Category Archives: value

le monde qui n’a pas été créé une fois

“Les gens de goût nous disent aujourd’hui que Renoir est un grand peintre du XVIIIe siècle. Mais en disant cela ils oublient le Temps et qu’il en a fallu beaucoup, même en plein XIXe, pour que Renoir fût salué grand artiste. Pour réussir à être ainsi reconnus, le peintre original, l’artiste original procèdent à la façon des oculistes. Le traitement par leur peinture, par leur prose, n’est pas toujours agréable. Quand il est terminé, le praticien nous dit : « Maintenant regardez. » Et voici que le monde (qui n’a pas été créé une fois, mais aussi souvent qu’un artiste original est survenu) nous apparaît entièrement différent de l’ancien, mais parfaitement clair. Des femmes passent dans la rue, différentes de celles d’autrefois, puisque ce sont des Renoir, ces Renoir où nous nous refusions jadis à voir des femmes. Les voitures aussi sont des Renoir, et l’eau, et le ciel : nous avons envie de nous promener dans la forêt pareille à celle qui le premier jour nous semblait tout excepté une forêt, et par exemple une tapisserie aux nuances nombreuses mais où manquaient justement les nuances propres aux forêts. Tel est l’univers nouveau et périssable qui vient d’être créé. Il durera jusqu’à la prochaine catastrophe géologique que déchaîneront un nouveau peintre ou un nouvel écrivain originaux.”

Marcel Proust, A la recherche du temps perdu

Ici encore

« Ici encore la vérité doit pourrir, et quoi de plus exaltant ? Même si je la souhaite, qu’ai-je à faire d’une vérité qui ne doive pas pourrir ? »

Albert Camus


Airspacing the City. Where Technophysics meets Atmoculture

(with Andrea Pavoni)

NOW PUBLISHED in Azimuth 10.


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In this paper, we seek to show how the notion of technophysics can be applied to better understand the experience of contemporary urbanism. We argue that technophysics exists in dynamic relation to an atmoculture of urban space, whereby the technological and the cultural meet on a deeply affective-atmospheric terrain. Contemporary technophysics and atmoculture collaborate in the quest for comfort and the flight from its antonyms (stress, unease, and fear), but they are also riddled with tensions and contradictory outcomes …

Paginated PDF Version


The social life of measures

Now published in Theory, Culture & Society 35(1)



Issues of measure and measurement, and their relation to value and values, are of concern in several major threads in contemporary social theory and social research. In this paper, the notion of ‘measure-value environments’ is introduced as a theoretical lens through which the life of measures can be better understood. A number of points are made which represent both a continuation and a slight change in emphasis vis-à-vis the existing scholarship. First, it is argued that the relation between measure and value is necessarily circular – better, entangled. Second, a conceptualisation of measures as territorialising devices is advanced. Third, importance is given to the fact that measures are not simply tools in our hands, they are also environments in which we live. Fourth, attention is drawn to the fact that the unit (n=1) is not just a quantitative happening among others, but is qualitatively distinct.

The Social Life of Measures (pre-print version)


Urban Verwertung. Conceptualizing the adventures of value in contemporary urbanism

A Keynote Speech to be delivered at Competing Urbanisms: The New Politics Of Public Space, 5 November 2014, University of Melbourne

 Competing Urbanisms Progam_Page_1

The aim of this lecture is to puzzle about the creation and transformation of value in contemporary urban space. Far from being a mere correlate of economic processes, ‘value’ can be understood as a total social fact and a polymorphous magical substance. The territory of value is inherently crossed by not only quantitative change but also qualitative metamorphoses. Indeed, while the economic side of value is the easiest to grasp, in order to capture the whole anthropological phenomenon of value creation and transformation a larger canvas needs to be drawn. Valorization (Verwertung) processes are complex, multifaceted, inherently unstable dynamics of production, circulation and transmutation of not only material goods (as per the classic analysis by Marx).

In the case of urban places, the economic side of value precipitates and condenses a number of scattered, convergent or divergent, social forces which include discourses, repertoires, representations, imaginaries, aspirations, reputations, judgments, position-takings, conflicts, negotiations, resistances, justifications and so on. In making the value of a place such as a neighbourhood, a square, a park, an alley or a metro station, the production, circulation and transmutation of all the items listed above is as important as the production, circulation and transmutation of material commodities in the analysis carried out by Marx in the mid-19th century.

An enlarged investigation into the notion of value thus inevitably leads us to a reflection on the limits of measurability. For what remains to be ascertained is how precisely value can be inscribed into places or associated with them. Here is where the case of street cultures and ‘alternative’ forms of cultural productions may provide us with poignant insights. In the course of the last 15 years of so, graffiti art has received unprecedented attention from mainstream cultural institutions ranging from local municipalities arts services and grant schemes to major contemporary arts museums. At the same time, street art – or what is sometimes referred to as ‘post-graffiti’ – has moved closer than before to the contemporary art system.

To various extents and not without contradictory, or even paradoxical outcomes, both graffiti and street art have been increasingly associated with thrilling lifestyles, urban creativity, fashionable outfits, and hip neighbourhoods. The value attributed to such expressive urban cultures as well as the places where they occur has changed accordingly. Perhaps, it is these practices we should attend in the attempt to understand the mysteries and alchemies of Urban Verwertung.

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Competing Urbanisms Progam

Graffiti and Place Value

A speech I’m delivering at: Street Art in the Changing City: Theoretical Perspectives – Moscow, June 7–8, 2013 –

In a sense, both graffiti and street art share humble origins. While the first emerged as an essential expressive form of disadvantaged inner city youth in the late 1960s, the second originated from a more heterogeneous cohort of underground artists who, however, for quite a lapse since the 1970s through the 1990s, remained marginalized in the official art system. Such humble origins were clearly mirrored in the fact that, seen from the outside, early street art entertained only a parasitic relationship to the official cityscape, while graffiti was mostly stigmatized as seen as negatively affecting places (a sign of ‘urban decay’).

Over the last decade, a major counter-trend has made its appearance, whereby street art has moved much closer to the core of the contemporary art system, whereas graffiti has received unprecedented attention from mainstream cultural institutions. Albeit to different extents and not without contradictory or even paradoxical outcomes, both graffiti and street art have been increasingly associated with thrilling lifestyles, urban creativity, fashionable outfits, and hip neighborhoods. A radical transformation has followed concerning the impact these practices have on the value attributed to certain urban places. Rather than value-neutral (invisible) or value-detracting (supravisible) as before, now graffiti and even more pronouncedly street art seem to be value-bestowing (visible). Visibility means they have turned into recognizable and much sought-for items in the urban landscape.

In this context, my aim is to look at recent graffiti and street art events in the context of recent urban transformation. Although such events have popped up almost everywhere in the world, and in the Western countries in particular, I will refer to the case of Italy, where in the last five years I have been collecting a series of detailed field observations. I am puzzling about the social and cultural significance of graffiti and street art in the changing cityscape and the unfolding urban process. By doing so, I am also inquiring into the economic process of place valorization in the current transformations of capitalism. Finally, I am placing these concerns in the framework of the new political processes of disciplination and urban governance.


Here is the audio record (mp3 version)

Here is also a short interview I’ve released :