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Issue Zero Winter 2010 Creative Agency and the Public Good

pros*, Issue Zero, Winter 2010 pros* is published annually by the Visual Arts PhD and MFA programs at the University of California, San Diego Founding Editors: Orianna Cacchione and Edward Sterrett Editorial Collective: Lara Bullock, Zac Monday, Sheryl Oring, Kristen Raizada, David White, Tara Zepel Lay-Out: Chuck Miller Copy Editors: Mariola Alvarez and Natalie Haddad Website: Micha Cardenas and Tara Zepel Faculty Advisors: Grant Kester and Michael Trigilio pros* is made possible by the generous support of the Visual Arts department, University of California, San Diego. We would like to thank Eleanor Antin and David Antin, Teddy Cruz and Rick Lowe, Norman Bryson, Grant Kester, Adriene Jenik, and Michael Trigilio, Mariola Alvarez, Natalie Haddad, Anna Chiaretta Lavatelli, Andrew Wilson, and Chris Kardambikis, and our contributors.


Editor’s Note . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Orianna Cacchione and Edward Sterrett


Rick Lowe & Teddy Cruz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7

Responses: New Public Art: Redefining or Reconsidering Community Based Art?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29

Elize Mazadiego

Fared Use: A Political Economy of the Digitally Empowered Subject . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40

Nate Harrison

All e-Communication is Miscommunication . . . . . . . . . . . . 54

Katherine Sweetman

Occupy the University: Reconsidering the Local . . . . . . . . . . 61

Inter-article images and cover: Sprawltilage Chuck Miller, 2009

Micha CĂĄrdenas

Editor’s Note pros* began as a call to conversation. Searching out the unique potential of the Visual Arts department at UCSD, its fundamentally multi-disciplinary endeavor to bring art practice and art history, theory and criticism into difficult and meaningful confrontation, a small group of students began considering what kind of publication could provoke and nurture such an encounter. Encouraged by the depth and diversity of experience and expertise of our faculty as well as the wellspring of visiting artists and scholars, we began staging interviews and conversations. These were recorded with the hope that the relatively instantaneous call and response of two voices in conversation, the “live-ness” of the event, actually contributes to its liveliness; in other words, that the possibility of thinking something new may actually emerge from the collision of two thinkers. For this issue, pros* staged a conversation between Teddy Cruz and Rick Lowe via Skype. Their generosity and willingness to think aloud fueled a rich dialogue about art in public places as well as the relationship between art practice and a potential public. While the journal hopes to capitalize on the liveliness of their conversation, it also opens the conversation to a critical re-reading by making the recording available to a group of respondents. The conversation is staged as a terrain for potential thought experiments, including both focused interrogations of specific points of reference, as well as excursions into more broadly or tangentially related fields. The responses materialize as a series of attempts to intervene in the format of the journal: formally, as in the subsequent collection of scholarly essays; literally, at the level of layout, as in Chuck Miller’s photographic insertions; even taking on a critico-poetic model, as in the case of Katherine Sweetman’s meditation on the exigencies of video chat. Without minimizing the contributions of all those involved, in fact it is a testament to their patience and courage, Issue Zero should be understood as a trial run. Having put a certain kind of framework into place, we set it into motion to see where it would take us, and with a lot of tinkering along the way, this is the first stop on what we expect will be a long and exciting project.

Rick Lowe & Teddy Cruz

February 16, 2009

Teddy Cruz - I should begin by contextualizing the conversation a little bit, maybe sharing two or three points I wanted to begin with in order to familiarize you with issues that are going on here. As you know, this conversation is in anticipation of your visit to UCSD to give a presentation at the conference organized by the PhD students in the Visual Arts Department. Rick Lowe - Right. T - Of course the conference is titled Distributive Creativities1, and even though I have not been part of the planning of the event, immediately I would say that there is this notion of a distributive condition that has also been part of a debate in the cognitive science department here at UCSD – and it is dumping a lot of the particular protocols of cognitive science into notions of the everyday. This is a very interesting issue, how to open up the very particular, normative definitions pertaining to our creative fields into issues of everyday reality and the world out there. Of course that can be categorized in many different ways: On one hand there is this notion of distributive creativities, that in this event‌ RICK LOWE & TEDDY CRUZ


R - Are you saying distributive? T - Distributive Creativities that is the title of the conference. R - Okay. T - You are going to be the star speaker. Of course, beyond the title, the conference attempts to research the relationship between creativity, or the distribution of creativity, and issues of collaboration and artistic production. That’s the name… subtitle to the conference, and embedded in that there are so many questions—issues of collaboration, of authorship, of public culture, and many other conditions that are so relevant to the conversation in and out of our own practices and academia right now, and here in our own Visual Arts Department at UCSD. So on one hand, I want to say that our conversation right now and the questions that I will generate are not only in the context of this conference, but this interview that the students have invited me to perform, will also hopefully open up a series of responses from faculty and students, and will create a momentum to continue debating these issues. 8


