even originated from the Carrires Centrales bidonville that surrounded the building site
of the cit verticale. Though it must have been virtually impossible not to recognize the conflictual situation, the young French planners' optimism seemed
hardly disturbed by the surrounding conditions of their work.
In addition, while new concepts of postwar architectural modernism
strongly related to the everyday practices of population groups that had
become mobile, they were also used to reglate and control, employing the
planning instrument of an architecture for the "greatest number." Henee,
improvised dwelling practices (which, like migration itself, are a type of
survival strategy) were only transferred into new planning concepts for larger architectural and urban environments such as the Toulouse satellite city
Le Mirail, which Candilis, Josic, and Woods built after French decolonization. Not just one settlement, but a completely new town with social, communication, and traffic systems, Le Mirail was planned to such an extreme
that it was as if the experience of the anticolonial movement had left no
open questions for them and their role in society. To this day, architects and
architectural theorists have yet to fully question the colonial and postcolonial motives embedded within their own planning discourses. The ethnographic regime that emerged from the postwar modernists' early studies of
the vernacular, the self-built, and squatter movements in the colonies was
merely confirmed when the movement used an anthropological framework
as a device for architectural planning. Simultaneously and this is essentialthe struggles of the anticolonial liberad on movements have been
erased from that history, and as a result the postcolonial subject as the
subject of another modernity is still in the making.23
As housing and urban planning projects acquired a symbolic role in the
construction of a new society and modern way of living after World War II,
this laboratory of mass-housing developments cannot be seen as isolated
from the developments in Europe. Colonial modernization was not only directed at and against the colonized, but also played a major role within the
modernization projects in Europe 's metropolises. As Paul Rabinow pointed
out, "If there was a civilizing mission, its target was the French."24 The
resulting new housing estates both in Europe and in its struggling colonies
can also be considered as the spatial articulation of a new modernization

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Displaying the Absent

Marin von Osten

cial conditions in the banlieues as being the outcome of techniques of administration analogous to colonial rule; they also aim at the core of the
Janus-faced character of modernity, as the colonizedor as Jacques Rancire
has put it, the "uncounted" in generalrepresent the truc meaning of democracy by claiming their rights. Thus, with their critique, they go beyond
the conclusions of research on colonialism, which demonstrates that certain
techniques of rule are (post)colonial reimports. What they rather put on the
agenda is the tensin in modernity between the governance of people as
populations and their nomination as autonomous subjects, as citizens.
Displaying the Contact Zone
The objective of an inquiry into these modernist architecture projects
cannot be solely that of identifying the colonial roots of the emergence
of modernism on the African continent. Instead it needs to understand the
heterogeneity of colonialism and modernism as a constant flux of domination and resistance, sometimes located in simultaneity and dependency
on transnational migration of people, thoughts, and practices. The ambivalent
relation to a concrete place under colonial rule produces a space that can
be addressed as a contact zone, where the universal approach of modernism
clashes with everyday practices and turns into political questions. As a result of the common research, we were able to state that the promise of modernism was similarly attractive for the planners who worked for the protectorate as it was for the anticolonial movements. On the other hand, it was
exactly those vernacular spaces from which the architects wanted to learn
that became the origins of the resistance against the colonial regime. The
modernist mass-housing structures and their symbolic function as a governing forc might have even been primary in fomenting resistance against the
foreign rulers. The "laboratory of urbanism," as Casablanca was proclaimed
at the time by the French government, therefore was also a temporary and
conflicting space of negotiating modernity, where spaces of governing a
population were also spaces of resistance against this governance, and
where the promises of modernity were claimed and challenged in a rather
unexpected manner. Due to the anticolonial resistance, this laboratory did not
work under laboratory conditions anymore, as its objects of investigation
and planning turned into subjects of modernization in their own right and
under their own conditions.
Against this background, the "In the Desert of Modernity" exhibition's

