Gattaca Free Essays: Use Them to Develop Your Writing Skills

Watching a film is always pleasant. However, writing an essay on a film can be quite challenging. For instance, what to write in Gattaca essays?

Who can help you? Well, you do not need anyone; you may use Gattaca free essays. Lots of them are available on the Internet. How to use Gattaca free essays?

  1. First of all, while reading Gattaca free essays you may find or work out a good topic for your own paper.
  2. Of course, you may find interesting ideas which can inspire some brilliant ideas in your brain. Well, do remember that you cannot just copy some outstanding passages from Gattaca free essays because it is plagiarism. You may only find some useful ideas.
  3. You can also use some interesting facts about the film, actors, etc. mentioned in Gattaca free essays. Of course, you should remember that free essays cannot be appropriate sources; you cannot refer to them in your works cited page.
  4. It is possible to make use of Gattaca free essays’ bibliography. Thus, you may use some quotes or sources used in free papers. However, you should check the source you are going to use. Sometimes authors of Gattaca free essays are not very good students and use fake sources.
  5. Finally, you will be able to see some good examples of good structures. Thus, while reading Gattaca free essays you should pay attention to every detail. How did authors formulate their thesis statement? How did they conclude? How did authors arrange their arguments in Gattaca free essays?

So, now you may start searching free paper and use them for your winning academic works.

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INVESTIGATION 0001 + 0002: JP Murals + Wilson Street Urban Farm

Media from the JP Murals Investigation:

Patricia’s favorite mural.

new findings by Hannah:

Media from the Wilson Street Urban Farm, the second of my investigations:

Do you want to make a map with me?

An optimist’s map of the East Side.

More collaboration in the works.

photos taken by Jerusha Stevens (maybe 6 years old?)

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[A somewhat backlogged but ongoing narrative of my investigation can be found at Re(vised)search.]

Concurrent to this project I have been developing a masters thesis around initiatives that blur the line between creativity and advocacy in areas of decline. I ultimately seek to understand how such initiatives prove effective in enlightening the disenfranchised psyche (organizational dynamics, methods of working, values, engagement methods with community, vehicles for participation), as I hope someday soon to undertake such an endeavor (now looking for willing partners!) The requisite information I need to gather will come primarily from those undertaking such initiatives and those affected by it (the ‘community’). Beyond gathering the heretofore-mentioned information, I also hope to learn of the change in perceptions of involved community members of their personal capacity and that of their surroundings. How does something both creative and empowering regenerate and re-inspire the disenfranchised psyche?

By undertaking research for this thesis, I present myself with a potential situation and role that rubs against personal ethics. Traditional research methods reinforce the separation between outsider and insider, researcher and participant, expert and layman. I, however, do not believe that I am an expert on someone else’s situation, and thus I do not want to project an image of myself as expert. I hold the polar opposite belief that the community is in fact its own expect; should members be charged with gathering information about themselves, their data set would be far richer than what I could create. I also begrudge research as a one-way value transfer: the participant gives time and information; the researcher receives valuable data. Over the course of this semester I have developed a set of alternative methods a researcher can use that:

  1. undermine the traditional separation between researcher and participant,
  2. enable a richer set of data to emerge, and
  3. are mutually-beneficial to both parties.

I will present my developments as a compilation of many options that one could choose from depending on the scenario. By highlighting those I have implemented, further lessons regarding the usage of these methods is revealed; mainly, the need for

  1. heightened senses on site to identify and respond to unforeseen opportunities,
  2. flexibility in agenda, and
  3. the understanding that something different and unexpected, yet equally viable, may emerge.

very preliminary probing ideas

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Defying Human Nature or Taking Down the Wall. interventions.

While I continue to collect material for the first part of the final project (interviewing and photographing organizations and individuals who work to improve living conditions for the homeless and prisoners), the second part of the project is taking on a more concrete shape. On Saturday, I formed a “human wall” in the town of Wellesley. Initially, six of my friends stood in a line across the pedestrian pathway to block or at least complicate the passage. I mostly documented the process and people’s reactions. At first, I suggested different interventive strategies to my friends, but with time, and after several pedestrians had joined the “human wall,” it became its own entity, creating “moving doors” and shifting across the street. Unfortunately, the material I gathered was not as illustrative as I was hoping, but the pedestrians’ reactions were extremely interesting. Some were curious, some outraged, most indifferent. “What is this for?,” “This is a street in Wellesley!,” “What is the point of this ‘project’ other than being a pain in the ass?,” “How interesting.” were some of the comments. I wish I could have recorded them, but I only had my photo camera with me.

Another intervention that took place on Sunday was a “NO ENTRY” sign on the door of the Wellesley College library. The library opens its doors at 12pm and several people gather in front of it before, ready to run in to get the perfect study spot. This time, a no entry sign awaited them. Most were confused, wondered what it was about, but stuck around since others did the same. Finally, the doors were unlocked and once the first students had entered, everybody else followed. The sign remained until the late afternoon.

These interventions acted well as case studies for my project, although I would prefer to launch a bigger scale intervention. I am still searching for common everyday separations we all undergo, such as standing on the right and walking on the left on an escalator. If you can think of similar examples, please let me know. I will continue contemplating over Thanksgiving break as well.

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Sensory Seeds Progress

Farmers’ Market Tour Guide

I’ve spent the last two weeks tasting, talking, photographing, recording, and sketching at the Farmers’ Markets in Boston and Cambridge, however, there’s a noticeable lack of people at the markets as the season changes and the weather becomes chilly and wet.  My research focuses on the sensory experience of the markets and I’m particularly interested in ways in which the richness of browsing a farmers’ market could be transferred to other aspects of city exploration.  My project involves three elements which collectively suggest a new method for engaging the city.

1. Tourist Map

Graphically similar to traditional tourist maps, this guide highlights the location of Farmers’ Markets in Boston with detailed accounts of vendors and anecdotal history of the Market and its current site.  This map is meant for tourists first arriving in Boston and eager to get a sampling of local culture (through the lens of food).  I’m interested in systems like the HopOn/HopOff tour guide which is a popular choice for people who want to quickly see everything in Boston in order to map out the remainder of their trip and what they’d like to invest more time in.  This touring methodology is the inspiration for my project and the Farmers’ Market Map presents this concept.  *I’m working on a fold-out booklet that can be displayed at the final presentation and available for distribution to tourists.

2. Food Tagging

Once tourists arrive at the Farmers’ Market, the project invites them to sample the variety of products and engage the farmers for personal accounts of the city.  Using QR code technology, I propose to tag items throughout the market which can then be photographed by the tourists and catalogued through an online interface.  Each tagged item contains a database of all the businesses in Boston that serve the products and support the farmer.  Using this platform, tourists can make a ‘digital note’ of the foods they enjoy and then find more information about where to find these products in restaurants.  *I’ve already tested the QR codes which work well with a smartphone and link directly to the website I established.  Placing these on food directly or possibly the crates that hold the produce seems most efficient.

