This project is
about our need, and our desire to occupy
public space, when we’re
neither at work nor home.
motivates that urge to ‘get out’,
do we go and what do we end up doing? What role do these places play in
relation to our everyday, so that we might feel the need to go to them
at one point in our lives but not
at other times?
Public space is a
contradictory and elusive concept.
By definition, we have the right as citizens to occupy public places,
which is what fundamentally distinguishes from private property. This
right — to occupy space — is why public space can fulfill
our needs to hang out, to be alone, to have a change of scenery, etc.
when we’re neither at work or home.
It’s also what I feel is the
utopian potential of public space: that it allows people from different
social classes to be in the same space together.
On the other hand,
public spaces can also exclude; our movement can be regulated and tracked
by surveillance camera, or that that underlying feeling that everyone
isn’t really entitled to be here, especially if those who don’t
fit the proper demographic profile or ‘image’ of the place.
(one of the many types of public space) have their own particular set
of contradictions. On one hand, we associate them with a certain ‘script’
of behaviours associated with leisure and recreation: walking the dog,
jogging, taking wedding photos, smelling the flowers. These are virtuous
activities, conjuring up images of respectability (with implications about
who we might imagine doing these activities)
and reflect the history of parks (as a picturesque taming of nature, and
a place of rest after the busy workday).
On the other hand, they are, and have been used for other purposes, such
as a place to go at night where you won’t be watched or hassled,
whether this just
means kissing your boyfriend or girlfriend in privacy or whether you’re
on the run from the law.
interested me about public space is as a metaphor for democracy,
in all its contradictions, and its inclusions and exclusions. And like
present - day democracy, I’ve often wondered if our relationship
to public space is shifting, due to the erosion of the social safety net
or our changing relationship to technology.
Is the internet a
public space? Part of my motivation for doing this project is to deliberately
place myself in a situation that is different from the one I normally
inhabit (I live near Commercial Drive, which is like the Kensington Market
of Vancouver; I don’t
have a car, and am used to being able to walk down the street to have
coffee or buy groceries). My negotiation of inhabiting a different space,
to what I’m used to, will be an important aspect of the work. This
is also to question that stereotypical urban vs. suburban binary opposition,
which is based on a reduction of identity as lifestyle choice.
The stereotype runs
like this: people who live in cities embrace chaos, complexity, noise,
and the presence of people from different social classes and ethnic groups,
know how to dress and are generally single (images of ‘Sex and the
City’ come to mind). People in the suburbs embrace conformity, homogeneity,
and are obsessed with safety and property values. Both realities are more
complex; it’s ironically that myth of bohemian urban hipness (in
which artists are implicated) that leads to the gentrification (and ultimately
homogenization) of inner city neighbourhoods. And not everyone who lives
in the suburbs necessarily fits the Cleaver family
demographic. One example of this is Surrey, a Vancouver suburb, which
is ethnically mixed and working class. I’m interested in those complexities,
and in critically examining the assumptions behind those stereotypes (such
idea that if you’re concerned with your own material comfort then
you’re not concerned with the welfare of others).
So this project is about negotiating these complexities, both myself and
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