Belgian Spaces of Obsolescence: (Re)Materializing a History of Forgetting

Christophe Collard

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


Planning public spaces is an enterprise entangling actual necessity, socio-political context, and cultural heritage – yet also the far less ‘concrete’ dimension of mythology (Klein 2008, Salter 2010). After all, any new plan must first be plugged to all parties concerned, attract funding, and muster enthusiasm. To this end, stories are told and theories scripted to sell the new concept before it is indeed inscribed in the landscape. But in Belgium said entanglement tends to get further intermingled by a culture of compromise that may interrupt or re-route the materialization of myths at any given moment. The net result thereof led RTBF-journalist Jean-Claude Defossé in 1986 to create his mockumentary series Journal des Travaux Inutiles (JTI), dedicated to mapping the worst excesses in misguided or downright obsolete building projects (see also Defossé 1990). Incidentally, this initiative itself thus materialized what mass culture-critic Norman Klein has called ‘a history of forgetting’ (2008) – an attempt to concretize that what once was supposed to be and remain hidden. This paper, in turn, will pick up Klein’s lead to repurpose Defossé’s recently (2011-2012) revisted cult series as a subversive artistic practice dedicated to opening up the essentially entangled but traditionally disparate conceptions of space, myth, and writing as complementary constituents of a now re-emphasized history: less focused on facts, yet all the more on the materialization of its narrative nature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication6e CLIC-studiedag 'Spaces of Entanglement: Negotiating European Crossroads'
PublisherVrije Universiteit Brussel, CLIC
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2016


  • Brussels
  • Journal des Travaux Inutiles
  • Jean-Claude Defossé
  • Historiography


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