Occupation and appropriation of the urban public space _from a black market ...to a white one 1
Occupation and appropriation of the urban public space _ from a black market... to a â€˜whiteâ€™ one
Olga Ktena MA Interior and Spatial Design Chelsea College of Art and Design Course Director: Kenneth Wilder Tutor: Peter Maloney 2011-2012 3
1. introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 2. characteristics of the urban public space . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 _ when the space becomes loose . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . 13 _ the black and white of a â€˜gray spaceâ€™. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 3. microarchitecture for urban nomads . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 4. theory in practice and vice versa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 _ urban nomads . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 _ the black market of Athens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 _ design proposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 5. conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97 _ the black market coat_from Athens to London . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 _ references . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117 _ e-resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120 _ bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121
Usually untraceable, and hence untaxable, business dealings that are not reflected in a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) computations. An integral part of most third-world and many first-world economies, it is a cash based system in which transaction records are kept in secret account books (called ‘number two’ accounts). Though it employs illegal (and even criminal) methods, it is a survival practice in repressive tax regimens or where legitimate expression of entrpreneurial activity is made unnecessarily difficult by a maze of regulations. Black economy and black money go hand in hand. Also called parallel economy, shadow economy, or underground economy. (Business Dictionary).
â€˜In everyday space, differences between the domestic and the economic, the private and the public, and the economic and the political are blurring. Rather than constituting the failure of public space, change, multiplicity, and contestation may in fact constitute its very natureâ€™. (Crawford, 1999)
This research is an attempt to analyse the occupation and appropriation of the urban public spaces and their relation to the notions of ephemeral and mobile, a trend of our contemporary society, within the context of unofficial practices taking place in the urban environment. More specifically, the research is concentrated on the black market1 â€“particularly on illegal street vending-, a practice that definitely pertains to the ephemeral or unregulated use of the urban public space, involving at the same time, social, economic and political issues. 7
image by Louisa Giouliamaki for AFP/Getty Images Athens, 13th February 2012
In general, the political and economic situation of a society is always reflected in several ways in the public space; hence the political and economic instability and infirmity of a society is as well expressed in various ways. One of the reasons that led me to concentrate my research on the black market is its close relation to the current situation of the country where I come from; Greece. The fact that the black economy in Greece is ‘blooming’, in contrast with the sad reality that the country’s economy is on the verge of collapse, triggers me to deal with political, economic and social phenomena that have an actual impact on the future of my country. However, the project is neither just about criticising my country’s white or black economy nor about judging the system behind it. Taking as a starting point a situation that I am familiar with –the black market in Greece- the area of research unavoidably becomes much wider, relating issues which deal with the complexity and the impact that today’s crisis has on the urban space, with all the political, social and other extensions that this carries. My main aim, within the terms of this project, is to deal with such contexts through their spatial aspects, in order to propose or to imply, to put it more realistically, a different way to approach the situation. As Crawford (1999) states: ‘By identifying these struggles as the germ of an alternative development of democracy, we can begin to frame a new discourse of public space – one no longer preoccupied with loss, but filled with possibilities’.
The two main spatial aspects that my project deals with are: the relation between the black market and the urban public space, its occupation and its appropriation; the spatial qualities of the ephemeral and mobile constructions used in the black market. These two areas of research lead to my final design proposal, which -as it will be described further downconflates the more theoretical and the more practical aspect in a hybrid and deliberately ambiguous result.
characteristics of the urban public space
â€˜In cities around the world people with their creativity and determination, appropriate and use a variety of public spaces to relax, to protest, to buy and sell, to experiment and celebrateâ€™. (Franck and Stevens, 2007)
image by Thanos Anthopoulos Athens, 31st March 2012
_ when the space becomes ‘loose’
The use and occupancy of the urban public space in different, ephemeral, unregulated ways brings and fosters the concept of ‘loose space’. According to Franck and Stevens (2007, p.2) ‘people create loose space through their own actions. Accessibility, freedom of choice and physical elements that occupants can appropriate all contribute to the emergence of a loose space, but they are not sufficient. For a site to become loose, people themselves must recognise the possibilities inherent and make use of those possibilities for their own ends, facing the potential risks of doing so’. In other words, the action and the space, where the action takes place, have a dialectical relationship; they interact and influence each other. This becomes obvious regarding the spatial aspect of the black market -and street market in general-, where the vendors identify and take advantage of specific spatial qualities of the public space and at the same time the space itself changes through their actions. Appropriation, as Jiménez–Domínguez set out, ‘arising from spontaneous practices, is part of the struggle for the right to the city2‘.