task was to represent, on the one hand, the breakup of a whole visual, conceptual, and epistemological framework that we cali modernismon the
other it had to show the genealogy and insight that the acknowledgement of
the premodern through translation into modern forms to the recognition of
everyday practices as a basis for urban planning in the postwar era resonated strongly with both the colonial and the anticolonial project. Therefore,
the exhibition focused on the way in which transnational relations caused by
colonialism and the emerging liberation movements made people leave their
local backgrounds as well as architects leave their technocratic planning attitudes. In both colonial and postcolonial situations in which modernity arse
and transformed itself, it is above all the result of conflict-ridden and contradictory appropriations and reinterpretations. The tensions within the modern project have not been resolved because too little attention has been given to the roles played by the decisive actors in transforming modernity.
Thus, the curatorial concept tried to identify the different roles and functions assigned by architectural culture to "learning from" the everyday and
vernacular throughout the second part of the twentieth century and to question the relation of these methodologies to an ongoing will for a "democratization" of architecture.
Henee, the exhibition offered a shift of perspective because it did not
focus on the colonial conditions of modernity as based on traditional distinctions between civilized/uncivilized, ruler/powerless, specialist/layman,
but rather on the historical conjuncture of modernity and its internal critique. And the exhibition, including the publication, holds as well that the
modern cannot be reduced to a mdium of joyful emancipation, as was
often believed in the 1950s. Within the framework of colonial and anticolonial relations from which the modern emerged and transformed, it
appears above all as a matter of conflictual and contradictory negotiations.
It is a process in which the ideas of modernism are not only passively received, as it were, but move in different directions, circuate, and are renegotiated. Often these negotiations have been described as an affair that concerns exclusively artists, architects, planners, and reformers. Instead, the
exhibition concentrated on how architects and urban planners, as well as
inhabitants, were and still are in one way or another "displaced" for colonial
reasons. They have come to be situated outside their former social and geographical living conditions. This condition of displacement implies the
emergence of semantic, semiotic, and praxeological vacancies in the relation between physical and social space. It is these vacancies that make it


possible to question, refuse, or adaptfor negotiation. Henee, these vacancies open up the space for all involved actors to develop alternative and innovative dwelling practices and strategies to engage with modernity. The result is not a pal or imperfect versin of modernism, but something different
in which traditional and modern, od and new coexist uneasily in a state of
dynamic tensin. This concept of negotiation detaches itself critically from
those approaches, which regard modernism and modernization (even in a
colonial context) solely as impositions. The negotiations over colonial modernity have taken and are still taking place not only in the form of different
types of artistic expression, planning techniques, and development of modern housing, but are also the product of encounters between different actors,
architects, sociologists, and planners with (colonized) inhabitants, architects, sociologists, and planners with their equally modernizing modes
of practicing and appropriating.
Conceiving colonial territories as a laboratory of modernism therefore
means reflecting upon this ambivalence within modernism. Relationships
are not to be seen as asymmetrical power relations between two unchanging
parties. The inherent emancipatory potential has also enabled anticolonial
liberation movements to constitute themselves successfully in their struggle
against the colonial powers in the postwar period. In actual fact, in response
to the global liberation movements, the critics of imperial Europe started to
write a different modernismnamely, one that exists outside the realms of
dominance, control, and discipline.
The exhibition concept was developed along these lines of conflict between colonial modernity and migration as well as based on encounters and
contacts we were able to grasp through the investigations that formed part
of our empirical research.
But in order to grasp transnational entanglements, it is crucial to focus
on the concrete personal contacts and crossroads of artistic and intellectual
positions. Therefore, we decided for the concept of the "contact zone" to
serve as the exhibition's underlying methodology, in which the confrontation with postwar modernity challenges the composure of our postcolonial
present. The concept of the contact zone was introduced by anthropologist
James Clifford, who takes travel and translations as openings into a complex modernity. Clifford's perspective opens up a view on the histories of
an entangled modernity, which starts as an unfinished series of paths and
negotiations leading in many directions yet returning to the struggles of encountera burden, which is simultaneously an artand the tasks of trans-