3. Website

The online interface is the final component of the project.  This is where the network of farmers and restaurants are mapped for tourists to browse.  When a tourist registers with the network and begins collecting QR codes, the network responds by creating a personal map for them and building an online profile around their food interests.  *I’m working on design mockups for this site which are based on actual data from the farmers I spoke with and the distributors and retail outlets they work with.

Final Presentation

For my final presentation, I will introduce the concept of the sensory tour guide by first explaining the Tourist Map.  I will set up a mock farmers’ market with crates of food… each with a particular QR code that links to the online interface.  I will invite people to taste the foods and then “register” the ones they like.  I will then show how those choices are interpreted through the network and mapped onto the Boston landscape as suggestions of places they might like to eat that include those products.  The key component of this intervention is to encourage people to consider an alternative exploration of the city that privileges sensory stimulation and to also support local businesses as they make their plans for traveling through the city.

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Reflections on the Dining Protest

So, Chris and I performed our Dining Hall Demonstration last Thursday. It was…different than expected, to say the least. On our facebook group, we had a whopping 130 people committed to attending, and another 150 expressing interest. In a true embodiment of human nature, approximately 25 showed up to the actual protest. This meant we could not use the power of numbers as we had expected, but that is probably better left to the online petition anyways. ( Instead, our performance turned towards a different, less used aspect of protest – conversation. We had already made our own food, not to mention making ourselves known to the MIT community as people who cared about the future of dining. The Housemasters of the Dining Dorms responded by assembling ahead of us in Baker dining, and, when we made our entrance, asking us to sit with them and discuss our thoughts on the new plan. Again, not what we expected. But it worked. With 4 tables filled with passionate students and listening members of the administration, we began our discussion of ideas while we feasted on our own home cooking. Other students were invited to join us, which a few did, and we advertised our actions by posting signs saying SaveTheFood, SayNO, and IHTFP (I Hate The Dining Plan). Over the next hour, several students worked together to explain to Alexander Slocum, the Chair of the Committee for Student Life, our ideas on how to improve the current dining plan, rather than simply informing the administration, as has been done countless times, that we disapprove of it. Therefore, rather than staging a mass protest, which would simply have reinforced the well-known message that the dining plan is disliked, we were actually able to use smaller numbers to our advantage by engaging members of the administration and proposing some changes that may actually be workable and agreeable to all parties.

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actual air tests

smoking test

bad breath

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mstyczynski mid-term presentation


PROPOSAL – This project consists of two parts. The first consists of a large scale conceptual framework and methodology. The second is the actual implementation of ideas developed through the larger conceptual framework. I’m proposing for my course project to focus on the development of a prototype device which focuses on the strategies and themes connecting the larger framework of the project as well as the discussion within the context of our course.

AMBITIONS – The aim of this project is to imagine and develop a methodology which empowers individuals, community groups, and other constituents who may feel apathetic, detached, or alienated from the political decision making process to directly and meaningfully respond to challenges they face within their urban environment. Underlying the project is the desire to conceptualize urban phenomenon which looks beyond an empirically data-driven, top-down view of urbanism. The ‘being’ and life of the city can be more adequately described in the language and rhetoric of networks, emergence, and self organization . Engaging the complexity of the city demands a multidimensional approach combining information, experience, and participation. The idea of a set of clear and distinct boundaries between private and public, or mine and yours, isn’t sufficient to describe the urban phenomena most pressing, useful, and current within our spatial milieu.

The project specifically focuses on air quality and the opportunities with sensor technology, low-cost d.i.y. electronics, and social media to enable individuals to explore, understand and provoke discussion within their community. Technology is not deployed as a passive medium, but as an active medium which helps to build engagement, social currency, and a meaningful relationship towards the public realm. The current infrastructure of air quality monitoring devices within Boston provides a misleading portrait of air quality. While the air quality can be considered ‘good’ on average, clearly through current research and discussion, problem areas exist within certain locations and micro-environments. This project provides the tools to explore these problem areas and serves as a template to imagine how individuals and communities can actively pursue challenges.

PARTICIPATORY PROCESSES – Our relationship to emerging technology and the opportunity afforded through participatory networks is a complicated one. What kind of new complexities exist in an environment of open, ‘democratic’ possibility? How can we negotiate these emerging challenges? How can we critically engage the role technology plays within the public realm? In one sense the complexity of an open, self-organizational, emergent, and participatory environment has a tremendous potential to empower individuals and groups within the city to produce good ends towards a ‘just’ environment.
PROJECT FRAMEWORK AND CRITICAL TERMS – The project conceptualizes a framework which is inclusive of a variety of constituents and stakeholders within a given geographic community. The framework functions as an interrelated network or system consisting of a few key components. I’m interested in developing a a template for this process and methodology. In a way imagining and speculating a model of urban form which relies on the self-organizational capacities of social dynamics to seek out, use, explore, occupy, and overlap urban space and urban relationships. I’m interested in addressing the complexity of relationships between people and in the most rhetorical sense being aware of the complexity of human experience within this new space.

Data Commons - / virtual communities- Virtual public providing the space for the exchange and collection of information. Information can be uploaded, shared between individuals, researchers, policy makers, etc.

Constituents + Stakeholders - The complex ecology of research and public space involves a complex set of relationships between individuals, community groups, researchers, and policy makers.
Geo Specifics Specific Targets / Community Groups / Public and Private Realm- Points in which resources are accessed and distributed towards specific targets.

Participatory Environments Social Anxiety / Power Relations / Identity / Choice – How can we critically engage the possibilities of a democratically open and redefined public realm.

Social Currency Once information and data is gathered, how is it implented? Who controls its use and its intended audience? How can the gathering of data serve as a moment of collective cultural and social action?

Tactics Sensory Kits – The tools deployed to provide air quality feedback are part of an evolving constellation of approaches which function on macro and micro scales responding to the needs and desires of individuals and community groups.

- The sensory kit breaks the process of data collection into a kit of parts opening the possibility for a variety of configurations dependent on individual needs, desires, and uses. The kits are conceptualized around a matrix of possible variables responding to the needs and use of individuals and community groups. Underlying the process is a strong sense of visual embodiment in which information gathered and transmitted can be intuitively, evocatively, and clearly understood. The kit is primarily divided between inputs and outputs providing an empowered sense of choice between focusing on areas of concern, while directing acquired information towards specific outputs.


measuring air quality within a space selected by a community and projecting an image as a register of air quality of that space within the highly public space of city hall – directly towards. Functioning as a virtual window from one lesser known public space into the most public space within the city.


sensors placed within targeted location. Messenger bag becomes a display in which the output is measured and directed.


specifically targets the highway as contested zone between the city at the macro level and the neighborhood surrounding the highway. I-93 is considered a problem zone within current air quality research. The utilizes trees as metaphoric and literal structures in which to produce a highly visible device to understood air quality readings.


