Julio Velasco | Chercheur associé

Mobilités, Migrations, Recomposition des espaces
Centre Marc Bloch, Friedrichstraße 191, D-10117 Berlin
Email: juliovelasco  ( at )  hotmail.fr Tél: +49(0) 30 / 20 93 70700

Position : Chercheur Associé | Discipline : Esthétique , Sciences de la culture |

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DAAD scholarship in the programme Research Grants


Centre Marc Bloch de Berlin


Sujet de recherche

Berlin, a city that creates artists. Practical function and symbolic function of a territory in contemporary art creation


This postdoctoral research on art districts in Berlin aims to analyse the causes and consequences of the existence of these forms of gathering for artistic creation and their evolution since the reunification of Germany. Indeed, these places of art have often been studied from the point of view of the modifications they produce in their neighbourhood (gentrification for example) and for the non-artistic populations, but they have been much rarely taken into account for their contributions and their consequences on the visual creation itself. The few works that take this into account justify these artistic territorial groupings mainly for practical reasons, which are often, as we shall see, questionable - such as the low price of real estate in a given area - ignoring the symbolic function of these gatherings and their influence on artistic productions.


To address these issues, a transdisciplinary inquiry that brings together analyses in art and art sciences, urban geography, sociology, art history and aesthetics seems necessary. We have already done a work of this kind in our doctoral thesis (PhD). The research that we present here takes its source in this work and is, at the same time, its continuation. This doctoral thesis in Art and Sciences of art, carried out at the University of Paris 1, under the direction of Mrs Olga Kisseleva, is titled "The artist as strategist, topography in visual creation in Paris at the beginning of the XXIst century" and is based on the comparative study of six contemporary art districts located in six cities and five different countries – among them Berlin and, specially, the Faubourg Saint-Denis in Paris, which is the central element of this work – and historical cases from the end of the Middle Ages to the first half of the twentieth century. The PhD is now finished and its defence took place on July 3, 2017 at the Sorbonne. It showed the great richness of the subject, notably by highlighting the dual practical and symbolic function of the territories of art, underlining the very complex relations that these two aspects maintain between themselves. This work also allowed us to develop a methodology for transdisciplinary work, in order to lay a solid foundation for the main hypotheses we present here.


Titre de la thèse

The artist as a strategist. Topography of contemporay art in Paris at the beginning of the 21st century

Résumé de la thèse

This work is about the question of art territories, but not for their repercussions on their neighbourhood, but for their contribution to the plastic creation itself. In the first part, the terms of the research are defined: the word "strategy"; the "art districts" according to their use; the "people of art". The second part presents, in addition to a historical synthesis, six territories of contemporary art: Faubourg Saint-Denis (Paris), which is the backbone of this work, Macarena (Bogota), San Telmo (Buenos Aires), Belleville (Paris), the Red Hook (New York) and the city of Berlin. The third part analyses the individual work of seven contemporary art personalities who lived in Faubourg Saint-Denis since 2000: Nathalie Heinich, Nicolas Bourriaud, Jean-Philippe Antoine, Thomas Hirschhorn, Esther Shalev-Gerz, Pierre Huyghe and Olga Kisseleva. The last part links this research with the work of its author. The conclusion highlights a series of hypotheses emerging from this study: places of art as an instrument of identification of the different groups working in art; the notion of "debate" as a form of strategy, with an internal level (who participates and in what capacity) and a global level (the role of art in society); artists considered not as a socio-professional category, but as "products" of every social group; art as a form of participation in a common territory more than as a self space.

