Reading Urban Cracks

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READING URBAN CRACKS Practices of Artists and Community Workers

READING URBAN CRACKS Practices of Artists and Community Workers Riet Steel, Elly Van Eeghem, Griet Verschelden & Carlos Dekeyrel

School of Arts & Faculty of Education, Health and Social Work of the University College Ghent MER. Paper Kunsthalle


Introduction by Riet Steel, Elly Van Eeghem, Griet Verschelden & Carlos Dekeyrel


by Elly Van Eeghem & Riet Steel

Situating urban cracks

11 Diverse manifestations of urban cracks 12 Related conceptions of urban cracks 22 The lamination of urban cracks 23 Conflicting logics in urban cracks 25 The use of urban cracks 29 The public character of urban cracks

Ghent Case: MUIDE-Meulestede-Afrikalaan


36 36 38 43

The neighbourhood & its redevelopment by Elly Van Eeghem & Riet Steel Facts and figures Work-in-progress: Urban development projects A series of images

58 Two practices in the neighbourhood 60 Oceaniëstraat recto/verso by Elly Van Eeghem 8 – 160 Oceaniëstraat recto: A chronicle 60 Oceaniëstraat verso: A visual archive 85 The practice of Assurance Ambiance by Riet Steel 85 Introduction 90 Into the neighbourhood 92 About the neighbourhood 101 Interventions in urban cracks 132 Practice as a balancing art


Localising artistic and social practices in urban cracks


by Griet Verschelden, Riet Steel, Elly Van Eeghem & Carlos Dekeyrel

142 Reconceptualising community and the social 145 Extending the concept of art in public space 149 Localised practices: Working with the context 155 Political meanings of artistic and social practices 162 165 171

Image references Reading list


171 ON THIS BOOK 172 Karius and Bactus by Bart Lodewijks 174 On OceaniĂŤstraat recto/verso by An van. Dienderen 176 Scratching the surface, digging into the earth by Barbra Erhardt 178 Reading between the lines by Evelyne Deceur & Maria De Bie 181 On the social and the artistic by SĂŠbastien Hendrickx 183 To notice by Pieter Uyttenhove 185

On urban cracks Images by Alexander Meeus, Geeraard Respeel, Oona Libens & Robbert Van Wynendaele


On the district of Muide-Meulestede-Afrikalaan Images by Anna Perneel, Tim Van Den Abeele & Eline Van Deun


Translation Ghent case

Authors: Riet Steel, Elly Van Eeghem, Griet ­Verschelden, Carlos Dekeyrel Revision: Fien Steel Revision Oceaniëstraat recto: A chronicle: Griet Van Nevel Translation: David Depestel (p. 36–42, 85–140, 172–173, 178–180, 182–183) Graphic design: Luc Derycke & Jeroen Wille, Studio Luc Derycke Printed at New Go≠, Gent Published by: University College Ghent: School of Arts & ­Faculty of Education, Health and Social Work; MER. Paper Kunsthalle Distribution: Exhibitions international This book is a result of a research ­project that was funded by the ­University College Ghent Research Fund. ISBN 978-94-9069-33-81 D/2012/7852/110 cover image: Urban fabric #19, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2011

Faculteit Mens & Welzijn



This book questions the how and why of setting up of artistic and social practices in urban cracks, and within this frame, the i­ ntervention of artists and community workers in these specific contexts. Urban cracks are interstitial spaces in the city. They surface as in-between time spaces with a brisk past, for which future plans exist, but remain neglected at present. An urban crack is situated between other spaces, but characterised in itself by an apparent void. An urban crack is a space where di≠erent logics meet and conflict. Our focus on practitioners, active in these urban cracks, implies a broader perspective than merely on the intervention itself. By ­researching a practice and the context in which it takes place, the grounds to intervene, the public and the possible participants are taken into account. Focusing on practitioners, we particularly shed light on the ­perspective of artists and community workers: why and how do they act as they do? The division into two separate positions, either social or artistic, does not always correspond to everyday practice. Community work for example involves a broad spectrum of practices: community arts, sociocultural work, community development, creative non-profit work, etc. Some practices comprise a variety of people with very di≠erent training backgrounds and perspectives and are therefore di∞cult to place one-sidedly. The focus of this book on forms and grounds of practices in urban cracks was prompted by the specific characteristics of these spaces. Firstly, there is the lamination of di≠erent layers of meaning, often evolved through history. Secondly, there is the crossing of conflicting logics. It is far too easy to denounce urban cracks as useless places. Without praising their aesthetics or denying their problems, we seek to highlight the way in which practitioners give meaning to their work by intervening in

these spaces. Artists and community w ­ orkers are all engaged in reading, analysing and translating pertinent developments of society, although their intentions and outcomes are fairly di≠erent. The book in hand is a result of a two years’ project conducted by two researchers of ­di≠erent disciplines: Riet Steel is a pedagogue with interests in community arts, sociocultural work, urbanism and participatory research methods. Elly Van Eeghem is an artist whose research often focuses on consumption and movement in urban space and takes shape through video, intervention, installation and photo­graphy. The research project was supervised by Griet Verschelden and Carlos Dekeyrel. ­Verschelden is a lecturer and researcher in social work. Dekeyrel is a lecturer with ­expertise in art education and digital media. The research team’s composition explains a number of choices made in this book. Firstly, there is the encounter between image and text and the use of artistic and documentary imagery in dialogue with practice-based and theoretical reflections. Secondly, research methods peculiar to disciplines translate into a certain design, thus imposing a di≠erent form on each part of this book. Lastly, we have chosen for a focus on the work of artists and community workers, despite their di≠erent backgrounds and objectives. In the first part of this book, we elaborate on situating and understanding urban cracks. We illustrate their diverse manifestations in the urban fabric, we unravel and sharpen the concept of urban cracks, bring to the fore two significant characteristics and their influence on the use and the public character of urban cracks. In a second part, we zoom in on a particular district in the city of Ghent: the neighbourhood Muide-Meulestede-Afrikalaan. After presenting basic facts and figures of

Maybe this is a sidetrack of the old railway system along the docks like my interventions are only a sidetrack of the bigger picture.

This text was originally displayed as part of the twofold installation Oceaniëstraat recto/verso.

Elly Van Eeghem


Situating urban cracks


Elly Van Eeghem & Riet Steel

To help to dig out to understand how the context determines the content

Introduction Initially, our conception of urban cracks was inspired by the term krax by City Mine(d). City Mine(d) is an urban platform for local ­action. With their concept, they highlighted in what ways some spaces are manifestations of changing dynamics within the city. Krax are less regulated and controlled spaces where di≠erent logics conflict. City Mine(d) defines the potential of those ignored spaces as “ideal to bring di≠erent groups and individuals together and play the role of neutral body.”1 In this book however, urban cracks are not understood as neutral arenas, but as tense contexts for interventions by artists and community workers. Our concept includes three important features. First o≠ all, the term urban crack obviously indicates something damaged or broken. These spaces are regularly marked by dysfunction and fragmentation. Secondly, the term points at something ­uncovered or broken open and therefore suggests a possibility (in this case for artists and community workers) to explore hidden ­layers and assumptions. Urban cracks are spaces that they could ‘dig into’. Or in Cohen’s legendary words : “There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.”2 Finally, our conception of urban cracks refers to the decoding of city development. Without assuming an underlying totality that clears out the complexity of the city, artists and community workers that f­ ocus on the specific context of an urban crack might ‘crack the code’ of di≠erent stakeholders and might short-circuit operative logics.

