2009-2010. Adaptive Actions. THE ART OF LOITERING (theoretical data)


The Art of Loitering is a new work which will be created specifically for Madrid Abierto. The project consists in documenting, revealing and creating new loitering actions in the city of Madrid. This project explores the possibilities and enablement of loitering – i.e. flânerie, doing nothing, wasting time, staying idle in one place, moving slowly and, through this simple act, assert the public status of urban spaces.


In Liverpool, I asked kids and teenagers what was the most public space in the city for them. Several answered their basement room or sofa. In their reality, the most public space was the most private of spaces: in the comfort of their home far away from any CTTV cameras or from increasingly common monitoring systems. In your living room, you can loiter, sleep with a hood over your head and gather in large groups without being scared of contravening public gathering laws (3 or more). After thought, this astonishing, unanticipated, spontaneous and even at first violent answer appeared the most logical to me. Had widespread forms of control, increased bans, CCTV cameras, exacerbated the boundaries between seen and unseen, inside and outside, private and public? Were usually visible social behaviour, illicit activities, signs of poverty, diversity and creativity pushed underground?

Observing cities around the world as well as my own, one readily realizes that the privatization and normalization of public space has become global. To what degree is Madrid like many other cities caught in this world phenomenon? Is loitering still an active part of Latin (especially in Spain) life and culture and can it inspire others? What is slowness today? Where do loitering acts take place: underground parking lots, parks, basements, underpasses, vacant lands, malls, derelict buildings? How can we describe them, qualify them, talk about them and make them visible? What do these current practices of loitering say about public spaces in general? Where, how and with what tools, devices or tactics can we initiate and develop new areas of flânerie in public spaces, often exclusively dedicated to circulation and consumption?


The project indexes and reports on existing loitering actions in the city and encourages the implementation of new activity in relation to architecture, urban spaces and objects. It unfolds in three overlapping stages: (1) a call for proposals; (2) action, and; (3) its subsequent publication/broadcast.

1. Call for Contributions and Proposals
In order to document and create an inventory of existing urban loitering acts, a survey is conducted (before and during the event Madrid Abierto). The objective of this project is to document existing or new, marginal, singular or popular, less discussed or highly known forms and places of loitering. The request for proposals accelerates the process. Several
existing or proposed loitering actions will be chosen along with an idea for a collective action and a workshop.

2. Action
A space for loitering and submitting proposals will dwell on a busy Madrid street or plaza, or in a public building were people bustle and rarely have the opportunity or time to stop. From this temporary camp (with a large recognizable sign indicating LOITERING in Spanish) combining presence, production and interaction, participants and Madrid visitors will be offered loitering coupons (equivalent or higher to the hourly-rate salary in Spain). They will be paid to do nothing and to loiter with one of the Adaptive Actions Representative to share (discover) and document their existing or proposed act of flânerie. Workshops and acts of collective loitering will also be discussed and elaborated from this space during the event.

Our shared knowledge and expertise will be applied towards accomplishing a creative project the aim of which is to modify the intended or preponderant or limited use of architectural and urban elements. This infiltration of public space highlights such topics as resident adaptive actions and appropriations, creative transformation potential and the multiplicity of users and uses.

3. Publication/broadcast
The selected new and existing loitering actions will be made public through the distribution of multiple examples of a printed document and via the Internet . Dissemination within the community will aim at representing the different forms of loitering (in the workplace, the home or public spaces in general) as a creative means of appropriating shared realities and therefore as a form of adaptation. The presentation of actions (on a greater or lesser scale), be they projected or completed, will create a vocabulary with which the collective imagination may express itself through the use of existing structures, and will encourage the growth of similar actions.

The intervention is based on the repetition of a series of micro-actions, simple gestures imparting and initiating change in our perception and conception of the urban environment.
This project wants to activate uses in public spaces, contribute and begin to rebuild an urban imaginary, show, encourage visible acts of resistance, of sociability and signs of positive antagonism.

Jean-François Prost, 2008
Representative for the project

* The project title and loitering lexicon will be in Spanish. A preliminary linguistic research is in progress, but no definite choices have yet been made.

* A section will be added to the website for the loitering project and a Madrid edition of the Adaptive Actions publication-journal will be produced during and following the event