The present financial crisis is challenging many cities with major problems that they can no longer solve with the help of conventional planning methods. Such times of crisis raise urban development’s appreciation for civic self-initiative. The platform We-Traders. Swapping Crisis for City aims to take advantage of this by presenting and networking innovative initiatives in Madrid, Lisbon, Toulouse, Turin and Berlin and creating opportunities for mutual learning. In 2015 initiatives from Brussels will join the We-Traders network and share their experiences.
Together with the curators Angelika Fitz and Rose Epple, five co-curators and many planners, activists and academics on location, the Goethe-Institut has drawn up a scheme that takes the principle of participation seriously and makes it graspable for a broad public. All of the We-Traders formats are characterized by swapping the roles of consumer and producer, buyer and seller, teacher and student. The underlying conviction is that crisis calls not for new heroes, but for new team-mates. In order to establish a dialogue it is more important to ask the right questions than to call for patent remedies.
The We-Traders exhibition – or better marketplace – is an intercultural place where people can exchange knowledge and experiences. Topics are conveyed in a playful rather than dry academic way and tie directly into the lives of city dwellers. Facts only become crucial when they are relevant, when they affect people s everyday lives. What are the differences and what are the commonalities between each of the cities and initiatives? What can we learn from and pass on to one another in shaping them? Answers to these questions can help us to reconquer fields of action in the crisis and to turn a new vision of the city, the market and Europe into actions.
Susanne Höhn — Project director, Goethe-Institut Brussels