What about reluctance, stigmatization associated with a perceived marginalized environment. Can we create a kit which is camouflaged within the landscape of the everyday?

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Thoughts on Methodology

I intend to develop a methodology for investigation into two different places and communities that will serve as case studies for my Masters thesis, which I am developing simultaneously.  In this thesis I will investigate the potential for socially-engaged arts and cultural initiatives to be the generators of community, economic, and physical development in places of decline. I am interested in initiatives that have sustained, localized efforts, exhibit entrepreneurial or innovative methodologies, draw from both existing cultural assets and new ideas, and implement multidisciplinary projects.  I will test my hypothesis that initiatives like these are well-suited to the contextual conditions present in declining places, wherein the public sector is without the necessary resources and there is little energy in the private sector to affect equitable community, economic, and physical development.

I hope to visit both places over IAP, spending up to a week at each place.  During this time I want to identify and qualify the impacts these initiatives have made on their respective contexts and communities. I am interested to know:

-        Why has the initiative succeeded? (Has it ever failed, and why? What are its processes? What is the dynamic between the initiative and the community?

-        How the community and context has been impacted (Has renewed confidence allowed for new entrepreneurial endeavors? Are people organizing in way they previously have not? Have physical spaces been re-envisioned?

I hope that my project for our class can both enrich my thesis exploration and benefit the communities I work with.  I will look at Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky for my first case study.  I am not certain what my second case study will be, but I am looking at the Powerhouse Project in Detroit, and Braddock Redux in Pittsburgh (I am still open for suggestions if anyone knows a great project out there!).  To really hone in on a project that fulfills both goals, I will need to delver deeper into discussion with the members of each initiative so that I may know what ideas (a) seem feasible, given particular circumstances, and (b) will be of use to them.  Simultaneously, I will have to continue developing the specifics of what I want to know, what I need to look for, what I need information about, etc., to give me the highest quality and most useful information possible for my thesis.

That said, I have a few possible ideas that I could develop and eventually propose:

  1. Recorded interviews done in ‘Storycorps style,’ wherein interviews are done between two or more people who are comfortable with each other. I would provide a framework from which to begin discussion, but the conversation would evolve (hopefully) more naturally than if I (a stranger) were the interviewer.
  2. A participatory mapping project that allows community members to locate places in their community that have been positively affected by the initiative, either directly or indirectly:

-        new businesses or organizations formed as a result

-        places of where events take place

-        places where programs occur

-        places made beautiful, lively, etc

Videos, images or sound clips from the community could be attached to each tag.

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Confession booth, project proposal outline

I. Goals
A. Create a collection of human experiences
B. Create a venue for voice
1. Communal listening experience
a. Strengthens community
2. Encourage confession
a. Sharing confessions
i. Is empowering and therapeutic
b. Hearing the difficult stories others hold inside themselves
i. Vulnerability makes other people real
ii. Creates connection, greater understanding, and self-acceptance
C. Create a sense of place
1. Communal experience/communal memories
a. Creates local pride
b. “Binding an installation to the communal context of a space can create
local identity and engagement” (Urban Screens)
D. Play with the line between anonymity and exposure
1. Anonymity
a. Provides a sense of safety and fosters courage
b. Participants may share things they wouldn’t share if required to fully
expose themselves
2. Risk of exposure
a. Can be thrilling and scary in a healthy way
b. Allows a shared experience

II. Project proposal
A. Sound-proof glass booth
1. Audio anonymity
2. Visual exposure from all directions
3. Combination of security and discomfort for participants inside
B. Invite participants to record a confession inside the booth
1. How to encourage confessions?
a. Direct instructions?
b. Will the context created by projecting other confessions aloud be
2. How to encourage “high-quality submissions” and discourage abuse?
a. Censoring?
b. Polite request to respect other listeners and support the project’s public
C. Project confessions aloud at a random time after recording
1. Creates a sound radius surrounding the booth
a. Sound radius will draw passersby into the project
b. How big should the sound radius be?
2. Random timing creates thrill/fear of possible exposure (or no exposure!)
a. Participant’s confession may be projected aloud two minutes later
i. Participant and companions will hear the confession
b. Participant’s confession may be projected aloud four hours later
ii. Participant and companions who would recognize his or her
voice will be long-gone
c. Community may occupy space for extended time, waiting to hear their
own or their friends’ confessions
3. Passersby may not immediately realize that the participant in the glass booth is
not speaking the confession currently projected
a. Participant leaves booth, but audio projection continues
b. Old woman visible in booth, but young man heard on projection
c. Audience will have to piece together what is happening!

III. Location
A. High circulation
1. Maximizes number of people passing through sound radius, to draw into project
B. Space for rest and reflection
1. Comfortable spots to sit and enjoy the project for an extended time
C. Harvard Square?
1. Many pedestrians, high circulation, great diversity
a. Retail workers, business people, students, tourists, homeless residents,
visiting families, couples on dates, street punks, musicians, performers
2. Many spaces for rest and reflection
a. Benches, concrete steps, grassy areas, outdoor cafe seating
3. Potential bureaucratic issues
a. Permitting?
b. City connections?
c. Censoring?
d. Ask Johnny Monsarat (Wheel Questions) for advice
D. MIT campus?
1. High circulation in some areas, but less diversity
a. Students age 18-30, professors, and staff
b. Primarily well-educated
2. Spaces for rest and reflection
a. Benches, steps, grassy areas
3. May be fewer bureaucratic issues

IV. Additional possibilities
A. Other types of projection, more than only audio?
1. Visual?
a. Hands, ala Christof Wodiczko?
B. Dialog between two sites?
1. Record confessions from another site, and project them along with live recordings
a. Creates a dialog between two places
b. There is no current dialog between Cambridge and Cuba
c. With what places does Cambridge lack dialog, but share a language?

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proposal for final project (please tell me what you think of it! in desperate need of feedback…)


    My proposal for the final project is a documentary/sensory exploration of people/characters/collectives/communities/organizations/individuals who defy the “human trait” to separate/segregate/create injustice/inequality. My project will thus continue in the line of the two previous audio and sensory exploratory exercises (and possibly include excerpts of them). After having investigated the idea of a trait in human nature that gravitates towards separation which results in marginalized individuals and groups, I am interested in scrutinizing who works against this trait.

    Who tries to reintegrate the separated? Is it the marginalized themselves, purely altruistic individuals, religious groups? What are their motivations? Do they all share one common characteristic that differentiates them from the rest of the human kind?