What Lefebvre calls the ‘right to the city’ encompasses the ‘right to freedom, to individualization, to habitat and to inhabit’ as well as rights to participation and appropriation. (Franck, Stevens, 2007 p.5). 2
A public art installation, entitled Bad Sheets and organised by Trangressive Architecture (TA) clearly questions the meaning and use of public space in terms of occupation and appropriation. As a matter of fact, not only the context of the installation but the installation itself as well, that was firstly expressed as a â€˜protestâ€™ -outside the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)-, both relate to the appropriation of public space. The Bad Sheets was the first of a series of unauthorised installations carried out between March and June 2001 in several contested public spaces in London. During that time, these public spaces were suffering from a cleansing campaign that was trying to sanitise them. Transgressive Architecture, a group of architects, artists and writers, was formed to critically act through various media against the segregation of public spaces in London, and against the clamp down on street communities such as sex workers, homeless people, beggars, buskers, street vendors and cruisers. TA believes that these groups, among others -all can be termed urban nomads- have the right to act in the public space. Moreover, it argues in support of their contribution to urban life. What is interesting to mention is that TA members did not only express their dissidence, but also submitted planning proposals to the local council, where they had re-designed specific public spaces by taking into account the street communities that used them (Doron).
University of Brighton Limits of Inclusiveness Transborderline 2005
Transgressive Architecture Bad Sheets 2001
Similar tactics were used in the design proposals of the project Limits of Inclusiveness, carried out in 2005 by students of Interior Architecture of the University of Brighton School of Architecture and Design. The project was exclusively concentrated on Russell square and its aim was to bring back and intensify some of the qualities the square had before it was sanitised, and also to open the square to urban nomads, rather just to the local resident community. In one of their installations named Transborderline, after a similar work by the Italian group Stalker, the students widened the fence and intervened in a way that questioned the notion of the boundary, by recreating a new space within the boundary to be used as a shelter. The Transborderline project, as Tscumi (1998) stated, â€˜transgressed the boundaries between real structure and a rhetoric statementâ€™. Therefore, the boundary became an investigatory device for examining the socio-political condition of the site of Russell square (Doron). 15
Public art installation Epos 257 Palacheko square, Prague 4th Sep.-27th Oct. 2010
_ the black and white of a ‘gray space’
Considering the black market as a method of trade which has been functioning and developing illegally, yet commonly known as an ‘open secret’ for hundreds of years within the looseness of public space, we come across the term ‘gray space’. Though the term has been used by Oren Yiftachel to describe literally marginalised spaces3, its general characteristics inform us, in a way, of the position that the black market has in society. At the same time, it opens the subject of illegal immigration and ethnic mixing which, though is not part of this research, is closely related to informal economies and cannot be overpassed without at least being mentioned. According to Yiftachel, the concept of ‘gray spaces’ refers to “developments, enclaves, populations, and transactions positioned between the ‘lightness’ of legality/approval/safety, and the ‘darkness’ of eviction/destruction/death. Gray spaces are neither integrated nor eliminated, forming pseudo-permanent margins of today’s urban regions, which exist partially outside the gaze of state authorities and city plans. The identification of ‘gray spacing’ as a ceaseless process of ‘producing’ social relations, by-passes the false modernist dichotomy between ‘legal’ and ‘criminal’, ‘oppressed’ and ‘subordinated’, ‘fixed’ and ‘temporary’.
In the urban policy sphere, gray spaces are usually quietly tolerated, while subject to derogatory discourses about the putative ‘contamination’, ‘criminality’ and ‘danger’ to the desired ‘order of things’. The disjuncture between actual tolerated reality and its ‘intolerable’ legal planning and discursive framing, puts in train a process of ‘gray spacing’, during which the boundaries between ‘accepted’ and ‘rejected’ constantly shift”. Therefore, this ‘ambiguity’ and unsteadiness of gray spaces ‘provide a more accurate and critical lens with which to analyse the making of urban space in today’s globalising environment, marked by growing mobility, ethnic mixing, and political uncertainty’.
