Interdisciplinary artist / Alternative architect / Catalyst / Flâneur, 54 years old
Jean-François Prost is an interdisciplinary artist who graduated with a degree in architecture and environmental design. He is interested in new territories for urban research located in the margins of the customary areas of interest: neglected, undetermined or over-controlled sites (and situations) with no apparent specificity. His work reactivates and promotes social commitment while defending the presence of art and in all sites and at all times.
Since 1998, his individual work and as the founder of the Adaptive Actions platform (2007) and co-founder of the SYN- studio (2000) has been presented at the Liverpool Biennial, the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, Dare Dare, the Manif d’art de Québec, the Madrid Abierto Biennale, the Graham and Musagetes foundations.
Amongst all of the questions that resonate with you about aging and growing old, which one seems the most essential for you that you would like to share ?
What actions, architectures and facilities encourage the act of stopping as an urban condition and practice for a better social life and as a common construction? What urban typologies and shapes should we encourage or discourage to build open cities which are participative and inclusive for elderly people and minority groups?
Share an image you find inspiring about aging
Recently, I saw an elderly man, alone in his wheelchair on Sainte-Catherine Street. People passing by would laugh and point at him. They found it strange that he was sitting still on a Saturday night on this bustling shopping street to simply contemplate the townspeople without consuming anything. As for me, I found it brave and endearing that this man wasn’t embarrassed to simply be there, indifferent to what people might think of him. His presence on a sidewalk essentially designed for passing was a claim of his right to the city infrastructures as much as anyone else walking by. This banal and singular action brought visibility to his body in the public space.
From your own experiences, tell us about a significant moment or event in your personal or professional life that shaped your perspective around aging.
In Mexico City, I took interest in people stopping for their contrast with the unceasing movement of people and the converging structures in the modern cities where we discourage and even condemn the notion of self-building time and space. Stopping as an act of resistance and resilience in a world built to promote work, consumption, perpetual growth and efficiency. Stopping as an urban practice. As cities become more and more elaborated to impede breaks and leisurely activities at designated sites, stopping creates a space for disruption, pleasure, intimacy or simply necessity and respite. As we age, a range of situations and places suitable for stopping allows us to consider walking a longer distance to run errands, visit someone, or taking a moment to appreciate the streets. In Mexico City, the informal aspect of the city offers a multitude of places, objects and kiosks which make it possible to move at a self-paced rhythm. Stopping is individualized and naturally integrated in a person’s movements. Stopping, and therefore conversation, is possible in a multitude of situations, and is a fundamental activity to maintain as we age if we desire to live a long life and shatter solitude, a particularly alarming issue in North America.
During our meetings last October, you imagined taking some first steps, the first actions. Can you remind us what they were? Can you tell us what happened when you put them into action?
If, in the coming months, you were given the time, energy and resources to set up a (new?) Project with our common questions at heart, what would it be?
According to your experiences and your expertise, where is the vitality, the curiosity, the strength to act in the face of the realities of aging?