1. City Mine(d) Website, “Forty Frequently 2. Leonard Cohen, ­Rebecca De Mornay & Unanswered Questions”, http://www. Yoav Goren, “Anthem”, in : The Future, (accessed Columbia Records, 1992. ­November 18, 2009)

how an intervention is read according to different layers of meaning visible and invisible.



The camera is a pretext to gain access to this world and learn about all these things. (A.-M. Lê)

Diverse manifestations of urban cracks Urban cracks exist in every city. These seemingly indeterminate places vary from abandoned buildings to fallow lands. Through their diverse appearances, these sites are breakpoints within the u ­ rban fabric because they challenge the functioning of the city through their disorderly composition, their on hold status and their attraction towards unruly activities. Moreover, urban cracks appear in various places in the city. They can be situated in areas where city development or renewal is ­ongoing or planned (thus creating long-lasting construction yards or partially demolished sites), in not yet converted deindustrialised quarters, in the periphery of the city or on border sections between di≠erent properties. Urban cracks belong to the constantly ­changing city, where houses are built and pulled down, where vacant lots emerge and disappear. Those spaces regularly await a future destination within the context of urban renewal. Apart from these manifestations of continuous transformation, new urban cracks can arise as ‘by-products’ : spaces that were built as functionless leftovers on purpose.3 Think of some green belts around housing blocks that do not invite to hang around because they are far from what you might label a park or city garden. In most Western cities, urban cracks that surfaced as a result of deindustrialisation (and as symbols of a changing economic system) are decreasing. Those cities have passed the transition to a post-­ industrial era and a huge amount of former cracks have been converted into residential or recreational sites. The recent emergence of city beaches on former docklands forms part of this makeover. The upgrading of neglected parts of the city obviously has other consequences as well. What does the conversion of urban cracks mean for their former users ? What activities are facilitated and which are pushed away ? Generally, the contrast between user and owner is quite strong here. At one time, urban cracks are in the hands of real estate firms or private investors, next they are owned by public authorities or city councils. Anyhow, the answer to whose space it is, often remains unclear since its appropriation competes with, and questions, its ownership. It may seem paradoxical, but the more one gets to know a city, the more urban cracks become visible. On the one hand because they are 3. Tonnelat (2008), p. 292


mostly decentralised and you encounter them once you ‘detour’ the historical centre. On the other hand because their identity is not always obvious. Urban cracks cause themselves to be presumed rather than revealed. Once more time is spent in a city, its spaces become biased by memories, experiences and knowledge. Contradictory to this, routines and recurrent trajectories might bypass unfamiliar urban cracks.

Related conceptions of urban cracks Urban cracks bear resemblance to a great number of related (but not always similar) metaphorical notions : interstice, playground, borderland, transit zone, in-between space, pauzeland­ schap, urban void, wasteland, non-lieu, brownfield, shadow space, terrain vague, residual space, Freiflach, indeterminate space, no-man’s-land, dead zone, raw space, tussenland, heterotopia, sluipgroen, urban sprawl, space of uncertainty, urban cancer, etc.

Those terms are often handled in a careless way and used as if they were interchangeable. We will point out some important di≠erences and nuances that explain why we choose not to apply those terms since they do not cover the plural and complex meaning we want to convey. The recurrent term interstice for example is primarily defined in relation to other spaces more than based on its own characteristics. An urban crack can be narrowly interpreted as a place situated between private and public space. The separation private-public has however become problematic, as stated in Sennett’s The fall of public man (1976). In this publication, Sennett indicates the influence of mass media on public life and from that, the usurpation of public sphere by the intimate. The boundary between private and public appears not to be definite, but rather vague and shifting. In line with this, Verscha≠el (2006) states that our contemporary spatial experience is of a heterogeneous nature : di≠erent kinds of spaces are not synthesised, but advanced subsequently. Such ­network spaces bring out qualitative tensions and ruptures, and disintegrate space. “A person leaving his door in the suburbs does not move from the private into the public, this means : into a space where a community lives, where the individual housing is integrated. He moves from the private sphere of living into a space that belongs to anyone and no one. A no-man’s-land.”4

On satellite images of Google Earth you can see a curved track running through the grass on the site behind the gated inlet on Oceaniëstraat.


I contact Pierre de Meyer. Pierre is an engineer at META, a non-profit organisation for mobility heritage.


He replies that these hidden tracks were probably part of port facilities once connected to the railway system.


Mou≠e (2005) linked the public to the political, which she understands as a space of power, conflict and antagonism and, unlike Arendt (1961), not as a space of freedom and public deliberation. Space does not necessarily refer to geographical location. It could be the space of a newspaper for example. Mou≠e argues for radical demo­cracy in the form of agonistic pluralism. Her idea of antagonism is not about being enemies, but being adversaries. We do not have to accept the ideas we disagree with, but accept that they are legitimate. However, the channels for rightful disagreement are very limited. Mou≠e pointed out how the accepted dominance of liberalism has made us incapable of thinking politically. Artists as well as community workers play a role in creating, maintaining or challenging the agreed symbolic order of society (Biesta, 2011). Mou≠e illustrated that their role lies not merely in refusal or negation of this order, but in proposing new modes of coexistence. She alerts that the critical role of these practitioners is at stake at times when their practice is part of capitalist production.21 Their ­interventions can nevertheless dislocate a dominant view of the city by focusing on the political reality, the identities of others, their own production context or alternative modes of life.22 We believe urban cracks could play a significant role in this critical practice.

21. Mou≠e (2008), p. 7 22. Mou≠e (2008), p. 13–14

The inlet was the entrance to the Filatures Gantoises Réunies an umbrella company of cotton mills which included Braine-le-Chateau.




THE NEIGHBOURHOOD & ITS redevelopment Elly Van Eeghem & Riet Steel

Facts and figures The Muide-Meulestede-Afrikalaan quarter is situated in the north of Ghent. The neighbourhood is characterised by dockland industry, residential areas, water, busy tra∞c, open spaces and industrial estates. Several sectors are considered as one neighbourhood even though the largest sector, Afrikalaan (situated between the ­Dampoort quarter, the railway marshalling yard and the ­Handelsdok), is physically cut o≠ from the smaller sectors that together form a peninsula: Muidebrug (to the south), Muide (in the centre) and Meulestede (in the north). According to the latest o∞cial data provided by the Buurtmonitor [Neighbourhood monitor] of the City of Ghent (2011), the neighbourhood has 6010 residents, with a more or less equal male to female ratio.1 Nearly a quarter of the neighbourhood’s surface area is built on (23,3%), in contrast to an average of 12,3% for the entire city. Compared to the other working-class neighbourhoods in the nineteenth-century belt, however, this building density is rather low. With nearly 4000 residents per square kilometre, which is more than twice the city’s ­average, the neighbourhood’s population density is quite high, but still considerably lower than it is in the other belt neighbourhoods. The percentage of residents of other than Belgian nationality, 22,4%, is again much higher than the Ghent average of 11,8%. In 1999, this neighbourhood percentage was just 12,5%. Also in comparison with the other belt neighbourhoods, this area has considerably more people of other nationalities, with the exception of the Rabot and Sluizeken-Tolhuis-Ham neighbourhoods where over a quarter of 1.

Around 1930 there were sixty-seven weaving mills and twenty-eight spinning mills in Ghent, a.k.a. « Manchester of the continent ».


Braine-le-Chateau was one of them. One of the « red factories ».


