458.4 Participatory art practices in urban space

Friday, August 3, 2012: 9:36 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Elizabeth MACWILLIE , Advanced Studies Program, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University , Somerville, MA
In societies there exist certain systems established to ensure social, economic and cultural equality among its constituents. However, as described by Henri Lefebvre there are instances where failures in these systems - through weakness, through intentional destruction, through neglect - have resulted in holes, creating what David Harvey calls uneven geography, a complex condition caused by both seen and unseen forces. Although many of these inequities manifest themselves through the built environment, the professional fields of architecture, urban planning and design have failed to adequately respond to them.  In some of these locations where urban design and planning have failed, new relational, performative, and sculptural art practices have been able to reveal and actively address unseen forces in the city, in part by circumventing or instrumentalizing what are seen as limitations to the design fields.  Through their practices - which range in scale and medium – these artists have filled the voids Lefebvre described as “the places of the possible” which “can only be realized in the course of a radical metamorphoses.” The paramount methodological approach which enables these practices to accomplish radical urban metamorphoses is the incorporation of different forms of public participation, providing the multiplicity of viewpoints and knowledge needed to inform site specific interventions.

I begin this paper by establishing a context for understanding the place of art in contemporary urbanization. Within this framework I will examine case studies of artists WochenKlausur, Jeanne van Heeswijk, REPOHistory and Krzysztof Wodiczko with the goal of understanding how each incorporated participation into their practices in order to reveal conditions of uneven geography, in turn proposing alternatives to these existing social and political structures. Finally, I will suggest from these case studies how participatory art practices can work with architects, urban planner and urban designers to create more just cities.