    I propose two sections for my project to explore these questions:

      1. a (rather abstract) exploration of the individuals behind (local) initiatives such as “Starlight” ( who help the homeless and operate through the religious channel and “Prisonbooks,” an organization that provides incarcerated individuals with books (, among others. This exploration would include participating in the orgs’ activities, interviewing, documenting, interpreting, etc. to “explain” these people’s “dissent.” This exploration would be participatory in nature.

      2. an arts intervention in a physical public space. This project will create an “invisible wall” or a similar piece in a widely used public space. At the moment I am considering several locations in Cambridge but that might change. This project might be a theater piece (where individuals play out a scene that represents separation or injustice) which will be documented. It becomes important to note whether and if yes, who the persons in this public space are who intervene to act against this separation/injustice. These “interventionists” I will seek out and interview to, once again, attempt to get closer to the answer of the question: who defies our human trait to separate and create inequality/injustice?

      Both sections will be worked into most likely a film, using media such as video, photography (mostly) and audio. I think it will be similar to the second project in its media form.

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Populist Art: Intro & Case Study #1

General Introduction: In preparation for my final project for 4.330, I’m conducting several case studies on examples of populist art. Populist art is defined here as art produced for and by the masses (ie outside of the cultural elite), separate from fine art conventions and institutional practice; encompassing the Underground, Lowbrow, Outsider, Naïve, Stuckism, Steampunk artistic movements. I’m particularly interested in politically charged work that seeks to intervene publically in order to spark issue-oriented conversation.

These case studies are meant to bring to light examples of these movements that have become commercially viable, and question whether commercial success and popular approval degrades or strengthens the potency of their political agenda.

Case Study #1: Juxtapox Magazine, established in 1994, is considered to be the standard bearer for all things underground art. It was created in part by the prominent 1990’s “Lowbrow” artist Robert Williams to highlight the emerging “urban alternative” art movement.

Today Juxtapoz is the most widely circulated art magazine in the United States. It came to such acclaim on the shoulders of artists that began in it pages and have claimed major commercial and popular success. A prime example is Shephard Fairey, who was featured in its pages years before his work became iconic. One blogger asks “does the fact that quite a bit of the artwork shown in Juxtapoz is by artists whose work has become repetitive and commercially produced for sale make the magazine a gimmick?” Another blogger, Greg Beato, highlights an interesting irony:

“My rule of thumb is, when your work ends up on a refrigerator magnet, you’re over,” wrote artist Robert Williams in the Winter 1998 issue of Juxtapoz…The idea that the purest expressions of one’s soul might be reduced to mere décor, pleasant but innocuous images that hungry philistines barely acknowledge in their hurry to retrieve last night’s pizza, is anathema to all….That Williams should say this, however, was more than a little ironic. For one thing, in that very issue, there was a full-page ad for Zippo lighters emblazoned with “exclusive designs…from the best artists around,” including Robert Williams.

Taking a look at Juxtapoz’s website, it is clear that there is no subtlety intended on the business part of the operation. For one, its homepage opens to its name astride an enormous banner ad for or Bombay Sapphire Gin. The second most prominent graphic element is the ads referring the visitor to the magazine’s store, where prints of featured works of art are available alongside baseball caps and video games. We should remember, though, that a magazine survives mostly on its advertising revenue, and that magazines at every level of commercial success and sociopolitical significance need to be fiscally feasible to last.

Importantly, the magazine began and continues to operate under the premise that anyone can be featured as an artist, regardless of reputation or renown; the individual artist is assessed solely based on the merit of his work. The magazine’s website features a “Forum” where users can post their work, receive feedback, and sometimes be featured in the website’s “Reader Art” section or the print magazine. This participatory element separates this magazine from its competitors, especially those that represent the tastes and products of the cultural elite.

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C.Urb, Johannesburg, Interview with Thomas Chapman (part2)


Interview with Thomas Chapman, co-founder of C.Urb

12. October 2010

Christina Gossmann

-What do you think of the notion of transgressive public interventions; which one should be permanent (should they be at all?)?; which ones should be temporary? (e.g. trailer park was temporary, why? Dance studio permanent but changing, why?)

To me a so-called ‘intervention’ in public space will always be something temporary, in that it can only inspire reaction for a limited amount of time, i.e. before the public who experience it every day become used to it. We did an artwork on a highway verge in Newtown which was intended to draw attention to lost/ leftover spaces in the city (of which there are lots in Johannesburg). The idea though was not to beautify the highway offramp but to draw attention to it as a space for practical use. The area had recently undergone what we saw as a pretty conservative public space upgrade and we wanted the artwork to be a criticism of this. My feeling is that the artwork was effective in this manner for a few weeks and after that just became a familiar sight in the landscape. Like the Trailer Park, however, the purpose of the intervention was to experiment as to what future, possibly permanent plans might be. A follow up project in the space would therefore not be seen as a subversive intervention anymore but something more solid/ a piece of infrastructure. In the Dansazania project, the temporary intervention has been us establishing our design office in the building we are converting, obviously this action is shaping the final design.

-Do you see yourself as an artist, architect, designer or all at once? Do you collaborate with either of the three usually in your projects? Who are the people you usually work with?

I market myself as an architect but most of C-Urb’s built work has in the realm of public art/urban landscape architecture. I have always had an interest in public space design though, so I try to experiment in this realm whether we get a purely architectural commission or a public art piece to do. I always work very closely with my partner Marco, and most of the time we have a group of students who help us. We also always work very closely with clients.

-Community-based art is said to suffer from uneven power relations in the “triangulated exchange between an artist, a curator-art institution and a community group.” Do you agree? Is it ok? Or should it be changed?

I think that it’s very difficult to generalize about any community-based project. Ideally, a creative project will emerge directly from a community group, in which case the curator doesn’t exist, and there is just a question of funding. Obviously there are loads of cases in Joburg where big-name artists/curators exploit street artists, this I don’t agree with.

-Has the participatory project, Dansazania, been successful? Have people from the community actually gotten involved?

I find it difficult to measure involvement or to define ‘the community’, especially in an area like Melville, where you have upmarket houses, offices and restaurants on one side of the park and a large group of homeless people living in the storm drain in the park. Also, there are transient groups of peoplewho use the park’s facilities (soccer teams, tennis coaches etc.) who also need to be considered.

The most important thing to remember about this project though is that it emerged from a Melville resident who has been running dance studios and feeding schemes separately in the area for over 10 years and has now decided to establish them together in the former Melville scout hall 2 blocks from her house.

