City, Arts and Public Spaces: Esther Belvis-Pons

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is participating in the ongoing campus initiative Global Urban Humanities: Engaging the Humanities and Environmental Design, which aims to bring the humanities into closer connection with disciplines that study the built environment to help address the complex problems facing today’s urban areas. To jump-start conversation for an upcoming working session, participants have been asked to “reflect upon a keyword that provokes, confuses, inspires, and/or annoys you in current thinking about urban and/or urban arts engagement.” This posting is by Esther Belvis-Pons, researcher-artist and educator.
Keyword: Domestic Festivals
Barcelona 2010. In a scenario characterized by the financial crisis and emerging social fracture appears the first domestic festival called ‘La estrategia doméstica’ (the domestic strategy). The presentation of pieces and artworks takes place in private homes. Friends, neighbours and acquaintances offer a room or a space in their house for artists to perform there. The festival tries to challenge the concepts of cultural enterprise and institution by proposing homes as legitimate spaces for the artistic experience. At the same time, the format wishes to transform the spatial and affective relationships that the citizens have with the urban space, by inverting the spatial dichotomy between the public and the private. Proximity, exchange and artistic experimentation are the principles through which the expanded family of the domestic festival grows. In 2011, this family finds homes in Santiago de Chile, Madrid, Berlin, Zagreb, Brussels and it keeps on finding new locations in Europe and Latin-America. Domestic festivals give one more turn to the relationship between performance and space; artists not only occupy the public space but also the domestic one.
The domestic space (the home) has usuallybeen the place where we learn about safety and confidence; it is the space where first learn about affection and about identity and it is also a space that builds community―being the family the first community we participate in. Thus, the domestic space promotes values and becomes a fundamental site for knowledge exchange and circulation. What happens when a family welcomes another unknown performative family to occupytheir domestic space? How can we describe the relationship between the hosting family, the audience and the artists? Would it be possible to transduce the qualities of the domestic space into the public space or vice versa? Is it possible to establish a more flexible city that allows spaces to have different qualities blurring the boundaries of the public and the private? Which kinds of exchanges can we set up between the domestic an urban space to promote urban skills among the citizens?
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