Oren Yiftachel’s analysis of ‘gray space’ refers to the Bedouin Arab population now residing in the Naqab/ Negev desert, at the southern regions of Israel/Palestine, which is the most marginalised and impoverished group inhistoric Palestine. 3
Stalker Transborderline, 2000
left image: Hussein al-Rafi’yah Chair of the Council of the Unrecognised Bedouin Villages speaking to the local community Wadi al-Na’am, January 2009 right image: the local community rebuilding the mosque Wadi al-Na’am, January 2009
Stalker’s project Transborderline (2000), the ‘father’ of the students’ Transborderline in Russell Square (described in the previous chapter), symbolises and actualises the crossing of boundaries, seen as a form of resistance against separation and segregation and as a way of loosening spatial constraints. Transborderline was a proposal for a new kind of border that maintains the spiral shape but loses its thorns and widens into a ludic space, crossable and at the same time habitable. In conjunction with the Manifesta 3 exhibition it was positioned on the frontier border zone between Italy and Slovenia. It’s quite remarkable that none of the members of Stalker who installed the piece were caught in the act, a curious demonstration of the casual arbitrariness of frontier justice (Lang). 19
micro architecture for urban nomads
The second spatial aspect of the black market that I am interested in -as it gives me the ‘foothold’ for the practical work as well- is the ‘architecture’ of the market, meaning the actual design of the constructions or other methods being used by the street vendors –legal and illegal, as in Greece it is not really easy to tell the difference-. The constructions used by the black market sellers offer a very wide area to experiment on designing things that clearly demand portability and flexibility, as the whole procedure of selling goods illegally in the streets is based on carrying as much goods as possible, displaying them in order to sell them and finally packing them quickly if the police authority comes. This procedure can be associated with the general notion of the ‘urban nomads’ –a term borrowed from Deleuze and Guattari (1987) – of the past and present that are characterised by their constant mobility and their ability to occupy the space temporarily by unpacking their belongings, using tactics of the traditional nomads in order to ‘generate maximum functionality and flexibility from a minimum use of materials’ (Rammler).
Manifest Destiny Reigelman M. and Chapman J. San Francisco, 2012 21
Moreover, the contrast between displaying a ‘collection’ of objects and making them almost ‘disappear’ a moment later in the most unexpected ways, gives a new perspective to the idea of transformable objects, as the transformation itself becomes an important element of the procedure, rather than one of the design. The idea of portable, flexible, transformable objects is closely related to a whole field of study known as ‘micro-architecture’ which is in general characterised by its ‘hybrid forms, neither furniture nor architecture, but rather something that might be called “furnitecture”’ (Schwartz-Clauss, 2002, p.12) that comes to fulfill the needs of nowadays society; a society that ‘is becoming more restless and mobile’ (Richards-Wilson, 2004). Certainly, ‘micro-architecture’ as a general field of design is not referring either to the black market or to other unofficial or illegal practices. However, if we examine the black market out of its established context, and try to reveal its architectural aspects, we can see that it definitely follows some of the basic principles of micro-architecture, such as portability, transformation, mechanisms, the ‘compact’ and adaptation to several environments and situations. Besides, if we consider that those elements are becoming a necessity nowadays in housing, the most developed field of micro-architecture, we can expect that those micro-inventions will stand useful in different situations as well.
Candy Chang Street Vendor Guide 2009
Winfried Baumann Urban Nomads Instant Housing 2005-2009
Street vending –regardless of being legal or illegalis becoming more and more a popular method of trade in cities around the world. Street vendors are becoming a powerful community, the ‘professional aspect’ of today’s urban nomads working in between the law and off the books. One interesting project was Candy Chang’s Street Vendor Guide (2009) referring to the 10.000 legal street vendors of New York. The guide translates the most commonly violated rules into accessible diagrammes so that vendors can understand their rights, avoid fines, and earn an honest living. It also illustrates vendors’ rights and includes text in English, Bengali, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. The guide also serves as an educational/ advocacy tool and includes a poster full of fun facts on the history and challenges of NYC street vending, personal vendors’ stories, and policy reform recommendations; thousands of copies were distributed to street vendors for free (Chang). 23
theory in practice and vice versa
Street vendor Parliament square -SyntagmaAthens, 22th April 2012 (personal archive)
_ urban nomads
Briefly, my practice started by designing portable and transformable furniture â€“as products of microarchitecture- to be used by urban nomads. One example of my early work is the design of a construction consisting of a pile of surfaces that can be carried as a backpack. The surfaces are connected to each other through a mechanism that can can rotate and fix each surface to a number of positions in order to form different furniture (chair, deck-chair, table).
