independent school for the city


Can a city ever escape its past? That is the question asked in this exhibition, showing the results of our Fossil Rotterdam Studio which took place from 25 – 29 November 2019 at the Independent School for the City.

In the city of Rotterdam, as in many cities in the west, the transition to a green economy fuelled by renewable energy sources, is advertised everywhere. At the same time Rotterdam is still the main hub for the import of coal, oil and natural gas of northern Europe. Its economy is mostly dependent on the import, export and refinement of fossil fuel. An industrial port city like Rotterdam has invested so much in the infrastructure of fossil fuel and its economy is so dependent on it, that a swift transition would make the city collapse, and also bring down large parts of the Dutch and even European economy with it.

With this studio, we wanted to make something that is invisible from the official imagery of the city visible again. We wanted to confront the city with its own reality, perhaps with its own impending demise, in order to force a debate. Under supervision of photographer Ruben Dario Kleimeer and Crimson Historians and Urbanists, the participants have documented and visualized the landscape of fossil energy and economy in the Rotterdam area. The main results are presented on 7 panels, each showing the work of one of the participants. Seen together, they present a honest portrait of a side of our western European economy that, even if it is being obscured from view, still dominates the way we live and breathe.

Participants: Yinxi Lu, Stefano Pendini, Giuseppe Pepe, Reuben Ross, Urszula Sędziak, Femke Sleegers, Fiona Steinert