2021/22 is all about speculations about a future life in the city. WHAT IF? is a year-long experimental arrangement for fabulated, drawn, filmed, constructed stories, and prototypes of yet unknown models of cities and life within them. We speculate on what it might be like if everything were different, first through abstract exploration in the studio, then ‘activistically’ in the Portuguese city of Gaia, and finally back in Linz; 1:1 in the real space of the city. WHAT IF? is a call to actively shape democratic urban principles, doing so for everyone. In other words, it is an exploratory approach to a potential city beyond conventional planning patterns. WHAT IF? opens up artistic spaces for feminist utopias, unexplored politics, radical ecologies, and sustainable practices that do not yet exist. What would a city be beyond global capitalism? What if the city were green, and car- and consumption-free? Or what if Linz had a feminist city government and you were suddenly mayor of it? The "WHAT IF?" is followed by the questions "HOW?", "WHO?" and "FOR WHOM?". How will future stories be told, filmed, drawn or mapped? How do you convey content that is so profound it doesn't fit into any scheme? Who are the characters of the speculations? WHAT IF? uses the means of scenography and setting as well as all conceivable artistic formats.
The venues will be concrete urban places in Linz and Gaia. WHAT IF? refers to the prototype of all urban squares: the agora; the most important institution of the ancient Greek polis, and - if one disregards the patriarchal structure - a convincing model even today with its clever small square architecture. Agoras were institutional places for forming community and democracy. Today's squares are either frighteningly empty (horror vacui) or cluttered (omnichannel design), and mostly consumerist. Public places for the exchange of opinions and social interaction, on the other hand, have become rare. The retreat into the private sphere dominates, and opinions are expressed more in social networks than from person to person. Talking to each other is disappearing (Marlene Streeruwitz), urban friction is undesirable (Richard Sennett) and active action (Hannah Arendt) is being replaced by conformist behavior. The pandemic has intensified all of this. Digital apprenticeship, home office and over-regulated public spaces are still having an effect or are just becoming topical again. WHAT IF? wants to counteract the retreat into the private sphere and the generic, emptied and consumption-oriented places of a pseudo-public, new urban places where important future issues of the city are negotiated, social models are tested and new rituals are celebrated, agoras of the 21st century.