THE NEIGHBOURHOOD & ITS redevelopment residents is of non-Belgian nationality. At present, the most strongly represented nationalities in the Muide-Meulestede-Afrikalaan quarter are Bulgarian, Turkish and Slovakian. The most significant recent immigrant group consists of people of Eastern-European origin. More than half the population is aged between 18 and 64 (61,7%). In the past eleven years, the number of young people has risen while the number of elderly residents has decreased. Natural population growth is almost twice as high for this neighbourhood as it is for the city on average. There are, however, 13% less places in childcare ­facilities compared to the rest of Ghent. Remarkable is also the very low number of student lodgers in this part of the city. In 2008, the neighbourhood still had a negative net migration rate, meaning that more people left the quarter than there were ­newcomers. One year later, this rate became positive, and spectacularly so, mainly for Meulestede and Muide. The Muidebrug sector, however, saw an even increasing number of people leaving. Again in comparison to the average for the entire city of Ghent, the unemployment rate in the neighbourhood is rather high (13% ­compared to 7,9%). Moreover, there are twice as many people on OCMW [Social Service] welfare here, and the average taxable income is lower, mainly in the Muidebrug and Afrikalaan sectors. The most recent data on housing are from 2001. At that time, the neighbourhood had more residences with little or no comfort that the rest of Ghent. Over the past ten years, however, there have been a lot of changes, partly instigated by a number of urban regeneration projects. The Afrikalaan sector consists mainly of commercial and industrial estates. There is also a subdivision of ‘temporary’ accommodation (built after the Second World War) on Lübeckstraat and two tenement buildings on Scandinaviëstraat where a small agricultural market is organised every week. A bus route, with services every fifteen minutes, connects the Dampoort train station with the other parts of the neighbourhood. Tram line 4 ends where the Muidebrug sector begins. Just over the actual bridge is an axis of small businesses that crosses the neighbourhood. The sector ends beyond the railway crossing, where the Muide sector begins. In the Muide sector, there are a number of popular cafés, the community centre Buurtloods and the community work organisation Buurtwerk, primary school De Loods, playgrounds on ­Londenstraat, Saint Theresa’s Church, a local shop and the non-profit youth work organisation Jong.

a lawn, a closed clearing.


I only see the outside. I notice. What do you notice?

45 THE NEIGHBOURHOOD & ITS redevelopment

I mean: I remain an outsider, looking at it and then leaving again. Trying to gain access, one way or another.


By watching searching watching trying and trying again.

53 THE NEIGHBOURHOOD & ITS redevelopment




Oceaniëstraat Vorkstraat Loods 21


Elly Van Eeghem


Building anything with anything.


How unstable the structure is although it stands no longer than one day


Maybe that is the attractive thing about working with waste materials that nobody has expectations.


If I get the old computer screens neatly in a row the inlet could look at us


maybe not in a blaming way. Just as a point of view but differently.


A language textbook, a puzzle, a hobby horse as puppets against the wall.




will it still refer to the spirit (« genius loci ») of the place when the surrounding urban fabric is gone? (I mean: the living fabric)

Riet Steel


Background Assurance Ambiance is a project of non-profit organisation ROCSA vzw in cooperation with the City of Ghent’s Department of Urban ­Regeneration and Community Work (Dienst Stedelijke ­Vernieuwing en Gebiedsgerichte Werking). The project aims to join residents and artists in creating temporary uses for a number of vacant lots in the Muide-Meulestede-Afrikalaan quarter. ROCSA is a small non-profit organisation that has come to attention with a number of community arts projects (De Site, Made by Oya, Rocsa Singers). The name is an acronym for Recht op Cultuur: Sociaal en Artistiek [right to culture: social and artistic]. ROCSA’s history can be traced back to 2001, when the non-profit organisation Kunst in de Stad [art in the city] was set up. This was the result of the s­ uccess of the Wijkpaleis and the organisation was an independent continuation of a neighbourhood-oriented project of the City of Ghent’s Department of Arts (currently Cultural Participation). A change in direction and in name came in 2004. For four years, R ­ OCSA was structurally recognised as a community arts organisation by the Flemish Arts Decree, in 2006–2007 and in 2008–2009. It has since been funding its activities with project grants from di≠erent authorities, mainly from the City of Ghent. One of ROCSA’s main focuses is the creation of temporary uses for vacant grounds in two Ghent neighbourhoods. The project De Site [the site, 2007–2010]1 turned the former Alcatel-Bell factory grounds 1. De Site still exists, but Samenlevings­ opbouw Gent has taken over the leading function from ROCSA in ­January 2011.



survey that has enabled them to define their field, and it still gears their actions.

The aerial photo remains very important, even now. I often return to those lists. They show our reach, our contact with our target audience, communication, directly with those people, about how you can help them along. For the expo at the Inter-Beton plant, for instance, everyone on that list was invited via e-mail or phone. Olivier, June 2011

About the neighbourhood In the context of this enquiry the project team was sent back into the neighbourhood and asked to capture the beauty and individuality of the Muide-Meulestede-Afrikalaan quarter. The images and quotes below are a thematic selection from the participatory visual trajectory and as such they show the characteristics of the neighbourhood from the perspective of the practitioners.

The old harbour area Old maps and models of Ghent show that the Muide was in fact mainly a green area, one big stretch of fallow grounds. It was the island of doom, you were hanged there. Olivier, June 2010 It supposedly is the transition from a dreary neighbourhood. All harbour areas have grown more dreary. They are shut down or just stop attracting new people, and that is what is currently in transition. That it is a trendy area now, is just because it has lots of space. And then suddenly, that will have changed and it will be – I don’t know what it will be – It will be di≠erent. These are going to be the waterside boulevards… Xavier, April 2010

Back in Oceaniëstraat, there is a police car standing in front of the inlet.

We come up with concepts of which we think “this could work”, with or without preliminary work, and then we go looking for people from the neighbourhood who we think might fit in that scheme. So in fact we build up our own networks, based on that large panel. Xavier, February 2010

The officer has found addresses in the dumped waste. He advises me not to work here, because the smell is obnoxious.


THE PRACTICE OF ASSURANCE AMBIANCE SW, Stukwerkers [a stevedoring company]. I’m just totally crazy about that logo. It’s a brilliant combination of colours. And every day when I drive out of my street I see it. And I see the history of the Muide and the dockers, the evolution, the labour, the misery… To me, these images are what the Muide really is about. When you talk with people from around here, that’s what it’s always about as well. Olivier, April 2010 I think that logo is incredibly good. And it’s so artistic for dockers, isn’t it? It ­reflects some of that past glory. There’s the harbour activities, but there are also just a lot of dock workers still living around here and representing that way of life. Evelyne, April 2010 In Meulestede there is still a harbour area, meaning an industrial zone, but also residential areas. Actually this is no longer permitted, legally the two can no longer be combined. But it stays the way it is and in fact the industry is spreading, ­seizing the residential area, like around Lourdeshoek… Things like that really can’t ­happen anymore. And it makes for a lot of stories, tragedies and tangles. I worked with all that before. And now with Assurance Ambiance it all comes back. Olivier, April 2010

There’s a lot of symmetry in the Muide. Lots of poles, lots of fences, lots of harbour sheds, lots of rails and a whole lot of metal. That blue crane is continually grinding metal. The metal is brought in from Russia to be ground here. Also a lot of garbage from around the world is shipped here, to the Muide, all the way up Meulestede. Olivier, April 2010



That entire area around the outport is so beautiful. With those harbour sheds. There isn’t a place like it anywhere in Ghent, and yet it’s so close to the centre. It’s also the atmosphere of that quayside that I like. Evelyne, April 2010

The port and the water, that’s the most beautiful part, isn’t it? Xavier, April 2010 Everyone who lives around here has a thing with the water: there’s the old skippers, the young people and the families doing up a houseboat, the dock workers, the residents who just love the sense of space that the water gives them, and so on… Evelyne, February 2010 There are so many grand, panoramic views here. The first day I was working on this project, I immediately went up to the roof of the tower block on Afrikalaan and made a series of 360 degree pictures of our neighbourhood. That felt so good. It was great. And that also says a lot about the area, of course. Olivier, April 2010

Whether he has noticed that there are old tracks buried in the earth? He hands me his card.