_ urban nomad furniture
urban nomad furniture model (personal archive)
urban nomad furniture model (personal archive)
Street vendor Athens, 28th April 2012 (personal archive) The slogan â€˜Bread, Education, Freedomâ€™, written on the sticker in the background comes from the massive uprising of students in Athens against the military Junta -dictatorship- in 1973. The slogan seems to be extremely current under the present circumstances of economic depression and austerity in Greece.
_ black market of Athens
Obviously, the general idea of designing for â€˜urban nomadsâ€˜ raised the question of who exactly is the urban nomad I am referring to and led me in defining the profile of the user in detail, in order to identify his specific needs and requirements. After making some research on possible scenarios and for the reasons I already explained in the introduction, my project concentrated on the street vendors and specifically on the black market sellers. From this point, the practical work starts by identifying and recording the ways in which the black market is currently working, as well as mapping the movements and attitudes of the sellers and customers â€“specifically in Athens-. Moreover, one of the aims is to identify how the black market occupies and appropriates the public space in relation to the economic and political situation in Greece.
Map of the centre of Athens showing the main streets where the black economy transactions take place.
It is interesting to mention how the black market changed geographically in Athens a few months before the elections of May 2012, as a result of the effort the previous government party made to sanitise the most popular public spaces in Athens as a way of gaining adherents. It is remarkable to say though that this political expedient has always been happening before the elections or during periods of political convulsions.
This map shows the main spots and streets in the centre of Athens where the black market transactions take place. Before the elections of May 2012, the area around the ‘commercial triangle’ was sanitised and all the vendors were ‘sent’ to the areas marked in red, that are considered to be rough areas of Athens. The vendors could return to their usual spots every Sunday, when the local shops are closed, an action clearly made to gain votes from the shops’ owners.
of the methods and constructions used by street vendors for carrying and displaying goods
_category 1a One construction/method used for carrying and displaying goods. typical examples : _sheet carried as a bundle and laid on the street for displaying and selling the products _constructions with wheels _wooden stick with small products fixed to it
_category 1b One construction/method used for carrying and displaying the products + one collapsible construction for improving the display (increase of height). typical examples: _collapsible box or briefcase for carrying + part of collapsible chair or table _surface with products tied on it and handle to carry + carton box
_category 2 Different construction/method used for carrying and different for displaying the products. typical example: _indifferent way for carrying goods -usually plastic bag or backpack- and sheet or table-cloth laid on the street for displaying the products
_category 3a No construction used either for carrying or for displaying the products. All products carried and displayed by hands.
_category 3b Indifferent way of carrying and no construction used for displaying the products. Occupation of public space/furniture for display. typical example: _use of arcades, store windows -when the stores are closed- and rails
black market coat model (personal archive)
_ design proposal
My proposal is an outcome of research on spatial systems and wearable forms that can encourage an alternative approach to processes of trade through speculative and propositional wearable design solutions. More specifically, building on the usual and old-fashioned image we have for the black market: the seller that opens his coat and reveals the products he is hiding inside, I am designing a transformable coat, supported by a metal exo-skeleton, that can be used in different ways and situations. One of the main characteristics of my work is that it seems to be placed on the verge between performance and practical use. That is to say that my final proposal could have an actual application on the black market as it does meet all the requirements, but at the same time it has a performative quality; a tendency to comment and express irony. Intentionally, I keep the project on the boundary between a practical solution and an activist statement, trying to express the subtle irony and the ambiguities of a flourishing black economy in a period of crisis. In the following text, I will be describing the three different phases of my practical work accompanied by examples and references of other peoplesâ€™ work that have informed or guided my work. Though I have categorised these references according to their relevance to each of the expressions of my own work, in reality they are all linked and sometimes overlapping, as the three phases described have been developing at the same time. 55
collage background image: Kotzia square Athens, April 2012 (personal archive)
The first expression of my practice is the design of a performance where the coat becomes the tool of connecting the vendors wearing it, forming a ‘live street-vending system’. The idea derives from the fact that street vendors organise and act in the public space as an informal community. In my propositional performance this becomes a way to express their collective power by forming a spatially endless system. Furthermore, this system seems to form an image of a protest march where the connected coats replace the banners and the slogans typically written on them; the coats conflate in a way the ‘tool’ and the expressed message or demand on the public space.