Banner to engage local participatory involvement in designing the dance studio

We have tried numerous tactics to involve a broader community in the design process project (facebook groups, banners) but in reality the most valuable interactions with the community have been the informal one-on-one encounters with people who feel very strongly about the project. A large part of our process has been to set up our design office in the very building we are converting. We have regular meetings here which are open to anybody. There is a homeless guy from the park who comes to most of the meetings and who often has some of the best ideas for the building.

As we design the building and the park we also test design ideas in real space. So, for example we are proposing a running track that is also an advertising billboard around the park and to test this idea we have regular runs around this route. This action in itself has started to gain interest from some of the people who live in the area.


Discovery Run to raise awareness for participatory design project


-In practice, how does a group of people become identified as a community in an exhibition program, as a potential partner in a collaborative art or design project?

We are always very open to any community involvement, mostly because we work with tiny budgets and often the more hands we have, the more effective the project. When we did the installation on the highway verge for example, there were a group of street kids who lived just behind the site. When we started working on site they came over and started begging from us and we ended up hiring them to help us make the piece. This helped the project a lot because the street kids looked after the artwork for a long time.

Who identifies them as such?

At a broad scale, there will always be academics, architects, urban designers who have allocated budgets for projects and stipulated that some form of community involvement is required. Most of the case, these people haven’t a clue about the community they are making decisions about. I think that good community organizing by nature doesn’t exclude anybody- so if there are a thousand people who want to become involved in your art project then that’s what you have to deal with. The reality though, is that gaining community interest in anything is really tough work (unless there is some kind of payment).

Who decides what social issue(s) are addressed or represented? The artist? community? curator designer? sponsoring institution or funding org?

This always differs. With our country’s history, there are a number of social issues that are unavoidable, whatever the project. There are a few issues that we as architects have become particularly interested in in our work and we try to engage these in all our projects. The berlin wall project was an interesting alignment of our interests and those of the client, a German funding agency called DAAD. The client wanted to commemorate the fall of the Berlin wall by building a replica on the Wits University campus. The idea was to draw attention to the walls in South African society/ the continued spatial legacy of Apartheid.

-What is a “community” in your understanding?

I define community as people who come together because of a common interest. I don’t see community as something inherently spatial at all, i.e. just because 10 people live in the same street does not mean that they are a community. A community project in a middle-class suburb like Sophiatown for example would be most successful if it was run through a school in the area or at one or other sporting facility because these seem to be some of the only common interests amongst people in the area. In the case of the highway project, the common factor that brought the street kids together was poverty/ homelessness.

-What is the role of community in your projects? Are your projects dependent on your intervention as artist/architect/designer etc. or on the community? Are your projects self-sustainable?

The role of community always changes from project to project. I don’t think our projects are more or less dependent on our intervention or that of the communities. Most of the time though, the projects are not our idea, they have come from a client (which could be a community or an individual). The most sustainable projects I have found tap into some kind of enterprise that is already in place. We ran a studio at the university where a group of students worked with a bookshop to landscape a public space opposite the shop for ‘the community’ to use. Although the space was public, it added value to the bookshop and was maintained by the owners. In this case, we identified the project and approached the bookshop.



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C.Urb, Johannesburg. Bio and Projects (part1)

 C.Urb was founded by Marco Corazza and Thomas Chapman in their Honours year at Wits University Architecture School. The acronym C.Urb stands for ‘Counter-Urbanism Collective’ and is derived from the popular term ‘Counter-Culture’, (a subculture which runs counter to those of the social mainstream). The pair engages with projects which allow them to challenge norms of architectural practice in Johannesburg and seek alternative paths in solving generic problems in the city. The majority of C.Urb’s projects are done on a pro-bono basis and are only taken on if they provide scope for the exploration of unique ideas. The projects range from temporary installations to conventional buildings and are generally executed through close collaboration with student volunteers from both University of Witswatersrand and University of Johannesburg architecture schools. Through the variety of projects that C.Urb has worked on, the pair has developed a spectrum of strong theoretical standpoints ranging from alternative tectonic traditions to community processes in Johannesburg.

C.Urb’s work can be seen as a series of questions about Johannesburg tested as physical actions in space. It explores how through these actions, overriding interest in public life in the city has broadened to include concepts such as event space and civic engagement. Further to this, the work can be understood as a RE-action to current architectural practice in Johannesburg, revealing ways in which this city has begun to allow for young practitioners to express ideas beyond the realm of paper architecture.

In their projects, Thomas and Marco address all the three kids of community Miwon Kwon mentions in her chapter: “sited communities that already had clearly defined identities in the sense of having established local bases, modes of operation, or a shared sense of purpose” (p.120), see Project 2, the Trailer Park; temporary “invented communities” that heavily depend on “administrative and institutional intervention of the curator and sponsoring agency” (p.128), see Project 4, the Berlin Wall; and ongoing “invented communities” with “sustainability beyond the exhibition context and its institutional support” (p.130), see Project 3, Dansazania.

Following brief descriptions of a few projects highlighting site response and community involvement (Note from Christina: Sorry if this is a little overwhelming due to lots of information! I truly admire C.Urb’s work and have interacted with several of their projects and would like to give a broad sense of their variability. However, if it is too much, please just read about Projects 2 and 3).

 1. Spaza Signage, Kwathema 2007


Figure 1.1

Figure 1.2

A project which combined signage and a small shop (see fig 1.2). This was a completely community- driven project, although it fitted into a bigger academic project ( Funding came from IFG ULM in Germany.

Site Specificity: The sign replaced an informal shop and borrowed ideas from the construction of the original structure (see fig 1.1).

Community Participation: The sign was designed with the woman who ran a shop there originally as well as a small chess academy who has taken ownership of the adjacent park. Local welders were also engaged and promoted through the project (see pamphlet fig 1.3)

Figure 1.3


 2. Trailer Park: Parktown North, Johannesburg 2010

Figure 2.1

An informal 2010 World Cup fan park commissioned by the Goethe Institute. The project piggy-backed on the Goethe’s ‘Cracking Walls’ project which involved the demolition of the boundary wall around the institute’s Johannesburg Headquarters. The site allocated for the park was the Goethe parking lot (fig 2.1). The project allowed to explore the notion of shared/semi-public space in Johannesburg suburbs. The park is positioned in fairly close proximity to one of the biggest parks in Johannesburg, creating a juxtaposition between these as two different kinds of public spaces.

Site Specificity: Although the site was pre-determined by the client, it was interesting that the parking lot is located in a nondescript suburban side street, surrounded by upper middle-class houses with high walls and electric fences.

Community Involvement: During construction a number of different communities were engaged, from local piece workers to a large group of students, some of whom lived in the area. A number of different communities used the park in the month that it was functional. The biggest of these was probably the German intellectual community in Johannesburg who had a base at the Goethe institute. There were also a number of local residents who watched games there. Parktown North, the suburb in which the trailer park was implemented also has a few local homeless people who watched games at the park occasionally.