lation.25 Here the project focused as well on cracks in the colonial modern,
and the resistance both against and within it, as critics of imperial Europe
started to write their own modernity and modernisms in response to the
global liberation movements in the postwar era.26 Emphasizing these lines
of connection and conflicts was important for the show's concept, not just
because they have been overlooked by historiography and its colonial archives, but also because they point to commonalities and to a postcolonial
future, which began then and which is still unfinished and rife with conflict
right through to the present day.27 Negotiations that continu to take place
in the form of different types of aesthetic expression, planning techniques,
and development of modern housing are also the product of physical and/or
mediated encounters between different actors, as in the case of the utopian
projects of modernist Western architects and planners with non-Western
politicians, inhabitants, artists, and activists.
The challenge was to find a way of visualizing encounters, conflicts,
and translations, which cannot be read in an image or object. Moreover, we
agreed that this visualization should draw links between modernism and
colonialism in which both concepts are intrinsic to and for each other, and
that the exhibition should be able to show that decolonization created a
rupture in the certainties of the colonial modern. Yet the curatorial task
was embedded in an epistemological paradox. As the art historian Kobena
Mercer has pointed out,
Modernism, one might say, was always multiculturalit is simply our
consciousness of it that has changed. Each of the ruptures inaugurated in
European modernism circa 1910 made contact with a global system of
transnational flows and exchangesfrom Malevich's conception of
monochrome painting, shaped by his reading of Vedic philosophy and
Indian mysticism, to Duchamp's readymades, which mirrored the decontextualised mobility of tribal artefacts. Modernist primitivism may be the
generic paradigm in which these (unequal) exchanges are most visible,
but a broader understanding of cross-culturality as a consequence of
modern globalisation also entails the necessity to question the optical
model of visuality that determines how cultural differences are rendered
legible as "readable" objects of study.28
Readability and the optical model of visuality as expressed in this quote
are the classical tools of curatorial work, even when trying to bring trans-

culturality into the public realm by displaying an entangled modernity or
transcultural modernisms. This paradox emerges when trying to grasp transcultural and transnational relations and conflictual encounters of the colonial modern, as encounters, conflicts, and negotiations cannot easily be
extracted from an image or an object itself. The postcolonial critique will
bring the relational, transcultural, multi-perspective, and multi-actor
thinking into play to stress the limits of the readability of images and objects themselves. Moreover, an iconographic concept of the hybridization
of forms is also accompanied with an ideological position of the reader.
In the research process I shared with Tom Avermaete and Serhat
Karakayaliand supported by Wafae Belarbi, Elsa de Seynes, and Daniel
Weissfive concepts were highlighted in order to focus and structure the
empirical research. First, there is the transnational character of architecture;
second, the anthropological turn; third, the autonomy of migration; fourth,
contact zones; and finally, these research topics were translated into eleven
clusters for the exhibition dramaturgy. Here, visitors moved through
the sections "Colonial Planning," "Atelier Afrique," "Cites d'urgences,"
"Transnational Anticolonialism," "Bidonvilles," "Learning from...,"
"Transformation," "From 'Machine for Living' to Habitat," "Opration
Million," "Housing Struggles," and "Travelling Architects." In this last
section, sexualized and orientalized accounts in Le Corbusier's paintings
and drawings provided a marked contrast to paintings by Chaba, a famous
autodidactic Moroccan painter and associated member of the CoBrA group
in the 1950s.29 In the section entitled "Housing Struggles," posters of migrants' actions for decent housing were displayed next to the planners'
mass-housing projects. Architectural models, illustrations, and plans by
Candilis, cochard, and the Smithsons captured the visions and concepts of
modernist utopias and their revisions. Rarely seen film footage of colonial
events and developments contrasted with posters and pamphlets from the
Tricontinental movement and interviews with activists from the former bidonvilles in Nanterre and Saint-Denis or inhabitants of the colonial housing
programs in Casablanca. The exhibition traced histories of inhabitants, architects, colonialists, and scholars involved in the projects of modernism.
Works of art by Kader Attia, Hassan Darsi, and Labor k3000 highlighted
contemporary trajectories of these historical developments. Photographs by
Monique Hervo, Lo'k Prat, Robert Doisneau, and Willy Ronis represented
the different aesthetic approaches to the postcolonial situation and its political Struggles in the 195 Os and 1960s. The exhibition presented a selection

