Tools change tool users. As machines got faster, smaller, and cheaper, Recursive Urbanism used an old tool, the street, to observe how digital tools change us. With its embedded histories, traditions, and myths, Recursive Urbanism worked the street as a “smithy-stage” to deal with “the digitization of everything.” As three-dimensional culture descended into two-dimensional digital apparel Recursive Urbanism grabbed the street to activate and sustain civic reflexivity. It explored new creative spaces – epistemic niches – as accessories into existing communities. It showed how in an era of quickening and fragmentation these insertions might offer a foothold, an anchor to meet the task we face: The Unravelling of the Social Contract.
The street has always been the place to get the read on where we’re going. Much of what and who we are emerged on the street. As the data cloud descends, we need the street. We need it to seed myth. Need it for tricksters to prick at information plutocracies and poke at that digitization of all. Epistemological leaps don’t come easy. They’re messy.
Recursive Urbanism is the result of a twenty-five-year hybrid design and litigation praxis. The fusion was built in the street and in the courtroom. Paul Guzzardo’s design tactics include nightclubs, outdoor projections, street-front media labs, street theatre, remix concerts, gallery installations, documentary film and webinars. The attempt to occupy / use the street as a storyboard to probe “altered digital states” provoked a run of lawsuits. “Bleak House” like litigation documents describe the hurdles that cuffed delivery of a recursive street protocol. As a synoptic design tool and as a litigation hammer, Recursive Urbanism has been detailed in a line of academic publications, and installations.
One Case in Point: “A Walk on the Digital Sublime” United Kingdom 2012 Exhibitions demonstrated two “recursive urbanism” protocols. The protocols are oppositional. One protocol uses the street as an evolving search engine, a tableau you drift through, synthesizing as you move. The other recipe uses the street as a beautiful girl or guy uses a conversation; they keep turning the conversation back on themselves.