Figure 2.2: Trailer Park Design


Figure 2.3: Trailer Park in full action







Also read review on Trailer Park:


3. Dansazania: Melville, Johannesburg 2010

 A design project for the studio/ HQ of the Dansazania NGO in Johannesburg who run outreach projects in 5 homeless shelters in Johannesburg while also operating a commercial dance studio.

 Site Specificity: Dansazania have obtained a 10 year lease on a large open space which is situated at the edge of several affluent suburbs in Johannesburg. There are a few service buildings on the site, one of which, an old scout hall, is being converted into the dance studio. The open space has a few sporting facilities but for the most part it is badly maintained and populated by electricity pylons and a storm drain. There are many of these types of buffer spaces in the city as a result of Apartheid planning laws.

Figure 3.1: Location of Dansazania site


4. Berlin Wall: Wits University, Johannesburg 2009

An installation to commemorate the 20 year anniversary of the coming down of the Berlin Wall. Funded by DAAD. Originally, it was only supposed to be a wall but C.Urb pushed the brief to create two spaces for performance/gathering on either side of the wall.

Site Specificity: Wits University main Piazza. The wall was located on the North-South Axis of the University, mainly for visual impact but also to emphasize existing divisions within the university, between arts (east campus) and commerce (west campus). A wall is a comment on exclusivity of the University: there is a large wall surrounding the campus and dividing it from the city. Many protest groups used the wall for slogans, from Palestine Solidarity Committee to students protesting university fee hikes. Gay rights organizations also spray-painted the wall.

Community involvement: Huge student participation in the project, from construction to demolition.


Figure 4.1: The Berlin Wall on Wits campus

Figure 4.2: Demolition of the Berlin Wall on Wits campus









5. Specific Furniture Design elective, Johannesburg 2008

 A 6 month project with 2nd year architecture students, engaging a small gallery in Troyeville and a bookshop in Houghton. Students were encouraged to work closely with these ‘clients’ to create public furniture pieces which in some way responded to the needs of these institutions (Discussed in Interview, post 2).

Figure 5.1: Site specific furniture









6. Carr Street Highway Offramp Installation, Newtown, Johannesburg 2008

 Art work commissioned by dept of arts and culture, made by casting concrete into dustbin lids (Discussed in Interview).


Figure 6.1 Offsite ramp installation







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“Wheel Questions” by Johnny Monsarrat

You may have seen it last summer in Harvard Square. Or maybe you got swept into Monsarrat’s NUBtalk (Cambridge’s local version of TEDTalks, organized by MIT alumni) outside Café Luna two years ago. Or perhaps, like me, you biked past the artist’s house in Somerville one night, and accepted the posted invitation to enter his garden and check out the artwork.

What is Wheel Questions? It’s an art installation that invites the community to submit questions about anything, to be answered by the artist. You write a question on the front of a post-it note, then slip it into a collection box at the art piece. Within several days, Monsarrat writes an answer on the back of the post-it, and the note is hung on the art piece (on a spindle resembling a giant prayer wheel) for the public to see.

A venue for voice

At the NUBtalk on October 3, 2008, Monsarrat admitted that he’s no psychologist. The forty-something computer geek is not particularly qualified to answer anyone’s questions. He tries anyway, giving an earnest response to every question asked. The real value of the project, Monsarrat said, was in encouraging people to ask important questions. On the project’s website, Monsarrat says when you have a troubling problem, it’s important to “do something, anything, just to make a start.” Writing your issue on a card “prove[s] you can face it and take the first step” toward solving it.

There is merit in this idea. We all struggle with issues; we all have questions. It’s more harmful to keep these issues bottled up than to share them. Once we express the issues concealed inside us, we’re one large step closer to understanding them, solving them, or coming to terms with them. Wheel Questions gives us a venue for voicing our issues. Writing a question on a post-it note can feel safer and more anonymous than speaking up to a friend or loved one, but it still requires some bravery to voice our personal questions in a public forum. The brave act of making a public confession can be empowering and therapeutic.

Civic engagement, identity, and pride

Wheel Questions: Why did you leave Harvard Square? It's so dull there now ...

But I think Monsarrat sells himself short. The project doesn’t just help those of us with burning questions; it helps the whole community, by engaging us, helping build a local identity, and fostering civic pride. I heard about Wheel Questions months before I saw it. Biking a new route home one chilly autumn night, I was ecstatic to stumble upon this piece that had begun to enter local lore. “You can walk right into his garden,” my friend Alex told me. “There’s a sign inviting you in.” How often is the public welcomed onto private land, at all hours, in the city? That concept alone was enough to excite me, to make me feel Somerville pride.

Like the Urban Screens website says, “binding [an installation] to the communal context of the space [can create] local identity and engagement.” Monsarrat turned his own yard into a communal space, offering it to the community as a place to come together. When the project was installed in Harvard Square for the summer, it took advantage of the square’s existing communal context, situating itself in what is probably Cambridge’s busiest pedestrian area. Harvard Square is constantly full of retail workers, business people, students, tourists, homeless residents, visiting families, couples on dates, street punks, musicians, performers — almost all on foot. Monsarrat couldn’t have chosen a better place in Cambridge, to reach a larger or more diverse audience. Wheel Questions brings together our varied community, engages everyone (well, the literate) in a common activity, and allows us to relate to each other.

Human connection

Wheel Questions: Will my dad every come home?

Reading everyone else’s questions is more valuable and intriguing than reading Monsarrat’s responses. It gives us a view into the minds and experiences of the anonymous masses we pass by every day, of our neighbors, of our fellow humans. A businessman may find value in the question written by a fourteen-year-old girl. A tourist may feel connection with the question written by a homeless man. By anonymizing the voices, a layer of judgment is removed, and we are allowed to connect with the things people say, instead of prematurely rejecting the people who say them. We’re able to see our similarities, and to see that we aren’t alone in the things we hold inside ourselves.

In The social potential of Urban Screens, Marjam Struppek argues, “A healthy social interaction and information network in a local neighbourhood can play an important role and, above all, give a feeling of security.” A project like Wheel Questions may be entirely analog, but it still plays the role of an interactive “screen” that helps “circulate and access data for comments, stories, or conversations that characterize and strengthen the local community.” In this case, the community includes anyone who is human, with normal human issues.


Regarding projects like Urban_diary and Storyboard, which allowed the public to SMS text to then be displayed in public places, Struppek asks, “What strategies will prevent misuse and encourage high-quality submissions?” To my dismay, she doesn’t offer any answer. Monsarrat’s strategy is to answer every question, without censoring “bad” ones. In response to the question, “Are you stupid or something?” he wrote:

Wheel Answers: I'm going to go with something!

