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The Production of Space – Henri Lefebvre

Social space is produced by two separate entities. First one is nature. Nature itself doesn’t actually produce anything, but it creates tools necessary for production. Society uses those tools to make a final product. In case of Venice, nature provided a unique area, a set of small islands. Humans, as social beings, produced their own life, collective consciousness and their own world using these tools. It is humans who produced the art that is Venice, including its political, religious, artistic and philosophical artefacts. Production of space cannot be traced back to some specific event or object. It is rather a multiplicity of various works and a diversity of forms. In Marx, as in Engels, the concept never attains concreteness. As Engels wrote in a letter to Bloch in September 1890, “the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life.” At the time of Marx and Engels the concept of production had a fairly clear and exact meaning, yet now it became so broad and is used so loosely that its original definition is lost. Now the concept of production can apply to the production of knowledge, ideologies, writings, images, language or symbols.

One of the main things we have to understand is that nature does not produce. It creates, but it does not labour. A tree, a flower or a fruit is not a product, because products are produced with an intention. A purpose, if you wish. However, creations of nature are not conscious, they do not have a predefined purpose. Nature creates not for a reason. It creates because it simply does. In the words of Angelus Silesius, it “cares not whether it is seen”.

These points have to be taken into account when thinking about the origins of Venice as a social space. Nature played an important role in the process, but it did not do so intentionally. On the contrary, humanity both produces products and creates works.

Social space is not a thing among other things, nor a product among other products: rather, it subsumes things produced, and encompasses their interrelationships in their coexistence and simultaneity – their relative order and/or relative disorder. It is the outcome of a sequence and set of operations, and thus cannot be reduced to the rank of a simple object.

Cities these days are products of mostly society. This is obvious because of repetition. Repetitious spaces are the outcome of repetitive gestures associated with instruments which are both duplicatable and designed to duplicate: building machines, cranes, trucks, drills and so on. A space that is produced using these tools can barely be caller “work”, it is almost without exceptions a product. It is a product of repetitive actions with a very clear, concise design, and with a purpose in mind. In Venice, social space is produced and reproduced in connection with the forces that drive production, such space cannot be accounted for either by nature or by its previous history. Some call Venice a work of art, but it is not. It is unique, but it is not work. Venice is a product, planned and built after long stage of designing and lots of consideration.



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