The Collectif MASI was founded in Paris in 2018 by Madlen Anipsitaki, architect and Simon Riedler, sociologist. The duo focuses on urban scenography and social art projects. It chooses as material for its works a given space and the potentialities it offers, especially the links that can exist and be built within it.
MASI’s research shapes the project “A thread network in the urban fabric”. Its goal is to reveal and improve troubled neighborhoods by the involvement of local actors. After a pilot in Paris in 2018, in the 1000 employees company Arep, the project is realized in 9 cities of 7 Latin American countries. Curated by PAN, this work is exhibited at the Espace Voltaire and the Cité internationale des Arts in Paris, where MASI directed the performance “Thread network” by the dancer Thea Bautista.
In 2019-2020, in residency with the Ateliers Médicis, MASI experiments during the lockdown the transition from the private to the public spaces.
Recently, MASI won the ARTWORKS award from SNF (Athens), funding its artistic archiving. The thread networks are reviewed and connected: what happened, but also what could have happened, giving birth to new creations. In 2021, for the National School of Architecture Paris-Malaquais, MASI conducted the workshop-performance “1 km as the crow flies”, that was recognized as a “magnificent act of resistance to the pandemic” by Francis Alÿs.
Her diploma project « A network passage through a block » at the Paris-Malaquais Architecture school, completes a training course in architecture (also in Seville and Madrid) by an experimentation of the links between public and private spaces by proposing urban design schemes. She is also a specialist in environmental engineering graduated at the École Polytechnique of Crete. During her studies she was set designer and director of the theater group. She worked at the architectural agencies Jfa and Arep, while creating puppets and inventing their passports. Today she works as a scenograph, from the theater of the city to theatrical stages.
His experiences in the shantytowns of Ile de France (associations Les Enfants du Canal, CNDH Romeurope) allow him to question and test the limits of the city and moreover the relations between the shantytowns inhabitants and its neighbors, aiming dialogue and fight against the prejudices. He deepened this goal during his interventions with young people (association Citoyenneté possible) about citizen education and fight against discrimination. To do this, he relies on his training in social sciences, with a hightlight on migration and anti-discrimination (Master’s degree in University of Paris Diderot) combined with his theatrical experiences during 7 years.
A thread network in the urban fabric
From the utopia of a network passage…
Madlen Anipsitaki started from the different uses of Parisian passages, such as creating shortcuts or entangling neighbors up to wobbling around. She transformed their simple architecture from a straight-line trajectory to a network of transitions between these three ideal and typical trajectories.
The passage networks 3 different types of trajectories :
- the passage that pierces the existing, passage allegro.
- the passage that bypasses the existing, passage moderato.
- the passage that slips into the existing, passage lento
The third type is the passage that interests us most here. It passes through existing common areas such as the common courtyards, staircases, corridors of each building.
Its program is situationist, it seeks to disrupt habits, hoping to elicit new behaviors. Spontaneous situations emerge, created by human contact. For example, a spontaneous projection on a blind wall, a shared garden.
When the passage passes through apartments, « filters » separate them from the passage and allow direct or indirect contact with the resident. For example, double-sided libraries have one side for the house and the other for the passage. The value of the public use of a private element also lies in other elements, such as the water leading to a kitchen sink that at the same time refreshes pa ssers-by, like a spring in a Greek village.
This is an important point of our urban scenography approach where the set of the theater of the city takes part in the interactions between the actors.
In addition, this project is located on an enclosed block. By linking its sides, it carries an ambition of opening up and social mixing between their different populations, rather bourgeois on one side and popular on the other. As J.P. says. Vernant, « between the banks of the same and the other, man is a bridge ». For us the passage and more broadly the city, is also a « bridge » that connects different groups in a common history and space.
Slums are informal living places on the outskirts of the city inhabited by precarious migrant groups stigmatised as Roma and excluded from the housing market. The work Simon Riedler has done there and his fight against the exclusion of Roma leads him to question the city’s ability to join different social groups. It therefore has a local development objective by working, for example, for mutual acceptance and dialogue between slum dwellers and local residents.
