Twelve Cautionary Urban Tales

The installation at the Matadero in Madrid proposes an urban environment where the wisdom of plants is highly valued for their knowledge of social and economic biotopes, as well as their deep understanding of natural processes.

Location Madrid, Spain
Curator Ethel Baraona Pohl, César Reyes
Set design Taller de Casquería
Time frame 2019-2020
Client Matadero
Photography SCB & Matadero Madrid, Estudio Perplejo, Galerna

Taking inspiration from the project “Twelve Cautionary Tales for Christmas” by the group of radical architects Superstudio, first published in 1971 in the magazine Architectural Design, Twelve Cautionary Urban Tales is an exhibition that raises new narratives in the way we talk about the city. A group of contemporary practices, from different generations and a range of professional expertise, have been invited to give shape to these tales by reinterpreting the original format of Superstudio.

The Parliament of Plants proposes an urban environment where the wisdom of plants is highly valued for their knowledge of social and economic biotopes, as well as their deep understanding of natural processes. Woody, leafy, and flowering beings form here an hegemonic green democracy. With similar protocols to those currently used in the political arena, in this parliament of vegetation, legislators from different origins convene on a daily basis to debate current issues. Yet in contrast to the constant confrontation and tension found in “human” political contexts, this parliament of plants usually comes to a consensus and manages to come to agreements — despite having divergent views — because its members are aware of the importance of taking measures and acting decisively in areas regarding ecology, inclusion, tolerance, and diversity, with the understanding that their administration can only act towards the common good, basing their decisions on the principle of mutual care and support.

By opening a post-anthropocentric space for reflection, the Parliament of Plants challenges the belief that matter and intelligence are disassociated, considering flora as something more than a mere commodity. It explores the power of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses as a source of inspiration and poses alternatives in the way we design and act in our current times of political uncertainty and climate change.

Participants: Aristide Antonas, Katayoun Arian, Assemble, Bartlebooth, Studio Céline Baumann, Clara Nubiola, Chloé Rutzerveld, Design Earth, Merve Bedir, Chong Suen & Sampson Wong, MAIO Architects, Traumnovelle and Canadian Centre for Architecture with Francesco Garutti.

→ Read the Twelve Cautionary Urban Tales publication, 13/02/2020

→ Read the review in El País by Anatxu Zabalbeascoa, 25/02/2020

→ Watch the exhibition trailer from the Matadero, 02/04/2020

→ Read “The Parliament of Plants and other Cautionary Tales, Where Stories Make Worlds and Worlds Make Stories”, Céline Baumann in Conversation with Ethel Baraona Pohl, Solitude Journal, 23/07/2020