Sint-Amandsberg district police officer We are responsible for this area.



Here, on Koopvaardijlaan, across from Inter-Beton, by that busy corner. That is so dirty. I think this is so typical, also as a sign of the desolateness, the destruction, the loneliness. Yet there are people living there, squatters. Now they’ve stretched two wires across the street. On the photo it actually looks nice again, what with the nice weather and the light, the reflection. But it really isn’t a nice place. Olivier, April 2010

The church of Meulestede, that’s the most beautiful spot in the entire Muide to me. And I think that that little church has o≠ered so much support and comfort to so many people who have lived there, for so many things that happened there. And now all of that is just… It’s all gone, you know. Olivier, April 2010



The overall functioning and individual projects of Assurance ­Ambiance appear to require a certain slowness and unpredictability. The appropriation and ‘sediment’ of community arts practices like this is not immediately apparent. Slowness is required to create the necessary space that enables unpredictable encounters and supports the public nature of the urban crack. Apart from a certain amount of patience and confidence in the power of an intervention, and in the creativity of neighbours and passers-by to generate meanings for it, what is also crucial is proximity and continuity to support the slow process of appropriation by di≠erent parties. To conclude, we must make a final critical remark on a number of missed opportunities and challenges for the future. There is still a world of opportunities waiting in this neighbourhood. Assurance Ambiance may not be in a position to make that world better, but it is certainly able to make changes in many respects. A number of urgent social issues in the neighbourhood have not been addressed by Assurance Ambiance thus far, although in a sense they are deeply involved in them. There is the highly problematic mobility issue that is a constant strain on the neighbourhood; there is poverty and social exclusion; and the rising price of land and social displacement of economically weaker sections of the population that often come with urban development projects. There is also the di∞cult dialogue between di≠erent communities in the neighbourhood: the semi- or low-skilled autochthonous (harbour) labourers, the people of ­Turkish origins who have been there for quite some time, the Eastern-European ‘newcomers’ and the relatively recently arrived well-educated middle-class residents. In this chapter, which looked at the practice of Assurance ­Ambiance from a research perspective, we have tried to discuss a number of strengths and limitations of this practice in a nuanced way that is respectful but also critical. We hope that this text may ­occasion discussion and inspiration within ROCSA’s practice but also in other practices and policies in the sector.

When I ask his number, he says nothing at first and then he laughs rather not

In conclusion


unless you plan to set this mess on fire then you can always give me a call.


Griet Verschelden, Riet Steel, Elly Van Eeghem & Carlos Dekeyrel

Throughout this book, we questioned the how and why of artistic and social practices in urban cracks. We described urban cracks as spatial, temporal and relational manifestations of changing dynamics in the city. In our view, they are characterised by a lamination of meanings in which di≠erent logics conflict. The construction of the public space in the city was and is strongly influenced by socio-economic processes. This also involves physical, spatial changes: urban areas become vacant, such as industrial sites near the city’s centre. In our view, urban cracks can be ideal grounds for interstitial practices or crossovers that fall between the familiar boundaries of accepted logics of urban policies, beyond accepted interpretations of community and the social, and beyond accepted arts genres. As many elements are left undefined and open to future interpretations, urban cracks can be tempting spaces for artists and community workers. These sites can invite and may hold opportunities for artistic and social practices. However, urban cracks do not bear this potential as such. Their potential depends on the why and how of artists’ and community workers’ interventions in these urban cracks. In this chapter, we first argue that artistic and social practices in urban cracks raise possibilities to reconceptualise notions of community and the social, and to extend the concept of art in public space. Subsequently, we formulate two suggestions for practitioners involved in urban cracks. We clarify the potential of artistic and social practices in urban cracks by working not only in, but also with the specific context. In this, we argue that artists and community workers should trust their own starting point for interventions and ­recognise the plural meanings of their work. To conclude, we explain how ­localised practices can have significant political meanings.


Griet Verschelden ET AL.

The interest of diverse scholars, policymakers and practitioners in community is driven by partly related agendas that started from di≠erent problem definitions and di≠erent views on plurality and diversity (Biesta & Cowell, 2009). Predominantly, their focus is on questions of social cohesion and integration, in which community is conceived in terms of active participation, mostly at the level of local communities developing sustainable relations. In this view, plurality is considered a potential threat to the cohesion of social life and thus something that needs to be overcome or at least addressed. Out of the concern that there is a lack of community and solidarity, community development becomes an ideal to strive for. The idea is that a cohesive society needs strong communities, based on common values and beliefs. This great belief in community is often based on a mythologised concept of community: the assumption of homogeneity of values and standards and a shared and common sense of identity (Shaw, 2008) in which singularity of identity is reinforced and interactions are pre-arranged. This belief in the beneficial e≠ects of a tight-knit community is translated into the promotion of active participation and sustainable social relations. The idea behind the tight-knit community is that strong communities should be able to counter social problems. In this approach, the most significant feature of living together in a community is denied: (learning) to negotiate di≠erences and to deal with pluralism and diversity, conflict and dissent, which are inevitable in a democracy (Mou≠e, 2000). Soenen (2003) challenged this predominant concept of sustainable relations and the idea of a tight-knit community by highlighting the value of what she named small meetings. She argues that our lives are essentially a process of convergence and divergence in which temporary communities alternate. Instead of a normative ideal, Soenen views community as a relational and dynamic concept of connections, interactions and nexus between people. In this conceptualisation, she includes ‘weak’ bindings, such as Facebook friendships or brief encounters, and potential relationships that can be activated when needed. Soenen’s thinking broadens the concept of community into a plural, tilting and ambivalent concept including ephemeral relationships, small talk and anonymous interactions. Soenen’s approach allows us to focus on questions of ­demo­cratic participation and legitimation. A democratic community is by defi-

I remember why I prefer the changing weathers over a warm studio.

Reconceptualising community and the social



Accidental discoveries challenges people pointing out how meaningful (-less) or provocative an act can be.

nition characterised by plurality and diversity. In this approach, plurality is viewed as a reality, an actual form of democracy, and thus something that needs to be protected and cultivated (Biesta & ­Cowell, 2009). Visual artist Hirschhorn (2010) pointed to plural appearances of participation, acknowledging what he called the phenomenon of the second row. During the majority of his artistic interventions in public space, he witnessed how people often prefer to observe his projects from a certain distance. Eventually, some will actively participate in the project, but others will stay in this ‘second row’-sphere. Hirschhorn explained how he learned to respect this choice, not to press people to come and join. He stated that, in a way, the ‘second row’ is as much part of the project as the people that actively participate, as this demonstrates the impact of the project within the existing context. Similarly, the intervention by Van Eeghem in Oceaniëstraat was neither on demand of residents nor commissioned by the city government. The artist intervened on personal grounds of interest and curiosity and the participation of others was not a central aspiration. However, because of her recurrent presence in the space, she was quickly noticed by passers-by and the possibilities for encounter presented themselves. In the unfolding narrative, she presents eight di≠erent characters. The police o∞cer, truck driver, residents or employees give insight into the meanings of the urban crack and some vital tensions in the neighbourhood. From a conversation with one of them, it became clear that she had already been observed from ‘the second row’, before the actual encounter took place. The response “I saw you” comprehends her noticed presence in the existing context of the urban crack. Although there was no active participation, her conversations and correspondence with others clearly influenced the course of the artistic work. In fact, these encounters and the process behind the scene became a crucial part of it. Even so, the importance of ‘the second row’ became clear in the practice of Assurance Ambiance. During several interventions, an ephemeral and yet powerful linkage between the practitioners and residents was established through signs of notice, salutations, small talk often initiated by the residents’ question “what are you doing here?” or even the chatter and criticism behind inhabitants’ doors. Using ‘the second row’ as a metaphor, we are able to value these fragile signs of involvement of a broader public, next to more active gradations of participation.


