> βιότοπος

Βιότοπος / Biotope [Greek / English]


Biotope[1] [ˈbī-ə-ˌtōp] (noun)


According to an etymological analysis, the Greek word biotope (βιότοπος) refers to a living (bios) place (tópos), which is to say a place that is livable and that is worth living in. In its everyday use it may address a healthy, harmonious and fertile place for specific living species, such as humans, animals or plants.

The conference BER-AMS-BXL placed the term in-question within the artistic milieu and specifically sought for historical and contemporary articulations and imaginations of ‘artistic biotopes’. According to sociologist Pascal Gielen, a sustainable artistic biotope is comprised of four topoi that need to be in a balanced relationship: the domestic, the communal (peers), the market and the civil space. His theory was proposed as curatorial thread for shaping the three days of the conference. Launching encounters that discussed art education (i.e. the cases of SNDO, HZT, P.A.R.T.S. schools), working methods of artists and collectives (such as Haben und Brauchen, Nieuwe Helden, Tilt, Spin), institutional funding (for VTII, Tanzfabrik, workspacebrussels, HAU, Vooruit) and the social domain (i.e. social media, cultural and discursive work), it was lucidly suggested that an artistic biotope is dependent on multiple parameters that require responsibility, care and time to develop. What’s more, these themes were explored through a comparative and reflective analysis of the settings of three European cities that one may consider as paradigmatic artistic biotopes: Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels. However, today’s precarious living conditions for artists, who need to stay more flexible and mobile than ever, as well as neoliberal strategies of privatization and homogeneity, challenge our understanding of biotopes and question whether Gielen’s approach actually applies here. This raises some questions: can we still call these (or any) cities biotopes and if yes, on what basis? What about biotopes that reside in the periphery rather than the center (capital cities)?


What was often diagnosed in BER-AMS-BXL’s exploration of artistic biotopes is an ongoing tendency for isomorphism and rationalization of the public space, while precarization becomes an instrument for monetary, governmental and biopolitical power to stay immune and firm. Such diagnosis therefore suggests that an artistic biotope has to contradict itself today, in order to be called a biotope. In other words, a place that is livable and is worth living in could only be imagined in terms of a generative, perhaps ideological, irrationality and disharmony of its topoi.


Author and translator: Konstantina Georgelou

[1] This text is generated from the conference BER-AMS-BXL that took place in Amsterdam, 05 – 08/09/2013: (last access: 18/03/2014)