Matadero Madrid center for contemporary creation

Twelve Cautionary Urban Tales

Studio Celine Baumann. Parliament of Plants
An exhibition not about what the city is, but about what it can be

According to Alberto Manguel, “there are cities that begin with a few books,” in the same way that there are cities that become books, stories or fables. And it is in the city, just like in the pages of books, where the collective imaginary is born, where the narratives we have carved in our minds and which guide our behaviour are created; where social relations take place and produce fictions and frictions, fantasies and dreams, memories and desires, nightmares and fears too. The fact that it is impossible to give one single definition of what a city is provides a wealth of diverse, even divergent interpretations, which are primarily social constructs. Twelve Cautionary Urban Tales is an exhibition that raises new narratives in the way we talk about the city. Taking inspiration from the project “Twelve Cautionary Tales for Christmas,” by the group of radical architects Superstudio, first published in 1971 in the magazine Architectural Design—which consisted of a series of 12 short stories illustrated with a drawing each—the question which arises on this exhibition is, what is your ideal city like?

In an attempt to respond to this question, a group of contemporary practices, from different generations and a range of professional expertises, have been invited to give shape to these Twelve Cautionary Urban Tales by reconceptualising the original format of Superstudio’s 12 tales and transforming the exhibition into a tool to help us rethink our role in the building of the city. Each of the practices will tell a fable through an artistic installation, creating a series of narratives open to multiple interpretations. These new fables, as if emerging from the pages of a book, have the intention of questioning what we understand as "city," and thus, help us to reimagine what the city could become—as that space where relations, nature, bodies, and geographies coexist. The narratives and stories put forward in this exhibition will help us problematise and question the conventional definition of "city," revealing in their storytelling, new and different ways of inhabiting the world.

Participant artists and architects
Aristide Antonas, Katayoun Arian, Assemble, Bartlebooth, Studio Céline Baumann, Clara Nubiola, Chloé Rutzerveld, Design Earth, Merve Bedir, Chong Suen, Monique Wong and Sampson Wong, MAIO Architects, Traumnovelle, The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) with Francesco Garutti.

Curator: Ethel Baraona Pohl
Curatorial advisor: César Reyes
Exhibition design: Taller de Casquería
Graphic design: Naranjo-Etxeberría

A children's story, a horror story, a synesthetic story
A parallel program accompanying the exhibition Twelve Cautionary Urban Tales

February 15, 2020
Convened by Ethel Baraona, Gonzalo Herrero Delicado and Adolfo Estalella, and Pol Esteve Castelló
Organized by Matadero Madrid and Intermediae

Following the exhibition’s narrative, this programme intends to make use of the word in order to tell the world. Structured in three main parts, a group of international participants—architects, artists and theorists— from diverse contexts and experiences, will tell us three stories, using several formats, narratives and performative skills, in order to speculate about the contemporary city and the future city navigating through the many different layers that form the current urban context—the visible and the invisible, the diaphanous and the profane, the childish and the adult.

With: Amica Dall (Assemble), Traumnovelle, Rosario Talevi, Martin Savransky, Vanessa Keith, Jaime Palomera, John Bingham-Hall, Paula Garcia Masedo, Ashkan Sepahvand and Virgil B/G Taylor.

The program includes a children’s workshop led by artist and writer Elena Arévalo Melville, and the closing party with Iranian-Dutch DJ, curator, and activist, Katayoun Arian.

Go back to news