Our collective journey is therefore both architectural and social, utopian and committed. For us, it is about questioning and transforming social relations at the local level. We intend to materialize and nourish them with a new network. We plan to initiate it, then it will be co-constructed by the people depending on the uses they will find in it.
So the network is not a static scenography, like a theatre set, but a set that comes to life as people pass by and interact with it. They may make it more visible as they may also break it. Each reaction is respected as an integral part of the urban scenography.
…to the realization of a new thread network
Geographic, historical, social, symbolic: the bonds are proteiform and representing them requires a plural matter. At the same time, this material must maintain a certain unity, a balance between past and present, between different generations, a continuity open to the future, respect the built environment and stimulate movement. We logically choose thread to meet these requirements.
We also choose the thread to allow the actors to easily weave the network, everyone has thread at hand, whether it is string, cables, sewing thread, linen or laces. We ourselves will choose a simple thread such as we will find it locally on a market, in a local store.
Realization : a three-stage program
We plan three phases of one week each: preparation – experimentation – restitution.
1/ Preparation – 1st week
We are looking for facilitators in institutions such as departments of architecture and urban planning, social sciences, fine arts, local universities and schools, and also associations or cultural social centres. During the first week, we will organize a workshop with these relays on site.
The first objectives to be achieved collectively are the following:
- Choice of the appropriate thread material according to the indications of our local contacts. We will take it in large quantities (e.g. from a factory agreeing to sponsor us) and assemble it into large balls or rolls. These balls or rolls will have multiple thread ends, these will be the source points of the network.
- Choice of the location of the network source points thanks to a site analysis.
- Raising local actors’ awareness of our project, information meetings, posters, towing. Search for volunteers.
- Set safety rules in the use of the installation
2/ Experimentation – 2nd week
This central phase will begin with the deployment of the network’s source points with the help of sensitized volunteers, probably students.
It will be multiple threads that we will unroll. We will make them pass through public spaces using urban elements such as poles, trees, benches. And, with the agreement of the inhabitants, they will be able to penetrate private spaces such as balconies, windows, or even the interior of homes. The scenarios will be spontaneous and will depend on local reactions.
The network could be extended by wire transplants of all kinds by the inhabitants and the passers-by, such as clothes line, electric cables, laces…
We will continue our work of informing local actors, encouraging them to feel free to use the installation, to make it their own. And we will observe and record how the installation will evolve and respond to us. We will use different media to form a daily log:
- Photo, video, of the actors and the network taken by us or the actors themselves and shared on virtual social networks with hashtag #reddehilos
- Observation notes and drawings, in regard to the ownership of the network by the actors.
- Ethnographic interviews (if possible recorded) with actors, questions about their reaction to the project.
3/ Restitution – 3rd week
During this phase, we will continue our observations and recordings, guided by the following questions and hypotheses on the evolution of the scenography:
Will it become a real communication network, with people hanging words to communicate?
Will it become an attraction for children to jump and play?
Will acrobats or dancers take advantage of the threads to express themselves with the body language?
Will the threads take the form of strings on an instrument that people will enjoy playing and listening to?
Is someone just gonna cut the thread to create a disconnection?
Everything remains possible, there is no « bad » or « correct », these are always reactions that have a presence and a meaning in space. Need. In our co-construction process, these reactions will be respected and discussed at meetings with the volunteers involved and at public meetings. We will propose a synthesis of our daily log that will be discussed and re-evaluated by the protagonists of the network.
The restitution phase can be prolonged, thanks to the actors who will continue to keep the network alive. We leave the door open for our possible return to the site, to obtain results with a more extended temporality.
Finally, we will eventually be able to compare experiments on different sites and provide material for our utopian and committed architectural and social research. That is why we communicate our project and will continue to do so to document the experience through various means (blog articles, magazine, book, documentary, exhibition…).
We deeply believe that this project, through an urban dialogue, a plasticity and an artistic appropriation of space, enchants everyday life and develops social relations with poetry. At the crossroads of architecture, sociology and interactive art, the proposed thread networks and co-developed has a utopian ambition, that the thread continues to unfold…