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AMSTELPARK

In working both at the Amstelpark and the Via Appia in Rome, I am considering how, along the centuries efforts towards understanding and cataloguing nature largely developed together with projects of colonization and contributed to set out an idea of nature, where there was a clear separation between humans and nature, and nature seen as a resource, something to exert domain over and ‘civilize’. Contemporary post-humanist discourses on nature and sustainability are contradicting these views with new readings that question this distinction and urge for other types of relations between humans and their environment, in many aspects looking to decolonize perspectives, opening these to other traditions, other forms of envisioning an equilibrium, reworking connections between what/who is affected to our contemporary landscapes. Exploring landscape as heritage entails revisiting and questioning this legacy, unveiling new entanglements and possibilities. In this sense, in looking at a park today, it is worth noting its layered history, the registers of representation implicit in its design and ideas on preservation, as they testify to an interesting encounter of conventions and idealisations. In my research process I wish to work from the point of view of miscommunication, explore multiple translations, movements, connections, that can emerge when focusing on the tension between change and preservation.

Working at the Amstelpark I am looking in particular at how, in establishing and maintaining the park, a set of ideas on the design and preservation of landscape are ‘staged’ for long periods of time. In working towards keeping an overall design in place over such extended periods, miscommunications arise between a design idea and the inevitable transformation of political, economical, social and cultural constructs. This is the departing point for my work. In particular, I am working from two different points of departure: first, researching the history of the materials sold at the auction that took place at the end of the floriade in 1972, where I am looking to retrace objects and their history back to the Amstelpark. Second, I am researching the Italian garden, attempting to register the process of maintaining this particular part of the Amstelpark, to understand the efforts in preserve a design in place, but also looking at its representative value, as for instance in literature.
Barbara Neves Alves is an Amsterdam based independent designer and researcher, currently engaged in setting up projects that explore hybrid modalities of practice-based research, in-between design, participation, theory & politics, where she combines theoretical inquiry with practice-based research in and on public space. Outputs often take the form of workshops, installations, speculative proposals and written/visual narratives. Her background is in communication design, with a specialization in type design and typography at KABK. In the end of 2016 she completed a PhD in Design at Goldsmiths, with a research that challenged the notion of ‘good communication’ as an assumed objective of the field of communication design, that remains largely unquestioned in its universalist and neoliberal implications, and forwarded ‘miscommunication’ as concept and practice to focus on how communication is inhabited through social and cultural practices. Miscommunications are often regarded as what makes communication difficult, interrupts, slows down, or misunderstands. However, Neves Alves showed that, when miscommunication is acknowledged in design practices, it calls for a situated and implicated positioning of the designer, and creates the opportunity to explore practical exchanges that can foster new imaginaries of participatory design practices and new political formations emerging from communicative arenas. She has solid experience in teaching and has taught in the Netherlands, UK, Portugal and Mozambique, and initiated workshops as well as community based projects.