Q: “Where’s Waldo?”
A: “He’s taking a sabbatical at the Priesthood Sanctuary of Brother Georgio Palentes in the Azores. He can be a little hard to find.”

Q: “Where are all the white women at?”
A: “You can meet new people online, in clubs, in hobby groups, and at parties. You’re in for a disappointment if you choose partners based on their age, height, race, or anything lame like that. Just choose people who are good to you.”

Are these questions valid, in that they paint a more full picture of our community, hecklers and all? By seeing that it’s impossible to get a rise out of the answerer, are questioners less likely to ask intentionally offensive questions? What about “indecent” questions? Did the City of Cambridge actually allow questions about sex and drugs to be posted publicly in Harvard Square? Or were more risque questions relegated to the project’s internet archive, in an attempt to shield our children’s pure eyes? What if these questions were projected out loud, for our pure ears to hear when we passed within a certain radius? Should certain questions or confessions be censored? How does one encourage “high-quality submissions?”

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Community Gardening

As an engineer, I’m always interested in functionality. Here, I’ll explore the community supported agriculture movement, which blurs the lines between functional farming interventionist participatory art to produce unique social interventions.

Originally, community gardens grew out of a need to provide healthier food options to people living in food deserts, areas in which residents have access only to fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and other venues which serve highly processed, high calorie, nutritionally poor food. Community gardens provide people in these typically impoverished neighborhoods access to healthy fruits and vegetables that they would not otherwise be able to eat.

The more interesting part of community supported agriculture, however, is not its impact on people’s diets, but rather its effect on the communities that start them. Community gardens effectively provide a common goal for the residents of a neighborhood to unite around, providing an incentive to cut down on crime and protect the area from undesirable elements. Furthermore, since community gardens encourage nearby residents to work together, they are often sites where political organization begins, in many ways modern versions of the New England village green. As citizens begin to develop a stronger sense of community, they are more likely to support schools, local businesses, and other organizations that help them uplift themselves from the oppression and poverty from which they suffer.

Community gardens are in themselves a kind of art. Artists at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA have experimented with various aspects of community gardening as art, working with landscaping, types of plants, and other themes to create community gardens as elaborate works of art ( In this sense, all community gardens are participatory art, as they are created through the combined efforts of an entire community. Furthermore, community gardens provide the foundation to bring both traditional and interventionist arts to a community previously deprived of most art. By bringing people together, community gardens can create communities where previously there were none.

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‘ACTUAL AIR’ – project grounding

mstyczynski 101110

attached preliminary studio work

My studio course is premised on a belief that network culture and participatory media is poised to re-imagine many of the conventions of architectural and urban space. My goal with the network cultures course is to find overlaps and opportunities to relate the projects into a comprehensive project taking on many of the themes and discussions within our network cultures course.

The ambition of my studio project is to develop a process which enables individuals within marginalized, neglected, and blighted environments within the city to engage the problems they experience, providing the necessary means to reclaim and improve the space in which they occupy and inhabit. An area and issue where this particular urgent and relevant is within Roxbury where air pollution is overlooked within public space as well as private domestic spaces. This has potentially led to several health issues, including a alarmingly disproportionate rate of asthma within the community.

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Social Disruption: Improv Everywhere

The Model of Site-Specific Art

Miwon Kwon states early in her introduction to “One Place After Another” that efforts of site-specific art have come under scrutiny as being no longer relevant.  She notes that “its critical edges have dulled, its pressures been absorbed… this is partly due to the conceptual limitations of existing models of site specificity itself” (Kwon 2).  Reading further into the discussion, it seems the “existing model” she refers to has indeed become a mere formulated approach that lacks the disruptive nature evoked by previous generations of artistic intervention.  In defense of this generations potential for disruptiveness, I’d like to illuminate on the work of Improv Everywhere and their remarkable model for not only disruption and criticality, but also joy and discovery.

Improv Everywhere:

Site-Specific, Site-Responsive, Site-Conscious: Strange Rides on the Subway

Based in New York City and beginning in August of 2001, Improv Everywhere’s missions are self-described as “scenes of chaos and joy”.  Although the group invites ideas from anyone, the majority of their projects employ the use of flash mobs to disrupt the routine behavior of society and raise questions of what is ‘normal’ in public places.  One of the most well-known missions of the group, No Pants Subway Ride, brings together volunteers who collective de-pants themselves for a trip on the New York Subway lines.  The act is meant to be comical and is documented as such, but the conceptual premise is quite compelling.  Clothing has long been an indicator of character and status, revealing something of our cultural but also our financial means.  The removal of this ‘identity’ in public is often seen as a lewd act of rebellious nature, but in the case of Improv Everywhere, where hundreds of people participate in unison, the act is more a form of inclusion or even conformity.  Because the performance takes place in a place where spectators are unable to escape, the act is confrontational but completely passive at the same time.  Another curious mission from the group involved a set of twins dressed identically and sitting across from one another on a subway trip.  The behavior was familiar as the group simply interacted among themselves and ignored their mirrored counterpart.  What was striking about the footage of this event, however, is the duplication of something so normative.  The individuality of these people is removed as they are clearly part of a set in this scenario.  People can’t help but stare when they are confronted with the idea that duplicated lives are taking place right in front of them.  This form of disruptive behavior breaks from traditional models of site-specific art by juxtaposing the symmetry of space with the symmetry of people.  This is certainly a form of site-conscious art where the configuration of space is brought to our attention is a disorienting manner.  Several spectators commented on the confusion they felt trying to distinguish the strangeness of the scene and even questioned their own perceptions of the subway car’s proportions.

No Pants Subway Ride:

Human Mirror:

This American Life’s “Mind Games” Episode:

Context-Specific: Happy and Sad Birthdays

Another popular (and controversial) mission of the Improv Everywhere group is Ted’s Birthday.  This mission is interesting to contrast against the others because it was attempted several times with very different results.  It also coincide with a television pilot the group was exploring, so the technology for undercover documentation was more elaborate and actually changed the experience quite a bit.  The producers were concerned that the footage almost appeared fake because of the clear audio and camera angles.  The premise was simple.  Find a person at a bar and approach them to say “happy birthday Ted”.  Slowly, throughout the night, more and more people join the party with gifts and anecdotes, until a full party is underway for the supposed “Ted”.  The reason I bring this example to light as a work of context-specific art is because the context surrounding the life of the assumed “Ted” and his subsequent reaction to the party became crucial for this mission’s success.  I first heard about this mission on NPR’s This American Life, where host Ira Glass discusses the theme of “Mind Games” and interviews both Improv Everywhere’s founder, Charlie Todd, as well as the first Birthday Ted.  Todd’s account of the birthday event is very positive with clear indication that their missions are meant to surprise and engage the public.  The person chosen to be “birthday ted”, however, tells a different story of the event.  He describes the night as being filled with frustration and confusion as he tried to explain he was not actually “birthday ted”.  He also describes the difficulty he had personally with being the center of attention.  Within a year, the group tried another “Birthday Ted” scenario with great success.  The person chosen for the prank didn’t resist the new identity for long and thoroughly engaged themselves in the performance.  The performance relies greatly on the character of the spectator and their personal levels of comfort and flexibility.  This mission can be drawn against our earlier class discussions surrounding the role of the audience in the performance.  The goal of Improv Everywhere is not necessarily to educate, however, many of their methods of inclusion in the performance are a familiar technique used by artists to raise public awareness.