)f public statements and Communications from artistic and political perspectives, which were made and circulated during the period of decolonialization in North frica and Europe. It also vividly displayed the events,
jrojects, activities, and visions that playedand continu to playsuch an
important role.
But rather than following a chronological structure or a causal chain
jf reasoning, the eleven clusters established connections between diverse
exhibition pieces and, in each instance, pursued just one line of argument.
fhis concept expresses the desire to empower the audience to interpret
in a way that a didactically designed exhibition would not want to concede:
the power for the audience to discover for themselves the relations and
antagonisms that the exhibition sets in motion. The exhibition was designed
in such a way that it was neither possible to critically receive it as one consistent linear narrative or through one rigorous argument. Instead, we
iecided to conceptualize the exhibition in terms of a polycentric narrative
/here diverse actors, practitioners, and cultures of knowledge enter into
. dialogue that, in turn, initially crales rather than displays the exhibition.
although the relations, links, and crosscurrents generated by this "comjosition" were verifiable, in itself the approach was referencing and informed by Mikhail Bakhtin's concept of chronotopy or Walter Mignolo's
morder thinking.30 In this way, we attempted to collect in a single space all
those asymmetries in power relations and asynchronicities in place and time
iat seemingly defined the crisis of modernity in this specific case.
Nevertheless, the fragmentary nature of the material displayed in the exlibition was problematic, rendering it impossible to reconstruct a complete
jicture. Archives withheld materials that had been selected by the protectorate.
laterials of the anticolonial movements were erased or nonexistent. It was
snly possible to gain further insights into the turbulence of the anticolonial
Struggles via Internet postings by inhabitants or activists. The exhibition
iisplay by Jesko Fezer, Andreas Mller, and Anna Voswinckel reflected the
sketchy, incomplete character of the material basis for our thesis. For each
sxhibition object or document, one small steel rack was built, which deterlined the spatial dramaturgy: it could only stand if it was connected to
inother exhibit and steel rack, leaned against a wall, or if an auxiliary construction was applied to it. Each document, photograph, or projection wall
was dependent upon the other, the space, and the context. The empty rear
sides of the steel racks refer to the gaps in the archives and the narration of
contact zones.



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thus could be read as an exhibit too. If visitors wanted to read the text panels, they had to take up a particular position in the room. Such an approach
also meant that the audience had to respond to the dissemination of knowledge. This kind of active relationship to the act of reading, together with
the montage of images, films, documents, and objects, facilitated the perception of the exhibition in space and encouraged associated references
or connections that were simply impossible to express within the eleven
sections mentioned above.
However, even though the exhibition in Berlin remained popular with
visitors and attracted a great deal of press attention, the encounters and
interactions in the proper sense, or the much-cited contact zones, in reality
only occurred on the margins. Consequently, the "Colonial Modern" conference was the most likely place for such encounters to occur. These fundamental encounters only took on a broader scope when, under rather difficult
conditions, the project was taken to Casablanca. After the exhibition had
finished, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt did not avail itself of the funds to
continue curating the project as a touring exhibition. In spite of this,
Avermaete, Mller, Voswinckel, and I stubbornly clung to the idea of taking
the exhibition to Casablanca, since the question of why we had exclusively
shown the project in Berlin definitely remained one of the biggest paradoxes. Admittedly, we took the curatorial decisin to work with groups such as
Kanak Attak, Remember Resistance, and An Architektur for the broader
program, as they had already worked on some of the project themes locally,
and we adapted the film program by Madeleine Bernstorff and Brigitta
Kuster to reflect local interest. Yet despite this, there was still the open
question of why this project had not been relocated within the context that
provided the mpetus for the lion's share of its research, ideas, and central
research partners. That question appeared even more pertinent given that we
had such a network of contacts in Morocco and the project itself only existed through these and other cooperative ventures. Similarly, it was only possible to exhibit and publish our experience and research as a book because
we had the funds and the opportunity to travel.
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Displaying the Absent

Marin von Osten


"In the Desert of Modernity: Colonial Planning and After." Les Abattoirs de Casablanca, 2009.