Institution de la thèse

Laboratoire d'Art et Sciences, Université de Paris 1- Panthéon Sorbonne

Directeur de thèse

Olga Kisseleva

Berlin, ville créatrice d'artistes. Fonction pratique et fonction symbolique d'un territoire dans la création plastique contemporaine

Les regroupements territoriaux d'artistes sont souvent traités comme des ensembles qui répondraient à un même modèle ou à des modèles très proches, sans prendre en compte les différences profondes qui existent à l'intérieur du monde de l'art. Les quartiers d'artistes possèdent pourtant des natures très variées, déterminées aussi bien par leur fonction pratique que par leur fonction symbolique. Nos enquêtes précédentes ont permis d'identifier trois types de fonctions pratiques pour les lieux d'art : exhibition, création et habitation, avec autant de quartiers orientés vers l'une ou l'autre de ces activités, bien qu'il ne soit pas rare de trouver dans un même territoire des lieux mixtes, réunissant en leur sein deux, voire les trois fonctions pratiques. L'hypothèse de départ de notre travail est que la fonction symbolique des quartiers d'art joue un rôle probablement plus déterminant que les simples besoins pratiques et que ces rassemblements topographiques constituent en fait des "révélateurs" identitaires forts pour les artistes, au point de constituer de véritables "scènes" plastiques. Par les mutations profondes que Berlin a subies depuis la chute du mur, ainsi que par son importance pour l'art contemporain, cette ville offre le meilleur terrain pour comprendre les mécanismes et les évolutions qui se trouvent au cœur de cette recherche.

Using groups generally defined as "art neighbourhoods" or "artists' neighbourhoods", the research examines the causes and consequences of these groupings for artistic creation. This question is usually approached through the modifications that these art gatherings generate for their neighbourhood (gentrification, population changes, tourist attraction, control by the official power of an escheated area, etc.), but there is much less interest in the causes and consequences that this territorial groups have for the artistic production itself. The originality of this work comes from its approach to these places fundamentally in terms of their relationship with the art itself and the transformations it promotes within plastic creation.

This study is essentially and structurally a transdisciplinary investigation, which brings together analyses in Aesthetics, Art and Art Sciences, History of Art, Sociology of Art and Urban Geography.

The work is composed of two sections. The first one examines six contemporary art territories, in addition to a historical chapter that summarizes the evolution of these types of places since the Middle Ages. These six territories are: the district of Faubourg Saint-Denis (Paris), the district of Macarena (Bogota), the district of San Telmo (Buenos Aires), the district of Belleville (Paris), the district of Red Hook (New York) and, finally, the city of Berlin with a focus on the district of Neukölln. Finally, we propose a broad synthesis where we establish the conclusions and hypotheses that emerge from the study of these places.

The second part analyses, individually, the plastic or theoretical creations of seven personalities working in the field of contemporary art who have lived in the Faubourg Saint-Denis, Paris, since the year 2000: Nathalie Heinich, Nicolas Bourriaud, Jean-Philipe Antoine, Thomas Hirschhorn, Ester Shalev-Gerz, Pierre Huyghe and Olga Kisseleva. Subsequently, as in the previous section, we evaluate whether or not elements of a collective strategy emerge from these individual cases, which ones, and how they relate to each other. Finally, in the overall conclusion we summarize the various elements studied and highlight a series of hypotheses that emerge from them.

(Currently being published at the CTHS editions)

« Art et recherche »


- "L’image des artistes et des acteurs de l’art contemporain à travers leurs quartiers" in Art collaboratif et territoire, Editions de la Sorbonne, Paris 2018.

- L'artiste comme stratège. Topographie de l ’art contemporain à Paris au début du XXIe siècle. Thèse de doctorat en Art et Sciences de l'art, sous la direction d'Olga Kisseleva, soutenu en 2017 à l'université de Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne.

- "La « Double vie » ou Portrait de l’artiste"in Du travail collectif à l’œuvre, sous la dir. Olga Kisseleva, Nouvelles éditions Place, Paris 2017.

- "El ruido del agua" in Ecología desde el arte digital, sous la dir. Luis Germán Rodríguez Leal et Felipe César Londoño López,

Publication Fundación Telefonica, 2015. http://www.fundacion.telefonica.com.ve/publicaciones

- “Art, société et biodiversité”, in {plastik} n° 4, 2014. http://art-science.univ-paris1.fr//document.php?id=931

- "Art et « gentrification »", in Actes du colloque Tours 2012, Paris 2014. http://cths.fr/ed/edition.php?id=6814

- “Double Life”, Les presses du réel, Dijon, 2011.