New Silk Roads

Much of the news surrounding the Belt and Road Initiative tends to be reported and discussed in abstract, ambiguous, and sweeping terms, and is often accompanied by vertiginous conjecture about grand narratives and global dominance. One could argue this is simply evidence of a twentieth-century mode of politics being confronted with the twenty-first century, or blame it on the fact that all governments (but especially the Chinese one, or so we believe) are predicated on secrecy. Yet it might have something more to do with the initiative itself. Infrastructures are spatio-temporal constructs. They not only alter the logics of relation to resources, cultures, and geographies, but also to the past, present, and future. On the one hand, infrastructures guarantee the possibility of something—water coming from the tap, a train running on time—but on the other, their effects are inherently uncertain.

Infrastructure looks towards the future. But it is built in the present, and on top of the past. Debate around the Belt and Road Initiative that focuses entirely on what is to come, or what comes after, belies the basic fact that the initiative has already and continues to transform the realities of people and places all around the world, be it by actual development or mere speculation. There is great urgency in attuning discourse to these landscapes, these lives, these cultures, not least because of the potential impacts—economic, political, social, environmental—of such projects. More than money, materials, and labor, the Belt and Road Initiative trades in the currencies of hope and fear.

Editors
Aformal Academy
e-flux Architecture

New Silk Roads is a collaboration between Aformal Academy and e-flux Architecture. The project has been supported by Design Trust, and has been produced in cooperation with Digital Earth.

1–10
Tekla Aslanishvili and Orit Halpern
Scenes from a Reclamation
Maia Adele Simon
Asymmetrical Flows
Danika Cooper
Invisible Desert
Asia Bazdyrieva and Solveig Suess
The Future Forecast
Nishat Awan and Zahra Hussain
Conflicting Material Imaginaries
Timothy Mitchell
Infrastructures Work on Time
Aformal Academy and e-flux Architecture
Editorial
Contributors
Tekla Aslanishvili

Tekla Aslanishvili is an artist and filmmaker based in Berlin and Tbilisi. Her work investigates the proliferated practices of automated production and the algorithmic management of global urban spaces. She is a 2018–2019 Digital Earth Fellow.

Orit Halpern works at the intersection of media studies, history of science, and design. She is a professor at Concordia University in Montreal and the Director of the Speculative Life Research Cluster.

Nishat Awan

Nishat Awan is Senior Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London based at the Centre for Research Architecture. She leads the ERC funded project, Topological Atlas, focused on the spatial analysis of borderscapes.

Asia Bazdyrieva

Asia Bazdyrieva studied analytical chemistry at the Kyiv National University and art history at The City University of New York as a Fulbright grantee. Together with Solveig Suess, they form “Geocinema,” a project that examines infrastructures of earth-sensing data as forms of cinema. Asia is a 2018–2019 Digital Earth fellow.

Danika Cooper

Danika Cooper is Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. Her work incorporates historiographical research methods, landscape architecture design and visualization, and theories of urban infrastructure to evaluate and design arid landscape for environmental and social justice.

Orit Halpern

Tekla Aslanishvili is an artist and filmmaker based in Berlin and Tbilisi. Her work investigates the proliferated practices of automated production and the algorithmic management of global urban spaces. She is a 2018–2019 Digital Earth Fellow.

Orit Halpern works at the intersection of media studies, history of science, and design. She is a professor at Concordia University in Montreal and the Director of the Speculative Life Research Cluster.

Zahra Hussain

Zahra Hussain is Post Doctoral Fellow (South Asia) on the GCRF Gender Justice and Security Hub. She also leads the Academy for Democracy project at Laajverd Visiting School, which explores forms of engagement with changing landscapes.

Jeremiah Ikongio

Jeremiah Ikongio is an artist creating new media, performance, interactive and immersive art projects. Based in Lagos, he deals with topics such as infrastructure, (hyper)identity and archiving. He is a Magnum Foundation Fellow, a 2018–2019 Digital Earth Fellow, as well a World Press Photo grantee.

Timothy Mitchell

Timothy Mitchell teaches at Columbia University. He is the author of Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil, and Rule of Experts: Egypt, Technopolitics, Modernity.

Ştefan Rusu

Ştefan Rusu is an artist and curator whose work focuses on the social and political changes in post-Soviet societies after 1989. He is a member of IN SITU – European platform for Artistic Creation in Public Space and founder of Insular Modernities, which advocates for the preservation of socialist architecture and modernist heritage in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Maia Adele Simon

Maia Adele Simon is a New York-based architectural designer and writer. Her research focuses on twentieth-century architectural production in Kazakhstan.

Solveig Suess

Solveig Suess completed her undergraduate in Visual Communication at the Glasgow School of Art, and her postgraduate at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths University, London. Together with Asia Bazdyrieva, they form “Geocinema,” a project that examines infrastructures of earth-sensing data as forms of cinema. Solveig is a 2018–2019 Digital Earth fellow.

Tim Winter

Tim Winter is an Australian Research Council Professorial Future Fellow at the University of Western Australia working on Belt and Road. He is author of Geocultural Power: China’s Quest to Revive the Silk Roads for the Twenty First Century (University of Chicago Press, 2019).

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