Griet Verschelden ET AL.

In this book, we pointed out the way in which, specifically in ­urban cracks, conflicts arise and operative logics meet and the way in which these urban contexts could be significant starting points for the practice of artists and community workers. Although urban cracks do not bear potential as such, since their potential depends on the why and how of the practitioners’ interventions, they do o≠er opportunities for reflection and action. We believe that urban cracks can be seen as inviting contexts for artists and community workers because their interventions in these urban cracks have the possibility to challenge the consensus over living together in the city and to fuel collective learning processes and moments for democracy (­Biesta, 2011). Localised artistic and social practices that highlight layers of meaning and di≠erent logics in urban cracks, and that by extension align, reorganise and shake up accepted logics and meanings have an ­indispensable political significance.

Architecture knows this so well: therefore it makes corners. Because in a circle, no turning is possible. (D. Lauwaert)

­ uestion the cultural obviousness (Mollenhauer, 1983), referring to q cultural action (Freire, 1972, 1995): questioning and challenging dehumanising processes by unveiling realities and taking a critical position in realising human dignity in a social context.



SITUATINg urban cracks

32 – View from Terril des Piges, Charleroi 33 © Elly Van Eeghem 2011

p. 10

top: Urban expansion area, Toronto © Elly Van Eeghem 2009 center: City beach YAAM, Berlin © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 bottom: Köpenicker Strasse, Berlin © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 13 top: Rue de Brébeuf, Montréal © Elly Van Eeghem 2010 center: Schlesische Strasse, Berlin © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 bottom: Squat at Bethanien, Berlin © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 14 top: Boxhagener strasse, Berlin © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 center: Abandoned Central Works ­Factory, Peenemünde © Elly Van ­Eeghem 2008 bottom: Paleizenstraat, Brussels © Elly Van Eeghem 2007 15 Dibek Sokak, Istanbul © Elly Van ­Eeghem 2011 16 – Kulturhaus, Zinnowitz 17 © Elly Van ­Eeghem 2008 20 top: Squat at Bethanien, Berlin © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 center: Kortrijksesteenweg, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2010 bottom: Ohm Strasse, Berlin © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 24 top: Murakip Sokagi, Istanbul © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 center: Friedrichshain Fahrradschüle, Berlin © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 bottom: Cuvry Strasse, Berlin © Elly Van ­Eeghem 2011 27 Cardboard bench, Istanbul © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 28 Intervention by Ballet Dommage,­Ostend © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 30 top: De Site by Rocsa, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2009 center: Le Bistro Du Porche by Bruit du Frigo, Nantes © Bruit du Frigo 2008 bottom: Community garden, Lille © Elly Van Eeghem 2006

GHENT CASE A series of images 43

#20, Urban Fabric series, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2010–2011 44 #3, Urban Fabric series, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2010–2011 45 #6, Urban Fabric series, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2010–2011 46 #17, Urban Fabric series, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2010–2011 47 #19, Urban Fabric series, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2010–2011 48 top: Kangars cargo-boat, Ghent © Stadsarchief Gent – De Zwarte Doos bottom: Inauguration of Muidebrug, Ghent © Stadsarchief Gent – De Zwarte Doos 1934 49 top: Handelsdok, Ghent © Wannes ­Nimmegeers 2010 bottom: Muidebrug, Ghent © Maarten Van den Bossche 2012 50 top: Café Sport bij Annie on Lourdeshoek, Ghent © Stadsarchief Gent – De Zwarte Doos bottom: Docklands, Ghent © Stads­ archief Gent – De Zwarte Doos 51 top: CirQ Beach on Pauwstraat, Ghent © Riet Steel 2011 bottom: Terrain of Loods 24, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 52 top: Street art on Inter-Beton, Ghent © Wannes Nimmegeers 2010 bottom: Panoramic view of Houtdok, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2012 53 Fishermen on Houtdok, Ghent © Wannes Nimmegeers 2010 54 top: The ‘head’ of Meulestede with Saint Anthony’s Church, Ghent © Virginie Schreyen 2010 bottom: Panoramic view of Alkstraat, Ghent © Carlos Dekeyrel 2012

163 p. 55


Housing blocks on Meulesteedsesteenweg, Ghent © Virginie Schreyen 2011 57 – left to right, top to bottom: 58 a. Handelsdok, Ghent © Riet Steel 2010 b. Port Arthurlaan, Ghent © Riet Steel 2010 c. Kopenhagenstraat, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 d. Voorhavenlaan, Ghent ©Riet Steel 2010 e. Aziëstraat, Ghent © Riet Steel 2010 f. Eastern embankment of Handelsdok, Ghent © Riet Steel 2010 g. ‘Temporary’ accommodation on ­Lübeckstraat, Ghent © Riet Steel 2010 h. Squat on Inter-Beton, Ghent © Wannes Nimmegeers 2010 i. Green belt near Terneuzenlaan, Ghent © Riet Steel 2010 j. Squat on Inter-Beton, Ghent © Wannes Nimmegeers 2010 k. Lübeckstraat, Ghent © Riet Steel 2010 l. Vorkstraat, Ghent © Virginie ­Schreyen 2010 m. View from Muidebrug, Ghent © Virginie Schreyen 2010 n. Terrain of Loods 24, Ghent © Virginie Schreyen 2010 o. Meulesteedsesteenweg, Ghent © Riet Steel 2010 p. Meulesteedsesteenweg, Ghent © Virginie Schreyen 2011 q. Loodsenstraat, Ghent © Riet Steel 2010 r. Lourdeshoek, Ghent © Riet Steel 2011 s. Level crossing on Muidepoort, Ghent © Riet Steel 2011 t. Bunker on Voorhavenlaan, Ghent © Wannes Nimmegeers 2010 u. Park on Makelaarsstraat, Ghent © Maarten Van den Bossche 2012 v. Londenstraat, Ghent © Wannes ­Nimmegeers 2010 w. Koopvaardijlaan, Ghent © Wannes Nimmegeers 2010 x. View from Inter-beton, Ghent © Wannes Nimmegeers 2010

y. Vorkstraat, Ghent © Wannes ­Nimmegeers 2010 58 – Map of the Muide-Meulestede-Afrika59 laan quarter with indicated intervention sites of Oceaniëstraat recto/verso & Assurance Ambiance, Ghent © Aerodata International Surveys, Cnes/Spot Image, DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, Google 2011

Oceaniëstraat verso: A visual archive 60 – Oceaniëstraat, Ghent © Aerodata 61 ­International Surveys, Cnes/Spot Image, DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, Google 2011 62 District map of the railway system, Ghent © NMBS-Holding 1926 63 Map Houtdok, Ghent © Havenbedrijf Gent agh 1947 64 Specification plan Koopvaardijlaan, Ghent © Havenbedrijf Gent agh 1968 65 Location of Houtdok, Ghent © MIAT 66 Location of cotton companies, Ghent © MIAT 67 – Cotton company of Braine-le-Château, 69 Ghent © Stadsarchief Gent – De Zwarte Doos 70 – Cotton company of Braine-le-Château, 71 Ghent © Pol Hannick, 1904–1929: Geschiedenis der socialistische N.V. Vereenigde Spinnerijen en Weverijen, Gent, 1929 72, 73, 74  Oceaniëstraat, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 75 Lumber yard, Ghent © Stadsarchief Gent – De Zwarte Doos 76 Handelsdok, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 77, 78, 79  Oceaniëstraat, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2011 80 – Video stills from the installation 83 Oceaniëstraat recto/verso, Ghent © Elly Van Eeghem 2011



As a supplementary contribution to this book, we invited six authors to reflect on the research material presented. For the selection of authors, we took into account a diversity in backgrounds and disciplines, in familiarity with the subject matter and in proximity to the research project. As a result, this book incorporates reac足 tions from the perspectives of social peda足 gogy, cultural city policy, dramaturgy, visual arts, urbanism and anthropology. The aut足 hors all shed their light on certain aspects of the book and explored possible implications for the fields in which they are experts. The texts vary from broadening theoretical considerations, personal journals and reflec足 tions on accustomed topics to observations of relevant areas of tension.