Elsa de Seynes, Spillmann, Voswinckel, and me, set up the exhibition in

Casablanca together with helpers on the ground and Tarik Bouali and Aadel
Essaadani, the program and technical coordinators of the center. But in a
stratified society like Morocco, many more of the workers who helped us
set up did not share a middle-class background. Some were day laborers,
others were permanently employed by the city administration but worked as
a mobile work forc, and still others supervised the cultural center as security guards. But the reality of a temporary synchronization in the everyday
work of setting up the exhibition opened up a space for quite different kinds
of encounters from the ones we had taken as the exhibition's central theme.
Moreover, since some of the quarter's residents had established a mosque in
a parallel building, a number of visitors turned up while we were setting up
the exhibition. When we provisionally began placing photos and documents
in the exhibition space in the second week, older men carne over and started
explaining to the young people nearby what was going to be shown there,
elucidating the incidents in the independence struggle, finding documents
about the events around the general strike in 1952, and before-and-after

photos of the sites where their houses and flats stood. There was a continuous stream of visitors even before the exhibition opened. Some of them
translated documents for us from Arabic into French and suddenly, within
this context, even my poor French was no longer an obstacle: the communication simply took place without really mastering the colonial language.
During setup, the equipe on site also initiated a photo shoot on mobile
phones, which soon inspired all of us. Performative photo shoots were made
by the workers who integrated themselves physically into the images of
European generis or architects standing around plans laid out on tables
they took each other's photo as if they had been part of the scene. The main
players of this performance were the security guards Tarik Aalamou and
Abdellah Hamed. Moreover, Hamed later not only carne to keep an eye
on the exhibition but also began guiding visitors through it, explaining and
commenting on it. This appropriation of the exhibition overame the paradox of the representativo, readable, and optical side of visibility. It opened
up the opportunity for a dialogue, which was no longer one-dimensionally
mediated by researchers to an audience, even if it was such a local one.
Instead, experts and cultures of knowledge quite different than architects,
artists, exhibition organizers, or institutional representatives were creating
this dialoguenamely, the residents of the Hay Mohammadi district



See Max Risselada and Dirk

van den Heuvel, eds., Team 10
1953-1981: In Search of a
Utopia ofthe Present
(Rotterdam: NAi Publishers,
2005); and Tom Avermaete,
Another Modern: The Poswar
Architecture and Urbanism of

The research for the exhibitions

and publication lasted from
2005-10. It was generated by a
core research team-including
Tom Avermaete, Serhat
Karakayali, and Marin von
Osenin collaboration with
the cultural initiative An
Architektur (Berln), Wafae
Belarbi from l'cole Nationale
d'Architecture (Rabat),
Casammoire (Casablanca),
Center for Post-Colonial
Knowledge and Culture
(Berln), Remember Resistance
(Berln), and Daniel Weiss from
the gta Archive (Zurich), as wel
as students at the Academie der
bildenden Knste in Vienna, the
faculty of architecture at the
Delft University of Technology,
and l'cole Suprieure d'Architecture de Casablanca. The show
was curated by von Osten
together with Avermaete and
Karakayli and the project assistant Elsa de Seynes. The exhibition design was generated by
Jesko Fezer, Andreas Mller,
and Anna Voswinckel.

Cario at the 9th Miln Triennial

(1951), "This Is Tomorrow" at
the Whitechapel Art Gallery in
London (1956), or in the famous
show "Architecture Without
Architects," which Bernard
Rudofsky curated at the
Museum of Modern Art in New
York (1964). Theoretical writings soon followed, as is illustrated by the influential book
The Matrix of Man, which Sibyl
Moholy-Nagy published in
1968. Trajectories of these
aspects can be found as well in
tourist developments in the
Mediterranean, which integrated
local styles and building traditions into their overall modern




In August 1931 Le Corbusier

traveed with his cousin Pierre

For the conception of time and

modernity see Fredric Jameson,
A Singular Modernity: Essay on
the Ontology ofthe Present
(London: Verso, 2002); and
Peter Osborne, The Politics of
Time: Modernity and AvantGarde (London: Verso, 1995).
For the concept of pureness see
Mark Wigley, White Walls,
Designer Dresses: The
Fashioning of Modern
Architecture (Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press, 1995).

