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Maritime poetics: 1 Europe

Gabriel Gee

Tetigroup - gabrielngee@gmail.com

In the past fifty years, port cities throughout the world have experienced considerable changes to their morphologies and their identities. The introduction of the standardized container in the 1960s participated in the acceleration of global interconnectedness, while simultaneously introducing a caesura within port cities, as container terminals were developed out of the urban core to accommodate new transportation vessels. In Europe, the shift which took place in parallel with the decentralisation of major maritime industries worldwide, also often proved difficult in terms of economics and social textures for many harbour cities. However, these metamorphosis also opened a path towards an emancipation from a former narcissist relation to the sea and the world beyond: European port cities could be granted the capacity to see the Other within themselves, thereby potentially undermining the blind certainty that had dramatically nurtured colonial expansion. The articulation of an alternate construction of the imaginaries and aspirations of European port cities, based nevertheless on their complex pasts and privileged interconnected histories, is a task to which artistic research can contribute decisively. If the 17th and 18th century seascapes could capture and represent so strikingly the changing networks of European trade and political outreach, the late 20th century has witnessed a diversification of aesthetic perspectives on ports and sea, rooted in critical poetic interventions. Maritime Poetics: 1 Europe, a project developed as part of the TETI group’s reflection on changing cultural identities and identity formation in the 20th and 21st centuries,  aims to bring together artists, curators, and public in a collaborative discussion on and additive contribution to the forms and ideas nurtured in European port cities around their past and present identities. Amongst the specific lines of enquiry envisioned as spaces of encounters and rhizomic enquiry, we find borders, seen as sites of interconnections; imaginaries, whose hybridities are to be explored and fuelled in an active process of heterogeneization;  topology – seen as an archeology concerned with the superposition of natural and human fields and the investigation of interstitial spaces; commerce, a particular site of cultural heritage exploring merchant histories and their legacies. This collaborative Maritime Poetics for the 21st century is to be the active agent and pendent to a mapping of the changing imaginaries of European port cities in the late 20th century, furthering a dialogue between European port cities, their inhabitants, and their collective cultural landscapes.