On October 12, the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley and the Curatorial Practice at the California College of the Arts are partnering to host a live-streaming of the Creative Time Summit, an annual conference in New York that brings together cultural producers–including artists, critics, writers, and curators–to discuss how their work engages pressing issues affecting our world. To jump-start the conversation in advance of the event, attendees have been asked to submit a paragraph on a keyword associated with one of the summit themes: Inequities, Occupations, Making, or Tactics. This posting is by Regina Velasco, MA candidate in Urban Studies at San Francisco Art Institute.
When thinking about the growing inequalities affecting our global society, my mind inevitably goes to cities. Cities have been the engines of development since industrialization; they have been a fertile ground for the “society of spectacle” and the world of commodities (Debord: 1967) and, most importantly, they represent the habitat and modus vivendi of more than half of the human population. Driven by a neoliberal engine and economic growth, urbanization is rapidly expanding cities around the world both geographically and in density and the consequences of this urban sprawl have proven to be much more than environmental costs. High standards of poverty, large economic disparities, deep social fragmentation, violence, and a dystopic distribution of space are only some of the consequences that counter-balance the benefits that cities represent and unfortunately, these are frequently overlooked or lost among the urban sprawl.
I believe a tactical way of addressing this issue is through space, specifically through “urban interventions.” As a multidisciplinary practice, leveraging from art, politics, urbanism, design, architecture, among others, “urban interventions“ leverage from their position as “outsiders,” to establish their own terms of engagement as a social practice. As they move freely and creatively across disciplines and through the city, they represent a new boundary for creation, a fresh approach to the production of space and an innovative way of “being in the city.” They fight alienation by opening up a space for collective critical engagement; they propose a dialogue, between the dweller and the city that provokes active involvement and the questioning of urban conditions. Intervening directly in the everyday by the making of “situations,” processes that turn the city into ‘a laboratory for dramatic experimentation,’ (Debord: 1995) interventions have the capacity to create “a space between”(Rendell: 2006) one that disrupts the everyday and dares to use imaginative means and “as if” situations to think otherwise (Donald, 1999). They explore social problems and challenge urban boundaries through and with the citizen. It is when the citizen reestablishes a connection with the city how the city can re-emerge as a site of change, of political responsibility and engagement. In this way, “urban interventions” become a spatial tactic in which the citizen occupies, reclaims and questions urban space favoring the making of social change.
If we want to address social inequalities we must enable the means for people to raise their voice, and “urban interventions” represent this possibility within the oppressive inequalities that urbanization imposes among society. As these urban realities build are our every day, our approach towards their challenges should come of the every day as well and “interventions” bring that to the streets- by working across disciplines and engaging directly with the citizen, they are an agent of change as they understand change as a social process.
Debord, Guy, trans. Donald Nicholson Smith. The Society of the Spectacle, New York: Zone Books, 1995
Donald, James. Imagining the modern city. The Athlone Press, London, 1999
Rendell, Jane. Art and Architecture: a place between. I.B. Tauris, London, 2006
Debord, Guy. trans. Ken Knabb. “Report on the Construction of Situations,” Situationist International Anthology. Berkeley: California: Bureau of Public Secrets, 2006