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Brussels has been perhaps throughout the years, one of the most overlooked European capitals. Ironically situated within a triangle of the most cosmopolitan and well know cities of the continent it has always been and still is considered to be a city of transition. A convenient political and artistic refuge for the banished and the persecuted.
Divided traditionally between french and dutch speakers it forms today a federally autonomous capital city in an ever interdependent world. A paradoxical city-paradigm. The two communities find themselves in a perpetual linguistic, cultural, even psycho-geographic undeclared competition with each other 1 . Politically correct, every announcement, every street sign, every toponym must be in both languages, but the languages are multiplying.
The city, mainly during the last three decades but especially after the recent financial meltdown, is confronted with an escalating intrusion. A flux that renders useless not only its concentric fortifications but also its pre-existing struggles for dominance. On one hand you have the ex-patriots arriving from every corner of the ever-expanding united Europe, and on the other the immigrants of all sorts coming principally from northern Africa, eastern Europe and the middle east. The former tend to reside the center of the city, while the latter expand its suburbs.
A rather peculiar center-periphery relation is being formed in terms not clearly structural. A center and a periphery bearing their respective importance, but like in most capitals, in Brussels the collision, the interaction and eventually the fusion of all these diverse elements, takes place in the heart of the city where identities are being formed, alternated, preserved or forgotten, all at the same time 2 . A city with a preexisting confusing approach to its past, both real and imagined now strives to accommodate the future.
Brussels is an aleatory cultural sampling, a disturbing anxiety caused by its emitting sense of the temporary. An interim destination at the center of the world and at the same time hidden from the world. The same city that lets you breathe is the city that makes you suffocate. There are days that its people, lost to the powers that hold them together, seem like shadows amongst shadows unable to touch the too-solid flesh of the world.
Brussels is all a night 3 .
1: Psychogeography, Merlin Coverley, 2010
2: Social Theory of International Politics, Alexander Wendt, 1992
3: Chantal Akerman, 1982
but one thing is the thought,
another thing is the deed, and another thing is the image of the deed.
The wheel of causality does not roll between them.