Thursday, September 13, 2012

Some thoughts on Public Art/Public Space roundtable discussion at Common Room, 21 September

Spaces and places frame life; furthermore, the ways we use these spaces and places are framed by the ways we talk about them. When the stories we tell and are being told about our cities gain a sense of inevitability they become oppressing. There always are – and should be – alternative ways of looking at our cities. Two perspectives on cities that might be relevant for our discussion: first, creative cities (see my essay:; second, the right to the city (see my essay:; a third perspective is that of the global city, which isn’t too relevant for our discussion). Discussions on creative cities often center on the idea of the creative class (Richard Florida); however, if we speak about the creative class we have to speak about classes and, therefore, conflicts, which are all too often overlooked. While I’m attracted to the call for the right to the city (Henri Lefebvre, David Harvey), I also see that such a call tends to overlook that the streets of are not vacant (especially in Indonesian cities). Both these perspectives can easily be manipulated into apolitical marketing tools (city branding: art and architecture to beautify the city to attract tourists). How can our practices and ideas contribute to public space? And public space is here understood as political, thus how to make public space more inclusive as well as more antagonistic?

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