See Jean-Louis Cohn, "Le

Corbusier, Perret et les figures
d'un Alger moderne," in Alger:
Paysage urbain et architectures,
1800-2000, eds. Jean-Louis
Cohn, Youcef Kanoun, and
Nabila Oulebsir (Paris: Les
ditions de l'Imprimeur, 2003),

Tom Avermaete, Serhat

Karakayali, and Marin von
Osten, eds., Colonial Modern:
Aesthetics ofthe Past,
Rebellions for the Future
(London: Black Dog Publishing,

Candilis-Josic- Woods
(Rotterdam: NAi Publishers,

participatory planning strategies

and the squatter movement in
the 1960s. In my opinin, these
outcomes can be regarded as postmodern methodological critiques
of technocratic modernism, as
well as a reaction to the worldwide collapse of the colonial
empires. See Jonathan Hughes
and Simn Sadler, eds., Non-Plan:
Essays on Freedom, Participation
and Change in Modern Architecture and Urbanism (Oxford:
Architectural Press, 2000).
15 See Serhat Karakayali, "Colonialism and the Critique of
Modernity," in Avermaete et al.,
Colonial Modern, 38^9.

17 Mogniss H. Abdallah's article

on the struggle against transit
housing in Paris shows that
similar relocation technologies
have been used to govern the
migratory societies in France.
See Mogniss H. Abdallah/
Agence IM'media, "The Transit
Housing Estates' Struggle: Stop

16 See Monique Eleb, "An Alter native Functionalist Universalism:

cochard, Candilis and ATBATAfrique," in Anxious Modernisms: Experimentation in
Postwar Architectural Culture,
eds. Sarah Williams Goldhagen
and Rjean Legault (Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press, 2000), 55-74.

14 George Candilis and Shadrach

Woods's studies ofthe bidonvilles in Casablanca as well as
John Turner's investigations of
self-built housing in the shantytowns of Per some years later
influenced a generation of"nonplan" architects as well as

Displaying the Absent

13 See Mustafa Baghdadi, "Changing

Ideis in Architecture: From
CIAM to Team X," in Architectural
Knowledge and Cultural
Diversity, ed. William O'Reilly
(Lausanne: Comportements,
1999), 165-67; Risselada et al.,
Team 10 1953-1981; and http:// 1

Marin von Osten


See Edward W. Said, Culture

and Imperialism (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1993); and
Paul Overy, "White Walls,
White Skins: Cosmopolitanism
and Colonialism in Inter-war
Modernist Architecture," in
Cosmopolitan Modernisms, ed.
Kobena Mercer (Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press, 2005), 50-67.

Jeanneret for the first time into

the M'Zab valley. In his sketchbook "Espagne Route 3Ib," he
noted, "Voyage Espagne //
Maroc // Algrie // Territoires du
Sud // aot 1931 // avec Pierre //
dans la voiture Voisin."
Sketchbook B7, sketch no. 413,
in Le Corbusier Sketchbooks,
vol. 1 (Cambridge, MA: MIT
Press, 1981). As early as
December 1933 Le Corbusier
presented his first proposal of
the Plan Obs A. See Mary
McLeod, "Le Corbusier and
Algier," in Oppositions Reader:
Selected Readings from a
Journal for Ideas and Criticism
in Architecture 1973-1984, ed.
K. Michael Hays (New York:
Princeton Architectural Press,
1998), 489-519.


Frantz Fann, The Wretched

ofthe Earth, trans. Constance
Farrington (New York: Grove
Press, 1965), 65.

the Permanently Provisional!,"

in Avermaete et al., Colonial
Modern, 116-29.
18 As documented in the special
issue ofthe magazine Marrakech
in Pictures, "Interests of Full
Independence: Struggle,
Perseverance, and Sacrifice,"
published in 1953 by the
Delegation ofthe Independence
and Consultation Party in the
East: Committee for the
Independence of Morocco.

See Karakayali, "Colonialism

and the Critique of Modernity."

19 See Georges Candilis, Batir la

vie: Un architecte tmoln de son
temps (Paris: Stock, 1977).

21 See Janet Abu-Lughod, Rabat:

Urban Apartheid in Morocco
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1980); and
Zeynep Celik, Urban Forms and
Colonial Confrontations:
Algiers Under French Rule
(Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1997).

