Very Normal, Very Normal – On utopia of urban rights explores the potential for utopian visions of the future for Sarajevo. We put the question of what Sarajevo could become in the future, and how it might look, to 13 individuals from whom we expected strong indications or challenging suggestions if nothing else. Instead, after many hours of lively discussions, we came to realise that the scope of a “utopian” projection today resembles that which was once considered normal. Normality itself has become a utopia.
To understand what normality in a city like Sarajevo might entail, we compared the European Urban Charter I and II, based on an unobjectionable, wonderful idea of a city for everyone and every day, with the reality of the city. According to the Council of Europe, these documents, the first drafted in 1992 and its important revision from 2008, detail what the urban environment should provide for the European citizen. Nothing utopian – but, at first glance, rather an attainable state of utter normality.
Confronting the points outlined in the Charter with the viewpoints and opinions of 13 thinkers, writers, designers, cultural producers and critics we spoke with in Sarajevo – about what the ideal city of the future should be – the normative character of this document quickly becomes subverted. Fragments of the conversations about Sarajevo – a city so burdened by the past that it barely consciously lives in the present moment – arranged by the points of the Charter, indicate the elusive and utopian character of its actually very normal standards. The absurdity of the expected rights to the city in the context of Sarajevo, combined with the aspirations of our interviewees towards devising normalcy, provided a framework for a search for utopia today.
The publication Very Normal, Very Normal leads us through doubts, dilemmas, flashes of utopia, pessimism, occasional optimism, motivations, and a couple of brilliant ideas about today’s Sarajevo and its possible future. The accompanying Pickpad poster takes us to the year 2023: the time in which there is no more transition, a time of retro-utopia and black humour, a time in which this city has finally landed in the hands of its citizens.
Very Normal, Very Normal is the fourth part of the Cities Log research series, initiated by STEALTH.unlimited and investigating the contemporary development of cities in the region of post-Yugoslavia and Albania. The first edition of the Cities Log was made on the occasion of the 4th Tirana International Contemporary Arts Biannual (2009). The second edition, A(u)ction – Novi Sad’s Log of Spaces Between Personal Interests and Public Needs (2010), was made with Center_kuda.org and collaborators from Novi Sad. The third edition, What Pazar has in common(s)? (2012), resulted from a collaboration with Emil Jurcan (Pulska Grupa) and the civil society organisation Urban In from Novi Pazar, within the framework of the project INtoOUTREACH. Nearly 75 conversation partners have contributed to the formation of the Cities Log so far. The Cities Log was initiated through the project Individual Utopia Now and Then.
This publication is available at ERSTE Foundation Library.