Collective equipments of power: The road and the city

Brott, Simone (2012) Collective equipments of power: The road and the city. Thresholds, Special issue Socio: The Socially Conscious Architectural Project (Cambridge: MIT, pp. 47-54.

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A year ago, I became aware of the historical existence of the group CERFI— Le centre d’etudes, de recherches, et de formation institutionelles, or The Study Center for Institutional Research and Formation. CERFI emerged in 1967 under the hand of Lacanian psychiatrist and Trotskyite activist Félix Guattari, whose antonymous journal Recherches chronicled the group’s subversive experiences, experiments, and government-sponsored urban projects. It was a singularly bizarre meeting of the French bureaucracy with militant activist groups, the French intelligentsia, and architectural and planning practitioners at the close of the ‘60s. Nevertheless, CERFI’s analysis of the problems of society was undertaken precisely from the perspective of the state, and the Institute acknowledged a “deep complicity between the intellectual and statesman ... because the first critics of the State, are officials themselves!”1 CERFI developed out of FGERI (The Federation of Groups for Institutional Study and Research), started by Guattari two years earlier. While FGERI was created for the analysis of mental institutions stemming from Guattari’s work at La Borde, an experimental psychiatric clinic, CERFI marks the group’s shift toward urbanism—to the interrogation of the city itself. Not only a platform for radical debate on architecture and the city, CERFI was a direct agent in the development of urban planning schemata for new towns in France. 2 CERFI’s founding members were Guattari, the economist and urban theorist François Fourquet, feminist philosopher Liane Mozère, and urban planner and editor of Multitides Anne Querrien—Guattari’s close friend and collaborator. The architects Antoine Grumback, Alain Fabre, Macary, and Janine Joutel were also members, as well as urbanists Bruno Fortier, Rainier Hoddé, and Christian de Portzamparc. 3 CERFI was the quintessential social project of post-‘68 French urbanism. Located on the Far Left and openly opposed to the Communist Party, this Trotskyist cooperative was able to achieve what other institutions, according to Fourquet, with their “customary devices—the politburo, central committee, and the basic cells—had failed to do.”4 The decentralized institute recognized that any formal integration of the group was to “sign its own death warrant; so it embraced a skein of directors, entangled, forming knots, liquidating all at once, and spinning in an unknown direction, stopping short and returning back to another node.” Allergic to the very idea of “party,” CERFI was a creative project of free, hybrid-aesthetic blocs talking and acting together, whose goal was none other than the “transformation of the libidinal economy of the militant revolutionary.” The group believed that by recognizing and affirming a “group unconscious,” as well as their individual unconscious desires, they would be able to avoid the political stalemates and splinter groups of the traditional Left. CERFI thus situated itself “on the side of psychosis”—its confessed goal was to serve rather than repress the utter madness of the urban malaise, because it was only from this mad perspective on the ground that a properly social discourse on the city could be forged.

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ID Code: 55891
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: architecture, Guattari, Deleuze, Foucault, CERFI
ISSN: 1091-711X
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > ARCHITECTURE (120100) > Architectural History and Theory (120103)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The individual contributions are copyright their respective authors.
Deposited On: 20 Dec 2012 02:22
Last Modified: 26 May 2013 14:57

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