informal order

informal order, 2015

A structure occupies the entire courtyard and partially obstructs the gallery’s entrance. Another smaller structure leads to the provisional entrance of the building, using the original access of the previous gallery, which was demolished in 2011. Both installations are constructed with coated plywood, a material used in civil construction for casting in situ concrete.

SITU #3 | Ricardo Alcaide - curadoria Bruno de Almeida SITU #3 | Ricardo Alcaide - curadoria Bruno de Almeida SITU #3 | Ricardo Alcaide - curadoria Bruno de Almeida SITU #3 | Ricardo Alcaide - curadoria Bruno de Almeida SITU #3 | Ricardo Alcaide - curadoria Bruno de AlmeidaSITU #3 | Ricardo Alcaide - curadoria Bruno de AlmeidaPhotos Filipe Berndt

Production and construction Marton Estúdio

functional illegality and the institutionalization of precarity

In the gaps of the city shifting forms of spatial occupation proliferate. These evade the pragmatism of urban planning and new visions for the metropolis. Generating informal and illegal urban universes through a provisional appropriation of (semi)public or private spaces and the creation of makeshift structures that are cumulatively coupled to the ‘official’ city.

These spontaneous manifestations are commonly understood as the result of opportunistic positions over the breaches of urban legislation. But they are survival/resistance strategies that a part of the population uses in order to deal with a city that is shaped by the imperative of capital and by a discriminatory logic of defining and applying the law. [1]

Contrary to what one might expect, it is not due to a lack of planning or urban legislation that Brazilian cities are subjected to this duality between predatory and parasitic forces. Despite a vast legal apparatus that strictly regulates the management and construction of urban space, this set of laws usually disregards the clandestine nature in which a major portion of the population lives, especially in relation to housing and land occupation. [2]

This ‘strategic lapse’ has major political consequences, since instituting ‘outlawed’ territories is a way of excluding its inhabitants from the bureaucratic responsibilities of the official city, and therefore ‘assigning’ them a limited state of citizenship. [3]

The implementation of law according to this discriminatory logic produces territorial boundaries through physical, economic and ideological obstacles that have been fundamental tools for a strategic exercise of power performed by a minority.

In opposition to these barriers are those shifting forms of spatial occupation, which obstruct and fragment the legislated environment. These not only resist to the regulation of the city but also create other possibilities for its use and functionality, through the occupation of empty buildings or the domestication of public spaces by those excluded from housing policies; the provisional appropriation of sidewalks or the informal stalls erected by those unable to legalize their business; among many other examples of those who are not granted the right to have working and living conditions apart from the perspective of strictly surviving.

Given the impossibility of containing, expelling or hiding these forms of appropriation and use of the legalized space, some flexible rules have begun to be established, based on negotiations and agreements between the official city and the ‘others’ who reinterpret and subvert it. Through these combinations, mitigatory territorial pacts are instituted, which are parallel to the very official legal-normative order but never cease to be in dialogue with it. [3]

This tolerated illegality results in an institutionalization of provisionality and precarity, and rather than being an egalitarian response to the needs of the population, consequently leads to a normalization and banalization of these factors, in a veiled attempt to erase their subversive nature.

Thus, the state of consented illegality is paradoxically a functional situation for the maintenance of the status quo founded by archaic political relations that support the interests of the ruling classes, of the narrow and speculative real estate and other businesses.

Therefore, what at a first glance could be understood as a structuring of urban space based on predatory and parasitic dynamics, in fact resembles a different kind of relationship where both parties mutually benefit from their association but in which one could live independently from the other. This type of relationship, scientifically known as ‘facultative mutualism’, may also resemble a mutual parasitism. In such a system, one of the parties harms the other in order to benefit itself, a similar condition to the contemporary socio-spatial dynamics.

Bruno de Almeida | 2016.01.13

[1] MARICATO, Ermínia. O impasse da política urbana no Brasil. Petrópolis, RJ: Editora Vozes, 2011. (ISBN 9788532641472)

[2] MARICATO, Ermínia. As idéias fora do lugar e o lugar fora das idéias. In: Otília Arantes, Carlos Vainer, Ermínia Maricato. A cidade do pensamento único: desmanchando consensos. Petrópolis, RJ: Editora Vozes, 2000. (ISBN 9788532623843)

[3] ROLNIK, Raquel. Para além da lei: legislação urbanística e cidadania (São Paulo 1886-1936). In: Maria Adélia A Souza; Sonia C. Lins; Maria do Pilar C. Santos; Murilo da Costa Santos. (Org.). Metrópole e Globalização-Conhecendo a cidade de São Paulo. São Paulo: Editora CEDESP, 1999. (ISBN 9788587237019)


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