Each coat can connect to three maximum other coats through three different parts of the coat -two from the front side and one from the back. The Y-Y shape suggests the endless development of the system.
One British artist whose work seems to be very interesting for my project is Lucy Orta. A series of her artworks entitled Refuge Wear (1993â€“2005) are portable, lightweight, and autonomous structures representing issues of survival. Though her constructions are designed to be wearable and could be practically used, they are actually a comment and a response as well, to both the refugee crisis and to the social instability caused by the economic recession in the early 1990s because of the first Gulf War and the stock market crash (Orta, 2006).
Nicola L. The Blue Cape of Human Rights Brussels, October 2008
Lucy Orta Refuge Wear 1993-2005
Another example that is closely related to this first expression of my practice is the work of Nicola L. entitled The Blue Cape Performances (2002-2008). ‘This art project is an ephemeral monument inhabited by 12 persons during the time of each performance. Each action consists of a march parade in a city and a place of a designated country. During the processing of the parade, the inhabitants of the Cape change masks and identities’ (Nicola L). Remarkable is the fact that in one of the performances that took place in the European Parliament of Brussels (8th October 2008) the Blue Cape was renamed to The Blue Cape of Human Rights and the participants were holding banners with the words ‘Know’, ‘Your’, ‘Rights’. 61
collage background image: immigrant in Athens stopped by the police for identification Athens, April 2012 (personal archive)
_ self-standing transformable coat
As my own project develops, I realise that this performative quality is becoming a way of suggesting a new system rather than only commenting on the existing situation -the contrast between the black economy and the economic crisis-. As already implied from the title, my research on the black market and its relation to the occupation of the public space is actually guiding me in proposing the transformation of the black market into a ‘white’ one, meaning that what I am trying to express through the project is that negativity and struggle can actually form the base for creativity and generate the need for positive change. In this phase of my practice, the exo-skeleton of the designed coat almost imitates the human body and transforms the coat into a self-supporting object/ furniture. This wearable and portable furniture could simply be used as a construction for street vending as an advanced version of the old coat used by the black market traders. However, the theoretical research that directed my work was a speculative correspondence between a self-standing anthropomorphic way of trade and a ‘self-supported’ economy.
_ opening the mechanism of the ‘hands’ and the front parts (‘wings’) of the coat
_ opening the mechanisms of the ‘back and ‘feet’ _ adjusting the ‘hands’ in different positions alters the positions of the self-standing coat
self-standing coat model position 1 (back side)
self-standing coat model position 1 (front side)
self-standing coat model position 2
self-standing coat model position 3
self-standing coat prototype model
self-standing coat prototype model
_in search of the mechanism of the skeleton
The theoretical analogy -between a self-standing coat as a method of trade and a ‘self-supported economy-, guided me in researching different economic systems and ways of trade that could potentially redefine the established order of things; an order of things dependent on capitalism that is obviously being disclosing its shaky structure during this period of crisis. Peter Marcuse writes: ‘Can an alternative to capitalism really be accomplished, given the proven power of the established system? Not only is the end product hard to imagine, but the steps leading there are hard to see; anything now on the agenda seems trivial in such a long-term perspective. Many believe that spaces of hope (...) can be found, and many such spaces indeed move in the direction of broader change. There is perhaps general agreement, by Marx, Lefebvre, my father –Herbert Marcuse-, Harvey, and most thinking people, that the seeds of the future can be found in the present’. In periods of crises people turn to different methods of trade to make a living and to fulfill their needs. Barter markets and time banks4 have proven to be successful examples of such practices. An informal economic system relying on barter and on ‘alternative money’ has already proved its substantial value in the example of Argentina. In 2001, when Argentina faced a huge economic crisis, ‘trueque’, as the method of exchange was called, was used by more than ten million people and saved a large amount of the population from famine.
