Stadtstaat. A Scenario for Merging Cities

A Project by Metahaven
26 September–15 November 2009
Opening: Friday 25 September, 17.00-20.00
Symposium ‘Networked Cities: Governance, Trust, Design’
Sunday 15 November 2009, 13.00-18.00
‘Stadtstaat. A Scenario for Merging Cities’ is a project by Metahaven in two episodes, co-produced and presented by Casco and Ku?nstlerhaus Stuttgart. Following episode 1 on view until 12 September at Ku?nstlerhaus Stuttgart, the opening of episode 2 takes place on 25 September at Casco where the story of ‘Stadtstaat’ evolves.

Metahaven is a design studio that explores the ruptures in the fields of design, research and geopolitics. They operate with strategies of fiction and allegory to revise and mobilize the role of corporate identity and aesthetics in projections of political and economic power. They stage their speculative inquiries in highly visual and conceptually dense assemblages, which can take shape on the printed page, as a client brief, in ephemera like stamps, brochures and posters or take on the form of exhibitions, lectures and debates. Metahaven consists of Daniel van der Velden, Vinca Kruk, and Gon Zifroni. Much of their work, since their founding in 2004, is gathered in the forthcoming book ‘Uncorporate Identity’, which also features a host of contextual and allusive texts by architects, novelists and political scientists.

‘Stadtstaat. A Scenario for Merging Cities’ projects a mise-en-scene of an urban experiment, not city twinning but city merging. Going beyond the conjectural scenarios of place-branding that have inflected their recent work, Metahaven invents models for a regional ‘city-state.’ With a programmatic reflection on the homogeneity that might befall European ‘unification,’ we are invited to imagine a policy decision by two mid-level Northern European cities that bid to weather the economic downturn and enhance their networking capacities by becoming one – Utrecht and Stuttgart. With a nod to the EU’s primary purpose as a trading bloc, these two enterprising cities try to become more competitive by joining forces, and pursuing the dream of unlimited network power. Departing from Metahaven’s forays into encryption and the space-structuring effects of new information technologies, ‘Stadtstaat’ is managed via an information architecture called ‘Trust,’ a social networking platform that governs through participation.

‘Stadtstaat. A Scenario for Merging Cities’ generates forms that render the role of design in a managed and technocratic European reality more tangible and debatable. The graphic surface becomes a platform that turns communication into political interaction. This is done through the production and distribution of ephemera like letterheads, models, tapes and posters as well as ‘tag clouds’ and ‘chats’, which embody the emerging communal netspace of the formerly distinct cities.

‘Stadtstaat. A Scenario for Merging Cities’ is supported by Mondriaan Foundation, Gemeente Utrecht and Utrecht Consortium/Sia Raak.

On the 15th of November, the last day of ‘Stadtstaat’, a public forum is being organised under the title of ‘Networked Cities: Governance, Trust, Design’. International thinkers and practitioners will participate in this symposium in order to discuss the issue of urban governance and politics in the light of network power and the thrust of participation. Speakers include: Pier Vittorio Aureli, architect and author of the book ‘The Project of Autonomy’, Rotterdam; Theo Deutinger, architect and infographic designer, Rotterdam; Matthias Görlich, designer, researcher and coinitiator of the ‘Civic City’ programme, Zurich; Ingo Niermann, writer and editor of the Solution series (Sternberg Press), Berlin; Marina Vishmidt, critic and co-editor of ‘Uncorporate Identity’, London; and Metahaven.

11 November 2009, 18.00-20.00: Public presentation of proposal for HKU new identity. In the light of ‘Stadtstaat’ and under the guidance of Casco, a group of students from the Creative Lab of Utrecht School of Art (HKU) teams up and develops a proposal throughout an entire semester for a HKU new identity. The public presentation of the proposal takes place on 11 November 2009.

September–October 2009: Workshops with MaHKU
Metahaven is invited to have a series of workshops with the students from the Utrecht Graduate School of Visual Art and Design in Utrecht (MaHKU) around the methods and issues in the ‘Stadtstaat’. The workshops are developed in the framework of Utrecht Consortium, a collaboration amongst several Utrecht-based contemporary art institutions and MaHKU.

5–20 September 2009 ‘Grammar of the World-Based on Operational Play’
At this moment, Casco presents an exhibition of artist Hwayeon Nam. The exhibition evolved from the collaborative performance ‘Operational Play’ which took place in public areas of both Seoul and Utrecht. Participants in the performance had been asked to give their interpretation of a military operation while wearing a simple mask. The documentations of these group performances show different forms of group interaction and individualities against urban surroundings.

12-13 September 2009 ‘Utrecht Uitfeest’
Casco participates in the ‘Utrecht Uitfeest’, the yearly opening festival of the cultural season within the city of Utrecht.

2-4 October 2009 ‘NY Art Book Fair’
Casco will be present at the NY Art Book Fair. This fair hosts over 200 international presses, booksellers, antiquarian dealers, and independent artist/publishers presenting a diverse range of the best in contemporary art publications.

4-11 October 2009 ‘User’s Manual: The Grand Domestic Revolution’ Casco will host the opening week of this one-year-long group project which deals with the evolutionary process of exploring and constructing a social space in the domestic realm. This project is developed by Casco, in the framework of Utrecht Manifest, a biennial for social design.

Casco Office for Art, Design and Theory, established in 1990 in Utrecht, is committed to the production and presentation of interdisciplinary projects and participatory activities initiated with artists and designers. Its primary focus is on the areas where art, design and theory intersect to form critical, imaginative and collaborative inquiries into our social and physical environment.

For further information about ‘Stadtstaat. A Scenario for Merging Cities’, the symposium of 15 November 2009 and other projects by Casco, you can check our website and/or contact Jaring Du?rst Britt (e-mail:, telephone: +31 (0)30 231 9995).