See the interview with Horia

Serhane in Avermaete et al.,
Colonial Modern, 206-9.


See, for example, Claude

Lichtenstein and Thomas
Schregenberger, eds., As Found:
The Discovery ofthe Ordinary
(Badn: Lars Mller Publishers,
2001); and Felicity D. Scott,
Architecture or Techno-Utopia:
Politics after Modernism
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,

10 Coln Ward comments on the

mass observations and
increasing numbers of sociological and anthropological studies
at Bethnal Green in postwar
Britain, that the social scientists
got stuck in their fixation to
describe the disappearance of
the working-class way of life
and could not acknowledge
that the quarter itself had been
a testing ground for social
housing since its very emergence. See Coln Ward,
"Bethnal Green: A Museum of
Housing, 1963," in Housing: An
Anarchist Approach (London:
Freedom Press, 1976).

See Mark Crinson, "From the

Rainforest to the Streets," in
Avermaete et al., Colonial
Modern, 98-111.

12 Genealogies of this debate are to

be found in the influential exhibitions "Mostra di architettura
spontanea" by Giancarlo de

23 See Okwui Enwezor, ed., The

Short Century: Independence
and Liberation Movements in
frica, 945-1994 (Munich:
Prestel, 2001).
24 Paul Rabinow, French Modern:
Norms and Forms of the Social
Environment (Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press, 1989), 286.
25 See James Clifford, Rales:
Travel and Translation in the
Late Tweneth Century
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
26 See Enwezor, The Short Century.

See Arjun Appadurai, Modernity

at Large: Cultural Dimensions
of Globalization (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press,
28 Kobena Mercer, "Art History
after Globalisation: Formations
ofthe Colonial Modern," in
Avermaete et al., Colonial
Modern, 236.
29 CoBrA was formed by Karel
Appel, Constan! Corneille,
Christian Dotremont, Asger
Jorn, and Joseph Noiret in 1948
in Paris. The group shared an
interest in Art Informel, Abstract
Expressionism, and Marxism.



See Mikhail M. Bakhtin, The

Dialogic Imagination: Four
Essays, ed. Michael Holquist,
trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael
Holquist (Austin: University of
Texas Press, 1981); and Walter
D. Mignolo, Local Histories/
Global Designs: Coloniality,
Subaltern Knowledges, and
Border Thinking (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 2000).

Cultures ofthe Curatorial assumes a curatorial turn in contemporary

cultural practice and discourse. Encompassing an rea of knowledge
concerning the conditions and relations of the appearance of art and
culture, the curatorial has developed as a field of overlapping and intertwining activities, tasks, and roles that were formerly divided and more
clearly attributed to different professions, institutions, and disciplines.
This development has affected the notion of curatingprincipally an
activity of putting togetherand widened its scope beyond showing
or presenting to include enabling, making public, educating, analyzing,
criticizing, theorizing, editing, and staging. Embedded in the globalization ofthe art field, on the one hand, and the conditions of labor
in the twenty-first century, on the other, the curatorial has also gained
a specific sociopolitical relevance within contemporary society.
Cultures ofthe Curatorial aims to map the scope of perspectives
from which this field of knowledge can be discussed. Corning from
a variety of disciplines and professional backgrounds, the contributors
exemplify the entanglement of theory and practice, consider recent
developments within the curatorial field, allow self-reflexive analysis,
and explore the conditionsdisciplinary, institutional, economic,
political, and regionalunder which art and culture become public.
Contributors: Beatrice von Bismarck, Gabriele Brandtstetter, Helmut
Draxler, Liam Gillick, Dorothea von Hantelmann, Hannah Hurtzig,
Pirkko Husemann, Mara Lind, Marin von Osten, Raqs Media Collective,
Dorothee Richter, Irit Rogoff, Jrn Schafaff, Avinoam Shalem, Simn
Sheikh, Barbara Steiner, Nora Sternfeld, Hito Steyerl, Antn Vidokle,
Eyal Weizman, Thomas Weski, Tirdad Zolghadr

Sternberg Press

ISBN 978-1-934105-97-9