Karius and Bactus Bart Lodewijks

I first came to Ghent to participate in a joint exhibition at S.M.A.K. in 2005. After setting up the show at the museum there was a day left, so I finished the chalk drawing that started in the museum on the wall of a trans­ former cabin in Dok Noord. The chalk proves to work so well on trans­ former cabins, working-class and middleclass houses, dead-end alleys, churches, factories and other buildings, that one year later I take up permanent residence in Ghent. To the neighbours, passers-by and people who use the buildings, I explain that chalk can easily be wiped away and that it is washed away by the rain. Gradually, I become a known face in the neighbour­ hoods and succeed in bringing my work to a multitude of façades in, for instance, a single street and eventually also to the interiors of private residences.

May 2005 With chalk I make a drawing on a wall in Dok Noord. The place is dilapidated, but full of ­potential. The chalk is absorbed by the stones, as if the neighbourhood is begging for some attention.

September 2011 I have been living on the Dok Noord t­errain for two months, behind the blue crane across the trading dock, nearby the drawing from 2005. The apartment block on Afrikalaan towers over the view like a remnant of a city wall. On grey days it’s hard to make out whether people live in that wall or if it’s being redevel­ oped. At dusk the lights betray the presence of residents.

October 2011 The train to Antwerp provides a view of the back of the block. Laundry is snapping on the balustrades. On the stretch of grass between the block and the railway is some playground equipment. People are on the walkways.

December 2011 I park my bike across from a Russian shop on the ground floor of the block. I ask them if they have blackboard chalk. On the box there is a drawing of a Russian rainbow. Twelve coloured sticks are smiling at me. Normally I never use coloured chalk. On the pavement within view of the shop I draw a Russian rainbow. Any child knows that you can make a wish when you see a rainbow. Rainbows appear after heavy weather. They loom up only briefly. That’s why they represent luck. I walk back to the shop and check if they have more rainbow chalk for sale.

January 2012 I go through the contributions to Reading urban cracks on my screen. I am pleasantly surprised by the thoroughness and scope of the research. “There is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in.” In about five years there won’t be any cracks left in the Muide-Meulestede-Afrika­ laan triangle. Is that a bad thing? I think of Karius and Bactus. Two plunderers who drill holes in teeth. The ravage of tooth decay is progressive and you couldn’t create it that way if you wanted to. Muide-MeulestedeAfrikalaan will be modelled after the perfect shiny white set of teeth. Silos, holes and cracks will slowly be covered over. Reading Urban Cracks records the urban cracks that are being carried to their graves, and

173 shows that Karius and Bactus don’t live in a neighbourhood, but reside in every human gesture. In Reading Urban Cracks, Muide-­ Meulestede-Afrikalaan is brought to life through encounters. Conversations, inter­ views or conclusions are distilled without betraying the original ‘verbal’ sources. There is no speaking at the same time like in a conversation out loud. The noise of the street resounds in the text. There is a diligent search for connection with the neigh­ bourhood and its residents. The interviews with practitioners of Assurance Ambiance are informative and sometimes also humor­ ous, and you read them at one sitting. In Van Eeghem’s layered photographic ­images I recognise my own environment. Does she make her photographs through ­reflective glass? Or does she layer one image over the other? They must be her personal observations, where impressions overlap. She changes locations and a new connection emerges. An amorphous whole. Fiction. ­Volumes of air filled with image. Wort körperlich. In e-mail correspondence with Van ­Eeghem it becomes clear that her phrase-by-phrase text was projected as part of a multimedia installation, with a front (recto) and a reverse side (verso). She thinks of making the text run on across the pages throughout the book. “That way the ­‘cadence’ is preserved, by turning the pages.” The typographical video work plays on her website. Because the image is black and there is no sound, the subtitles transport me into associative interspaces. Between the phrases new words appear. Sluikstortscenografie (dumping ground scenography). It’s as if I am being led through Afrikalaan blind­ folded. Go ahead and read, it doesn’t say what it says.

Bart Lodewijks (°1972, The Netherlands) is a visual artist. He makes linear chalk drawings in public and private spaces. Publications and short stories result from these often long-term drawing projects. Recent projects included Unforgettable Neighbourhood with S.M.AK. in the Moscou district of Ghent and Rio Drawings with Capacete in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Reference - Karius & Bactus is a children’s book by the ­Norwegian illustrator Thorbjørn Egner.

184 Especially in Europe, the city as a systema­ tised manner of living together has probably become so dense and materially full, so completely set in habits and forms, so hard and stony, so much secured and protected, so made-up and facelifted, that it is hard to find places like urban cracks. There we could have a look inside our own subconscious imagination and inside our intuition of a col­ lective destiny that lives under the city. It is not difficult to guess why these urban cracks are hard to find. For most people, reading inside our collective imagination seems to be uninteresting, unacceptable even. Indeed, the kind of places where the city unravels and disintegrates, is largely considered as banned, forbidden and pre­ destined to be recycled into the system as soon as possible. Artists and people who are eager to know more about the reasons why the city and the urban world are what they are, are able to read inside urban cracks. They live with it, it is their life. In the past, neighbourhoods that started to look like urban cracks were easily taken over by them. This appropriation, some call it ‘occupation’, usually occurred before the neighbourhood was recycled into the system, what is then called gentrification. Architects and urban planners can very well estimate the ability of artists to detect disintegrating and cracking urban spaces. This ability is now often hired by city devel­ opers and project leaders to become part of the planning process. To notice a place, to name the event of its urban crack and to give meaning to it, is an indication for urban designers and city developers of the poten­ tial of the place – its genius loci – and might be a prefiguration of the future project. For artists however, the intervention of urban­ ism and architecture in urban cracks is, in general, the beginning of its depreciation and defiguration.

Pieter Uyttenhove (°1957, Belgium) is professor in urban planning at the department of Architecture and Urban Planning of Ghent University, and currently head of department. He is an engineer-architect, urbanist and obtained a PhD in Art History at the EHESS in Paris. His fields of expertise are theory and history of urban planning, landscape imagery and the interaction between urban planning, land­ scape and heritage.


ON URBAN CRACKS This material originated within the context of a master’s seminar at the School of Arts by Elly Van Eeghem: Urban cracks in Ghent. In this class, students read local urban cracks from an artistic point of view and considered the manner in which contemporary artistic practice can relate to specific urban contexts and social issues. The projects and texts discussed, inspired a group of students to artistically reformulate dominant meanings and social issues. The texts on the table were by Bart ­Verschaffel (on the city centre of Ghent as a fault line), Wim Cuyvers (on the trivial concept of wasteland), Kenny Cupers & Markus ­Miessen (on urban voids as catalysts) and Chantal Mouffe (on artistic practice as ­agonistic intervention in public space). In a visual essay, which contained diverse research material, students presented a plan for intervention on a specific urban crack in Ghent. For this book, we selected four proposals by Oona Libens, Alexander Meeus, Geeraard Respeel & Robbert Van Wynendaele.