José Ruiz Zonas de Trueque (curatorial project) 2009 left image: the ticket/currency used in ‘trueque’ markets in Argentina 79
Time banking and service exchange has also developed into a full-fledged movement, usually centered around local communities; but also in communities that are not geographically bound. Time/Bank at eflux, for example, is a network created by the artists Julieta Aranda and Anton Vidokle in 2010, modeled on existing time banks that aims to create a parallel micro-economy for a cultural community bound through the internet. ‘Every Time/Bank transaction allows individuals to request, offer, and pay for services in ‘Hour Notes’. When a task is performed, the credit hours earned may be saved and used at a later date, given to another person, or contributed towards developing larger communal projects’ (Aranda, Vidokle). The idea of using time as a unit of exchange only appeared shortly after the Industrial Revolution. The origins of time-based currency can be traced both to the American anarchist Josiah Warren, who ran the Cincinnati Time Store from 1827 until 1830, and to the British industrialist and philanthropist Robert Owen, who founded the utopian “New Harmony” community. The first successful contemporary time bank was started in 1991 by Paul Glover in Ithaca, New York. Following his idea, people began to exchange time, which led to the creation of a time-based currency—the ‘Ithaca Hours’, which even local businesses began to accept, and which still flourishes. (Aranda, Vidolke) 4
Public Works Park Products 2004
6 hours note
12 hours note
24 hours note
Niklaus Hirsh and Zak Kyes for Time/Bank e-flux symbolic representation of currency, 2009
The art and design world has always been responsive to such issues, producing works that comment and provoke on the one hand and propose on the other ways to approach the current social matters. For example, Public Works an art and architecture practice based in London, tries to address the question how the public realm is shaped by its various users and how existing dynamics can inform further proposals. One of their projects, entitled Park Products (2004), is based on the idea of an informal economy as a generator for a new social space in the park. The project links users of the park with product designers to develop a new range of tradable items. The products make use of the park’s natural, social and cultural resources and the capital. They were traded from a roaming market stall and could be purchased through swaps and barter. The structure and the trading system aimed to support a new social space in the park delineated by a network of previously unrelated groups. The products operate as ‘tools of contact’, mediating between the Gallery, the artists and the public (Public Works). 81
collage background image: Athens, April 2012 (personal archive)
In the last phase of my practical work, the coat becomes the tool of expressing all the issues discussed and researched so far in an installation that occupies and appropriates the urban public space as a â€˜silent protesterâ€™. More specifically, the coat is hung from its hood on the streetsâ€™ light posts and the exo-skeleton is used to support it in open position, forming a theatrical image. The installation is accompanied by a collection of transparent cases that can be adjusted on the coat, containing various objects related to my research, from objects that are typically sold or used in the black market to leaflets with political and social context relevant to the issues discussed. In between those two categories there is also one case filled with objects used by protesters and rioters -objects that are constantly being used in Greece the past few years. Intentionally, none of the cases is adjusted on the coat, in order to turn attention to the fact the coat itself becomes the occupier and also to that it could be used in various ways according to the selected case.
The occupier prototype model
The occupier prototype model
An example of a similar artwork dealing with the current political and economic global struggles, is one of the projects of Loki English and Paul Stabe, both members of the Berlin collective Good Friends. Their installation entitled Wall Street to your Street (2012) consists of a series of life-size cardboard cutouts of protesters (25 figures), ‘clones’ of the real protesters that the artists photographed at several meetings of the Occupy movement around the world. The installation appeared in front of a Deutsche bank branch in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz5 on the 10th of May 2012 and then moved in different public spaces in Berlin. The choice of Deutsche Bank for the first major Wall Street to your Street protest was a very deliberate move: Deutsche Bank was heavily involved in bringing about the financial crisis, knowingly selling ‘junk’ subprime mortgage-backed securities that its own analysts described as ‘crap’. Although the German bank received $11.8 billion of United States’ bailout funds, European governments insist that the cost of the financial crises be paid for by working people as part of the hugely unpopular austerity programmes. 5
Anon. Occupy movement
Loki English and Paul Stabe Wall Street to your Street 2012
What I believe is interesting to call to attention is that the Occupy movement has been spreading all over the world in a great pace during the last years. One of its most known expressions is the Occupy Wall Street movement. Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on 17th September 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattanâ€™s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. OWS is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to fight back against the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future. 89
In 2011, the Russian artist Make designed and installed a series of unsanctioned and alternative street signs in the Russian cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. This guerrilla art installation was a self-motivated project â€“ part satirical, part awareness raising and part practical.The signs â€“ part of his partizaning strategy of re-appropriating urban navigation systems as a form of art and political intervention â€“received a lot of attention and feedback from the media and city residents. From February 26th to March 4th 2012, Street Signs was exhibited at the Welcome Back, Putin! festival in Amsterdam (Malhotra S.).
