The “Art” of Occupying the City : Contestations and Resistance through Creative Activism in an French Suburb

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 3:00 PM
Room: 313+314
Oral Presentation
Anne HERTZOG , Geography, University of Cergy-Pontoise, CERGY, France
The “Art” of occupying the city : contestations and resistance through creative activism in an French suburb

Recent urban renewal policies in France have led to a reactivation of "urban activism" rooted in the "urban struggle" of the early 1970s (Castells, 1973) and the rise of "new social movements" (Touraine, 1978), while knowing deep changes in the light of new concerns (Ion, 1997). Through the analysis of a local organization of inhabitants promoting the use of art in the public space in a suburban town affected by urban regeneration, we can question these renewed registers and the modalities of action chosen by inhabitants who challenge and intend to participate actively in the transformations of their material surrounding, in a context of changing decision-making process in French urban planning. We will see how, through use of art in urban activism, between performance and informality, it is the City “given back” to its inhabitants which is staged and defined as a counter model to the contemporary “planned and imposed” town. Through the collective production of a new urban aesthetic, a new relationship with the city is suggested, based on renewed values and sensitive approaches, as well as an “alternative” urban design and landscape. We will also show how the creative act, as a collective process, appears more important than the art piece itself, as it allows social relationships defined like a new kind of urban “togetherness”. However, far from being inclusive, this "artivism" (Lemoine et Ouardi, 2010) can also work like an “entre soi”, and thus, in a more exclusive way, involve a spatial and social “distinction” process (in the bourdieusian sense). This communication will, thus, insist on the ambivalence characterizing collective action and belonging through use of art in urban mobilizations.