The edge of the city

SD Video, PAL. colour, stereo, 30‘39‘‘, 2007 english / spanish, english subtitles

Since 2008, more than half of the world’s population is living in cities. The project „The edge of the city“ started 2004 as a cooperation with urbanist Wonne Ickx (Be/Mx) and became an audiovisual (re)search of the edges of Mexico City. We focussed on the people and their conditions of living there. The video combines different styles of storytelling, oscillates between documentary and essay.
It was the startingpoint for a series of works dealing with the idea of an endless cityscape.

The Edge of the City – text by Ruth Estévez

Stefan Demming’s artistic practice is a practice of travel. In his work he fosters the observation of daily scenarios to narrate different kind of human adventures. Throughout his voyages, the artist is recording with his video camera his appeal to moments and landscapes emphasizing concrete situations, which become in the very process of documentation independent and unique accounts.

By using maps and imaginary routes, Demming searches for places and spaces, where he sometimes takes their more obvious and literal function while other times he metaphorically alters their order, constructing adventures which give inner sense to what’s been previously recorded; it is this same sense that the traveler transforms his actions into epic poems regardless of the triviality of the facts exposed.

The exhibition entitled El límite de la ciudad (The Edge of the city) is based on the artist’s documentary with the same name, filmed in 2004 while visiting Mexico City. The video oscillates between document and fiction in order to narrate Demming‘s trip with urbanist Wonne Ickx, in search of the unpredictable limits of the metropolis.

From the start, there is no intention of revealing the actual limits of the city. Rather, the artist chooses to fantasize about the mysterious limits that appear to be never ending. This way all the research turns into a novel, moving towards a theme of the protagonists’ travels and adventures while at the same time revealing the conditions of survival based on the improvised reality that surrounds them.

To achieve the task, the artist becomes an ambiguous mixture between traveler and cartographer (a concept that may seem contradictory at first). The journey1 (something the cartographer doesn’t trust, even to the point of hating it) will be constructed from an imaginary relationship between the gaze and the landscape, camouflaged by the intention of finding the geographic demarcation of the city.
Throughout various interviews conducted in random encounters with strangers, the artist receives some kind of confirmation regarding the supposed limits of the city, which he then decides to disregard in an attempt to keep them unknown. Demming prefers to contemplate (in an almost Baudelaire-esque2 fashion) the urban horizon, marking a subtle difference between everyday functionality and the creation of myths.
It is through these excerpts that the exhibition reviews moments (personal anecdotes or stories told by others), spaces and daily activities that together reveal the possibility of urban boundaries.

Simulations, almost theatre sets- videographical or sculptural- which allow the optical illusion of the infinite, the structuring of the unimaginable and above all, the feeling of uncertainty and instability that comes with this changing geography.

Ruth Estévez

1 The notion of “a journey” is forged as one in the romantic sense of 19th century travelers, where the “real landscape” (perceived as something controlled and humanized) is replaced by the “sublime landscape”, which excites and provokes surprises or wonder.
2 Contrary to the first German Romantics where the poetic landscape was primarily constructed from nature, Baudelaire’s poetic landscape could have only been the city, the 19th century metropolis and its anonymity, its size and its misery.