Per-Oscar Leu Crisis and Critique 2012
Make Street Signs Welcome Back Putin! festival Amsterdam,2012
A work of art, seemingly more abstract but substantially relative and provocative is Per-Oskar Leu’s Crisis and Critique. The installation consists of a video of trial scenes selected from German films from the 1930s and ‘40s, leather coats hung over speakers sometimes playing Bertolt Brecht’s 1947 testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee, and four mattressed seating areas with the German words for ‘locked up’, ‘night’, ‘your ears’, and ‘misfortune’ printed on them. Presented in a curtained-off room, the installation -exhibited at Triple Canopy, New York- was accompanied by a newly translated essay by Otto Freundlich entitled The Artist and the Economic Crisis. The sum of these parts might make for an ominous, harrowing piece, which by its content, it is. It’s also an insightful and engaging installation on the role of the artist and art in the whole mixed-layered world at large (Ho, 2012). 91
Anon. Occupy movement
The last case of the coat is especially designed to relate directly the ideas of the occupation of the public space by the black market and the action of protesting as a way of demanding the â€˜right to the cityâ€™. The contained objects are the objects used by protesters. In Athens, their use has become an everyday phenomenon during the past few years.
The objects contained in the last pocket of the designed coat _chemical gas mask, full face _chemical gas mask, half face _chemical gas mask filters _megaphone _pepper spray antidote
‘I am not paying’ image by Natasha Fragkou Parliament square (Syntagma) Athens, 2011
In this project, through the example of the black market in Greece, I tried to address various relative problems of the contemporary society that is being jolted by one of the worst economic crisis of all times. In such periods ‘black markets give the citizenry a means to protest the taxation of a government that no longer represents them. In a country stricken with austerity, these networks allow the public to thrive without having to pay for the mistakes or misdeeds of political officials and corporate swindlers. In a hyperinflationary environment, black markets (or barter markets that have been deemed unlawful), can be used to supplant the imploding fiat currency altogether, and energise community markets that would otherwise be unable to function. (…) Ultimately, black markets feed and clothe the grassroots movement towards economic responsibility and every man and woman with any sense of independence should rally around this resource with the intention to fight should it ever be threatened’. (Smith, 2012) It is worth mentioning that in Greece several movements and communities have formed across different disciplines during the last years, trying to deal with the society’s problems, needs or demands.
Anon. graffiti, Athens (personal archive)
An example that has awakened the attention is the use of an alternative currency that was introduced in the Greek port city of Volos a few months ago. It was a grass-roots initiative that has since grown into a network of more than 800 members, in a community struggling to afford items in euros during a deepening financial crisis. It works as an exchange system for goods and services that uses an alternative currency called TEM –initials for the Greek words ‘Local Alternative Unit’-. The whole system is organised online, with members holding TEM accounts, which are debited with each virtual transaction or with each transaction carried out in the TEM market that opens several times a month. However, the main aim of this project, the ‘right to the city’ that is demanding and protesting for, is neither the legalisation of the black market; considering the black market as a harmless way of trade that it would be rational and fair to be legal in every society, nor the accentuation of the value of barter and exchange methods. Through the example of the black market, and through my own design proposal, ‘the demand for the right to the city becomes a demand for a broad and sweeping right, a right not only in the legal sense of a right to specific benefits, but a right to a political sense, a claim not only to a right or a set of rights to justice within the existing legal system, but a right on a higher moral plane that demands a better system in which the potential benefits of an urban life can be fully or entirely realised’ (Marcuse). A key challenge for the society, therefore, is to decipher the origins and consequences of the contemporary global financial crisis and the possibility for alternative, progressive, radical or revolutionary responses to it, at once within, among and beyond cities (Brenner, 2012).
_the black market coat from Athens to London
Many thanks to P.C. and R.H. for participating in this illegal action... 101
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Published on Sep 25, 2012
Published on Sep 25, 2012
MA thesis and installation The project explores the occupation and appropriation of the urban public space within the context of unofficial...