Ted’s Birthday:

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Daniel Peltz

I encountered the work of Daniel Peltz through a project which was recently featured in a few short news clips on public radio and traditional news sources. You may have heard of the project, which in one part was to incorporate yoga poses on parking tickets as a way to re-imagine the tenuous relationship between parking officer and citizen. It may not be hard to imagine, but this aspect of the project was picked up as a news clip and used as a kind of punch-line to reinforce a narrative of either the uselessness of public art or the wastefulness of cities such as the “people’s republic of Cambridge”. It’s unfortunate given the project is a more comprehensive attempt to re-evaluate an anonymous aspect of urban experience.

The primary aim of the project is to give a voice to an institution which is widely seen as a faceless and disconnected bureaucratic authority. The project takes place in four parts involving a different set of ‘actors’ or relationships each of which deals with a different aspect of the Cambridge Department of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation. At its core the project is about working within an institution which has grown detached from civic life and injecting the perspective of an artist/designer who can make visible aspects worth developing a more comprehensive relationship between institution and individual.

The project takes the position as a kind of reform. Instead of radicalizing the strucutre of the institution from within, the project attempts to reform the disconnected relationship between individual and institution. This is made clear in the aesthetization of the project as another byline in the regulatory structure of the parking code – for example, the projects are presented as they would appear within the actual parking code – Sec 7.9 – Citation Salaution.

artist website

media stories -

exhibition-Cambridge Arts Council

Sec 7.9 – Citation Salaution – Parking Tickets which offer suggested yoga poses.

Sec 31.b – 10,000 excuses – a collaborative wall drawing Parking Officials create a written database on a wall of parking citation constenstations over the past 5 years.

Sec 44.1a – Non-Regulatory Street Signage – Signage which serves as a companion to the existing network of street signage

Sec 2.5c – Soft Booting

In lieu of the traditional of metal “hard boot” or “auto-immobilizer”, A “soft boot” is sewn the lobby of the parking administration building.

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Part II: Intention | Approach A

I have been reading a lot of traditional community development literature as a parallel to the reading we are doing in this class. My hope is that my thesis (a) finds bridges between the two fields that are related yet read by two different audiences, and (b) falls symbolically somewhere on the line between the two.

Recent community development literature takes a nuanced approached to public engagement.  It whole-heartedly supports varying levels of engagement, with the cautionary note that the process must be heavily considered and done in earnest (often, engagement tactics are included in project development for public appeasement, to keep a shiny reputation, etc.  Other times public engagement also comes in the form of handouts, wherein empowerment and larger issues are pushed aside in favor of immediate but less meaningful results).  Generally, however, community engagement by any means (receiving input, performing action research, inclusion on the staff, etc.) is seen as a better way to work than by not considering the surrounding community(ies).

The community development framework is an interesting one in which to consider the burgeoning portfolio of arts projects in communities cropping up in places of decline.  One can create a spectrum on which projects are placed on: on one end are the projects that act in full collaboration with the surrounding community, on the other, those that do not engage the community at all.

While the overriding message in community development literature suggests that engaged projects are ‘good’ and those that are not are ‘bad,’ I can not readily apply these labels to the art projects, and I have to wonder if there aren’t different intentions as a result of different underlying theories of urban recovery at work here. Indeed, I believe there are.  Although I am sure there are many theories and approaches, for this piece I have divided them into two camps.

Approach A: city-as-found-object

In places of decline, one can generally find many ambiguous, unprogrammed, or unclaimed spaces.  In-between spaces, back lots, and way-sides: these constitute a large part of the landscape of decline.  Because space is cheap, abundant, and usually comes with a unique, interrogative aesthetic of its own, artists find these places prime realty for exploration and experimentation.  With time, strategic networking, and proof of successful making, these informal or small projects grow and establish themselves in name and in space.  They can be quite physically transformative and bring a new demographic and energy in to an area that was losing population and running on fumes.  They are seeking to find a new identity and a new use for a place under the assumption that no one else will.


The Powerhouse Project, Detroit, Michigan

Marfa, Texas

The underlying theory: urban renewal through the repurposing of existing space, creation of new places, and creation of new communities.

My review:

Despite the Powerhouse Project’s particular location in Detroit as one of great abandonment and population loss, a quick look on Google Maps reveals that there are still many houses on the ground, and many are still occupied.  There are sparsely populated commercial streets.  When we speak of places looking for a ‘new identity’ we either forget or are not considering the fact that there are still communities present.  In this project, the context is being underutilized; not only is the community missing the benefits of this project, but I think the project could reach another level of richness if local community and context were incorporated.

Creativity is expressed by the artists – by those who came with creativity and had the prior privilege to unleash and develop this talent.  In a place looking for a new identity, a pioneering approach such as this might prove to be a strong first step at becoming grounded, establishing new roots, and learning a new territory.  However, their strategy for change depends on internal strength from a small and select group of people.  Knowledge is not being shared.  It’s difficult (but exciting!) to hypothesize what a strategy that included strong community partnership and information exchange might look like.  Would there be blocks and blocks of repurposed homes? New residences, playhouses, haunted houses, local groceries, child care centers, community kitchens, soul food diners, business incubators?

In Professor Geeta Mehta’s work ‘ICT for Creativity at the Bottom of the Pyramid’ speaks to the necessity of unleashing the creativity of others for the benefit of the city. She states:

Along with large untapped economic potential at the bottom of the pyramid, there is also a treasure trove of individual creativity there. If channeled and nurtured into civic creativity, this creativity can help communities address basic problems, and result in better villages, neighborhoods and cities for all. (2)

She also makes references to two other works, both of which support this claim. In The Creative City, Charles Landry writes,

“A Creative City is where ordinary people can make the extraordinary happen. Because roads, parking lots, buildings and all of that infrastructure contributes to this, you also need creative administration and an imaginative bureaucracy to enable all these things to flow well.”

Finally, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen in his Capability Approach says,

“What is missing for the poor is not just economic resources, but also the freedom of senses, imagination and thought, and control over ones political and physical environment. Lack of these is poverty.”

These comments lead me to believe that there is an alternative way of working that is more fruitful and has the potential for greater impact…

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