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Commodities and People, Capital, Information and Technology
Edited by Katharyne Mitchell, Reece Jones and Jennifer L. Fluri
Katharyne Mitchell, Reece Jones and Jennifer L. Fluri
A Path to Spatial Justice
Edited by Shelley Egoz, Karsten Jørgensen and Deni Ruggeri
This chapter’s point of departure is the definition of the quality of public art and its democratic character in terms of the quality of its exchanges with a wider public. Public art interventions oriented towards a dialogue with a wider public and local contexts strengthen democracy in at least two ways: by providing a meaningful background for collective performance in urban public spaces, and by providing a background for widely understood human development, which is a prerequisite for active involvement in the democratic life of a society. In this context I argue that the adoption of the perspective of modern aesthetics in relation to public art is problematic, as it foremost appreciates free, abstract art and encourages highly idiosyncratic formal explorations, often resulting in artworks that are incomprehensible for the average spectator. The chapter then brings forward Gadamer’s concepts of play and festival, and discusses implications of the understanding of public art.
Where landscape becomes political and where it gains symbolism beyond that of grand abstractions such as ‘escape’ or ‘wildness’ is when landscape may be accessed. A political landscape imaginary must include the possibility of passage, occupation and/or inhabitation in order to have maximum power. The possibilities of landscape imaginaries benefit from being tested in physical places by human bodies and their constructions. This testing often takes place in acts of transgression such as the mass trespass of Kinder Scout in England’s Peak District in 1932 or the contemporary actions of the Occupy movement. Passage and occupation are both situated qualities of human bodies in landscapes. This chapter argues that a situated understanding is foundational to any meaningful conception of democratic society. Trespass forces access and forces politics back from the space of abstraction and into the real landscape place. Trespass is a constant necessity for the enactment of democracy.
If we want to address landscape democracy, we need an awareness of the different frames for understanding democratic legitimacy as developed and discussed in political theory. This chapter is about the place of civil society in different contemporary approaches to democracy and the consequences this creates for democratic planning. After presenting four ideal typical approaches to democracy – the liberal, participatory, deliberative and radical – the place of civil society in a generic planning process is discussed. The claim is made that although planning processes that follow a liberal democratic framework may qualify as democratic at a theoretical level, the understanding of a landscape as ‘an area, as perceived by people’ implies a necessity to include elements of participatory, deliberative and possibly radical democracy to gain democratic legitimacy. The chapter concludes by pointing to possible measures public planners may take to enhance democratic planning.
Responding to raised concern that the various processes of neo-liberal restructuring are threatening democracy, this chapter critically interrogates the agency and instrumentality of space in encouraging/enabling or discouraging/suppressing democratic processes, actions and behaviours. It investigates classical theoretical perspectives on the relationship of the spatio-material and socio-cultural, foregrounding urban spaces and issues of social and environmental justice, as framed by Lefebvre’s ‘right to the city’. A framework and set of four lenses to understand, critique and operationalise the democratic potential of urban public space is proposed. These are applied to critique three examples of designed public urban spaces representative of particular approaches. A new alternative approach to the understanding and design of spaces based on ‘assemblage’ as a theoretical and conceptual framework is developed, holding potential to realise the ‘right to the city’ and to counteract the post-political erosion of the urban public sphere associated with austerity and neo-liberal governmentality.