Aviary / Volière (Large-scale installation) Kanunnikstraat Ghent Alexander Meeus, Master student Photography


Museum L (fictive virtual museum, Leiekaai Ghent Geeraard Respeel, Master student Media Art


De praktijk van


Assurance Ambiance Riet Steel

Introductie Achtergrond Assurance Ambiance is een project van R ­ OCSA vzw met medewerking van Stad Gent (Dienst Stedelijke Vernieuwing en Gebiedsgerichte Werking). Het heeft als doel samen met bewoners en kunstenaars tijdelijke invullingen te creëren op enkele leegstaande terreinen in de wijk Muide-Meulestede-Afrikalaan. ROCSA is een kleine vzw die naam maakte met onder meer De Site, Made By Oya en de ROCSA Singers. ROCSA staat voor Recht Op Cultuur: Sociaal en Artistiek. De geschiedenis van ROCSA gaat terug tot 2001, toen de vzw Kunst in de Stad werd opgericht. Dit ontstond na het succes van het Wijkpaleis, en als een verzelfstandiging van een wijkgebonden aanpak van de toenmalige Dienst Kunsten (nu Cultuurparticipatie) van Stad Gent. In 2004 vond een koerswijziging en naams­verandering plaats. ROCSA werd gedurende vier jaar structureel erkend als sociaal-artistieke werking door het Vlaamse Kunsten­decreet, in 2006–2007 en 2008–2009. Sindsdien bouwt ze de werking uit met projectsubsidies van verschillende overheden, voornamelijk met de steun van Stad Gent. Een belangrijk spoor dat door ROCSA werd getrokken, betreft tijdelijke invullingen van braakliggende terreinen in twee Gentse wijken. Met het project De Site (2007–2010) 1 werd van de voormalige fabrieksterreinen van AlcatelBell langs de Gasmeterlaan een creatieve ­ontmoetingsplek gemaakt. De Site werd door vele actoren als een succesvol project beschouwd en in navolging hiervan werd in 2009 het project Assurance Ambiance opgestart op vraag van Stad Gent en in samenwerking

met CirQ vzw, die reeds meerdere jaren actief was in de wijk Muide-Meulestede. Voor zowel De Site als het recentere project Assurance Ambiance geldt dat de tijdelijke invulling van de braakliggende terreinen plaatsvindt in een context van stadsvernieuwing. Voor beide projecten werd dan ook een convenant afgesloten met Stad Gent. Deze samenwerkingsovereenkomst zorgt ervoor dat de organisatie een partner is in de ­ontwikkelingscoalitie, onder de vorm van een nauwe samenwerkingsrelatie met de Dienst Stedelijke Vernieuwing en ­Gebiedsgerichte Werking, zorgt ervoor dat ze werkingsmiddelen ter beschikking krijgt, maar ook dat de werking van ROCSA meebouwt aan een draagvlak voor de lopende of geplande stadsvernieuwingsprojecten. Voor de definiëring van haar werkings­ gebied volgt Assurance Ambiance de wijk­ indeling van Dienst Stedelijke Vernieuwing en Gebiedsgerichte Werking. De geringe verbinding tussen de Afrikalaan en de wijken Muide en Meulestede en de omvang van het gebied, stellen de organisatie voor een aantal uitdagingen voor het uitbouwen van een werking die het volledige gebied betrekt. ROCSA is een kleine vzw. Het team bestaat gedurende de looptijd van het onderzoek uit een coördinator, een zakelijke medewerker, twee project- en twee technische medewerkers. Verder wordt er samengewerkt met kunstenaars en andere freelancers en vrijwilligers. Gedurende vijf jaar (2006–2011) was Evelyne Deceur er coördinator van. Toen Evelyne aan de Universiteit Gent ging werken, nam Maarten Soete het coördinatorschap van haar over, zij het voor de korte duur van zes maanden. Sinds half november 2011 is Ernst Maréchal coördinator.



De drie mensen die dit project uitwerkten waren Evelyne Deceur (ROCSA), Olivier Provost (verbonden aan CirQ en Nucleo) en Xavier Cloet (CirQ). Gedurende 2009 verkenden zij de context, bouwden een netwerk op en bepaalden visie, doelstellingen en aanpak. In 2010 werden twee verkennende interventies uitgevoerd op twee verschillende sites: het braakliggende terrein aan de Vorkstraat (Muide) en de toegang tot een appartementsgebouw aan de Scandinaviëstraat (Afrikalaan). In tussentijd werd aan een groot dossier geschreven: DOK, een tijdelijke invulling van de Oude Dokken, door vier partners: CirQ, Ladda vzw, Democrazy en ROCSA. Na verloop van tijd trok ROCSA zich terug uit de in oprichting zijnde koepel-vzw DOK. Vanaf toen bestond Assurance Ambiance nog slechts uit projectmedewerkers Evelyne en Olivier. Xavier als persoon en CirQ als organisatie trokken zich terug uit Assurance Ambiance bij het begin van 2011. Na de aanloopperiode van 2010, focuste ­Assurance Ambiance zich in 2011 voornamelijk op twee andere plekken in de wijk: ­­de site rond de verlaten betoncentrale aan de Koopvaardijlaan (Afrikalaan) en het terrein Loods 21 aan de Voorhavenlaan (Muide). Rond beide terreinen zette men meer langdurige projecten op. Sinds de snel opeenvolgende coördinator­ wissels binnen ROCSA tussen het voorjaar en najaar van 2011, rest enkel nog ­Olivier Provost als projectmedewerker van ­Assurance Ambiance. Hij werkt voornamelijk verder op het terrein Loods 21. De nieuwe koers die ROCSA en dus ook Assurance Ambiance met de nieuwe coördinator vaart, valt buiten dit onderzoek en wordt hier niet beschreven.

Kennismaking Olivier Provost (°1972) heeft een diploma van opvoeder op zak maar is als praktijkwerker actief in verschillende settings, waar

hij vaak een brug tracht te slaan tussen het sociale en het artistieke. In De Fabriek van Habbekrats werkte hij met jongeren creatieve projecten uit en zorgde daarbij mee voor de culturele poot. Sinds enige tijd is hij werkzaam als sociaal-artistieke medewerker en projectmedewerker bij Nucleo vzw, een organisatie die een atelierbeheer en -beleid ontwikkelt voor Gentse kunstenaars. Olivier is zeer vertrouwd met artistieke huizen en netwerken in Gent en is zelf een creatief denker en doener. Hij is het gewoon om nauw samen te werken met kunstenaars en op zoek te gaan naar verbinding met en ontmoeting in een specifieke context. Zo werkte hij voor Nucleo mee aan het project Moscou|Bernadette rond de voormalige G ­ ustaaf Callierschool in de Bernadettewijk. Hij was verder ook betrokken bij projecten van Nieuwpoorttheater (bv. State of Waste, Tram 40) en van het collectief CirQ (bv. Stabilisé). Olivier is als projectmedewerker momenteel verbonden aan zowel ROCSA voor ­Assurance Ambiance als aan Nucleo. Hij woont net als Evelyne in de Muide. Evelyne Deceur (°1980) studeerde sociale agogiek en cultuurmanagement. Voor ze coördinator van ROCSA werd, was ze publiekswerker bij het stadstheater NTGent. Ze was coördinator van ROCSA van eind 2006 tot midden 2011. Onder haar leiding onderging de organisatie een koerswijziging. Tijdens deze vijf jaar ontstonden naast ­Assurance Ambiance, verschillende projecten vertrekkend vanuit de mensen en het leven in de buurt Rabot-Blaisantvest: De Site, Made by Oya en de Rocsa Singers. In haar functie ging ze actief op zoek naar ontmoeting en samenwerking met deelnemers, kunstenaars en andere partners om projecten en praktijken op touw te zetten. Deze rol van bruggenbouwer en intermediair zorgde er eveneens voor dat Evelyne het gekende gezicht van ROCSA werd. Evelyne heeft een netwerk opgebouwd in de sociaalculturele en artistieke sector en is vertrouwd


De praktijk van Assurance Ambiance

met de verschillende Gentse stadsdiensten en bevoegdheden. Momenteel werkt Evelyne als assistent aan de vakgroep sociale agogiek van de Universiteit Gent, waar ze onderwijsactiviteiten combineert met een doctoraatsstudie geënt op haar praktijkervaring bij ROCSA. Als buurtbewoner, onderzoeker en ex-medewerker is ze nog steeds zijdelings betrokken bij de werking van Assurance Ambiance. Xavier Cloet (°1974) is artistiek leider en hét gezicht van het collectief CirQ. De organi­ satie gaat steeds op zoek naar projecten met een bevreemdende, grensverleggende en humoristische draai. CirQ is een vzw die een grote onafhankelijkheid betracht. Ze doet dit onder meer door verschillende subsidiekanalen tegelijk aan te spreken, nomadisch te werken, sponsoring voor de organisatie van evenementen te bekomen, inkomsten te genereren die kunnen terugvloeien naar de werking en niet in het minst door een grote schare aan geënga­geerde vrijwilligers in te zetten. CirQ kan begrepen worden als een eigenwijze ‘community’ die zich niet in een hoekje laat drukken. Xavier is een creatieve geest, een hyperactieve manager, iemand voor wie het snel en e∞ciënt mag gaan en voor wie elk hokje waarin men hem wil plaatsen te klein is. Xavier noemt zichzelf geen kunstenaar, maar nog minder een sociaal-cultureel werker. Hij noemt zichzelf wel eens ‘circusdirecteur’ en wellicht duidt deze benaming zijn rol het best. Xavier is erg vertrouwd met de wijk en haar bewoners. CirQ had gedurende meerdere jaren een werkplek in Muide en Meulestede en zette meerdere projecten op in de buurt. Verder trekt Assurance Ambiance kunstenaars en ontwerpers aan als freelancers om een artistieke input te leveren of bepaalde opdrachten uit te voeren. Men werkte tot hiertoe samen met: beeldende kunstenaars Nicolas Milhé, Saar De Buysere, Wouter De Corte, Hugo Azcuy Castillo en Goran Grahovac, designer Bart Baccarne, radiomakers Lorenzo

Van Loon en Tom Van Gijseghem, fotograaf Reinout Hiel, studenten Multimediale Vormgeving Sarah Oyserman en Rutger Cox, muzikant Dijf Sanders en architect Xavier Catry. Daarnaast is het niet onbelangrijk te vermelden dat een aantal personen oorspronke­ lijk als buurtbewoners betrokken waren maar gaandeweg ook op hun expertise werden aangesproken, zoals bijvoorbeeld Saar Tilleman en Kasper Jordaens (architectuur), Lieven Van Holle (ontwerp) en Laurent De Bie (fotografie).

Onderzoek In de periode tussen begin 2010 en eind 2011 werden de ontwikkelingen binnen Assurance Ambiance opgevolgd aan de hand van verschillende methoden: participatief visueel onderzoek, participerende observaties, interviews en documentanalyse. Het doel van deze casestudie was inzicht verwerven in de wijze waarop praktijkwerkers in hun praktijk staan: het is het perspectief van de praktijkwerkers dat in deze studie dus centraal staat. Het perspectief van bewoners en beleids­makers klinkt door in de verhalen van praktijkwerkers, maar vormt als dusdanig geen focus in dit onderzoek. In het participatief visueel traject bouwden interviews steeds voort op beeldmateriaal aangeleverd door de praktijkwerkers. Zo werden er bijvoorbeeld foto’s en tekeningen gemaakt naar aanleiding van vragen als “Wat is schoon aan de wijk?”, “Hoe zien jullie je werkcontext?” en “Wat zijn jullie aan het doen en wat willen jullie bereiken?”. Inspiratie voor deze participatief visuele methodo­ logie vonden we in literatuur rond visual studies, het gebruik van fotografie in onderzoek (Harper, 2002; Kolb, 2008; Mannay, 2010; Pauwels, 2009; Prosser & Loxley, 2008; Wang & Burris, 1997; Weber, 2008) en Triple Self Diagnosis (Kane, 2001). Verschillende gesprekken en open interviews met de drie praktijkwerkers werden aangevuld met een bevraging van een zestal



In deze tekst, waarin de praktijk van ­Assurance Ambiance wordt toegelicht ­vanuit een onderzoeksperspectief, is gepoogd met respect maar ook vanuit een kritisch oogpunt een aantal sterkten en knelpunten van deze praktijk genuanceerd te b ­ espreken. Hopelijk kan deze tekst ook aanleiding geven tot discussie en inspiratie binnen de praktijk van ROCSA maar ook in diverse andere praktijken en het beleid dat hierrond gevoerd wordt. Noten 1. De Site bestaat nog steeds, maar de voortrekkersrol werd overgenomen door Samenlevingsopbouw Gent van ROCSA in januari 2011. 2. Omschrijving geformuleerd in convenant tussen ROCSA en Stad Gent, begin 2010. Het idee was om aan deze maquette een project van kunstenares Bernadette ­Vandecatsije te koppelen. 3. De maquette en het werk van ­Bernadette werden echter nooit geïntegreerd in de uiteindelijke installatie.

This book questions the why and how of setting up artistic and social practices in interstitial spaces in the city, urban cracks. Urban cracks are conceptualised as in-between time spaces, characterised by an apparent void, where di≠erent logics meet and conflict. The lamination of di≠erent historically grown layers of m ­ eaning and the crossing of conflicting logics in these ‘useless’ places, are highlighted as significant features which artists and community workers could act upon. The authors discuss the potential of artistic and social practices localised that work with the context of urban cracks, and therefore bring forth significant political meanings. Artists and community workers are both engaged in reading, analysing and translating pertinent developments of society, although their intentions and outcomes are fairly di≠erent. This book is the result of a two-year interdisciplinary research project of the University College Ghent: a collaboration between the School of Arts and the Faculty of Education, Health and Social Work. The book aims to inspire and enrich artistic and social practices by inciting critical debate on the manner in which practitioners localise their work in a specific urban context. The authors wish to enable reflection and discussion on the potential meanings of interventions in urban cracks. Riet Steel is a pedagogue and as a researcher a∞liated with the department of Social Work of the University College Ghent. Her research interests are community arts, socio-cultural work, urbanism and participatory research methods. Elly Van Eeghem is an artist and as a guest lecturer and researcher a∞liated with the School of Arts of the University College Ghent. Her artistic research often focuses on consumption and movement in urban space and takes shape through video, intervention, installation and photography. Griet Verschelden is a social worker and as a lecturer and researcher a∞liated with the department of Social Work of the University College Ghent. She researches adult education, community development and volunteering, from a social pedagogical perspective. Carlos Dekeyrel is a photographer and as an artistic lecturer a∞liated with the teacher training program at the School of Arts of the University College Ghent. His expertise is situated in art education and digital media. ISBN 978-94-9069-33-81