The other aspect is that this conversation opens up another issue, which has to do with an internal debate that is ongoing here in the Visual Arts department at UCSD. It has to do with an initiative that started three years ago as I was arriving at the department, an initiative called Public Culture. I came to the department from the field of architecture. I am an architect involved in urbanism, and of course interested in artistic practices. It is a very interesting moment here in the department. We are having a very intense and lively debate about the meaning of Public Culture. We are attempting to redefine the internal conversation across artistic practices and specializations with the intention of reaching out and establishing critical interfaces with other situations, other worlds outside the very specific categorical conditions of institutional specialization. In other words, how to contact other conditions outside the normative institutions of art production and display? I came to the department to hopefully add to the conversation by inserting issues pertaining to the relationship of artistic practice to the city, the territory at large, and so on. Anyway, this second point is to tell you that our conversation will also be part of this ongoing debate, as we are attempting to meander along the margins, somehow, of artistic specialization and the normative conditions of research and display, and the institutions of art. In many programs across the US— visual arts programs—new initiatives have emerged. Otis [Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles] has a program called Public Practice, CCA [California College of the Arts] in San Francisco has a program called Social Practices, here at the Visual Arts program at UCSD, we have Public Culture, so this seems part of a phenomenon worth discussing between us, as artistic practice is trying to relocate itself. Finally the third point in terms of introducing the topics, and I don’t know if I should mention it like this, but I was responsible for inviting you to the Venice Biennale in architecture last summer. I was part of the curatorial team in the beginning, but at some point I had to withdraw from the team so that I could participate in the pavilion. I was the one who brought up your name because I find… R - Thank you. T - … I find your work essential, primarily within the redefinition of RICK LOWE & TEDDY CRUZ


architectural practice, and the role of artists not only working within communities, but rethinking processes, dealing with housing, dealing with very different agendas about redevelopment and so on. Anyways, the point, and this is probably a useful way to enter into the first question, which has to do with expanded modes of practice- how would I call it - the redefinition of the role of the artist, at this moment, a moment very much defined by crisis everywhere. The topic at the Venice Biennale in fact was to search for practices across the United States that were redefining their procedures, primarily in terms of facing this overwhelming juncture in our history–unprecedented crisis, in terms of environmental sustainability, social and economic inequalities, affordable housing, public infrastructure, and so on. So maybe one first question would be if you wouldn’t mind elaborating or sharing a point of view about this so-called redefinition of artistic practices in relation to conflict, in relation to crisis. R - Well, my thinking on this, particularly as it relates to how artists are branching out, is that there are cross pollinations of expertise. I think that over the years we’ve just moved towards such a specialization in culture, so that everything is isolated in its own way. And that’s across the board in the field of culture, in the field of science, in the field of everything. Everything is so specialized. And I think what has happened over time is that we’re beginning to realize that some of the specialization leads to isolation and it doesn’t necessarily provide the opportunity for insight that you see when you start cross pollinating. The historical background of our field–with people pushing the boundaries of what art could be out into the realm of conceptualism–has really freed artists up to be leaders in this cross pollinizational activity in terms of crossing different realms of expertise. One of the things that I see myself and a lot of other artists doing is that instead of being specialists in our field, we’re generalists. Being generalists allows us to have some framework through which we can look at a lot of different things. Someone like me, who is really interested in how communities grow, looks at the problem of community development with a very different eye than someone who has traditionally been a housing developer for low income communities or people that have traditionally been social service providers. They all have their specialty and their specialized interest, but as an artist, I come at it from a broader perspective, with questions such as what is community, what does it mean, 10


and how do we build meaningful community? In order to investigate that way, it necessitates that you look outside of the purely aesthetic and cultural realm. So it pushed me into this conversation with architects and builders to actually look at how architecture impacts the neighborhood. How does it affect the neighborhood I am working in? How does the building trade impact the neighborhoods that I am working in? So it’s actually about introducing questions, and challenging people that are specialists, challenging their knowledge of what it is that they do. I think one of the really interesting things for me in the housing and community development world is that finally, after a number of years, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)2 is changing its programming. They had a very narrow focus of helping these community development corporations (CDCs) figure out how to build houses. They taught people how to build houses, but they haven’t done anything in terms of building community. I think now, in the 21st century, they’re kind of backtracking, trying to say: wait a minute, we’ve got these people capable of building houses, but the houses that they’re building are not elevating the communities. They’re kind of backing out and saying, what are some of the other elements that impact the building of these communities beyond the single focus of housing. T - One issue that is fundamental in this context is collaboration. It’s interesting because somehow the most promising aspect of this is that the artist becomes the producer of the relations and conditions within which art can then emerge. It’s a very different role. This is the image that has been captivating for me. It’s that there is something to say about the fact that artists and architects and many of us operating within these creative – hopefully creative – fields, instead of having to work within the material conditions of art or architecture, we could be, in fact, playing with the conditions themselves. This can then produce a very different idea of intervention. I see you as a designer, a producer of very interesting relationships and conditions within which social relations and beyond can germinate, can emerge. Can you speak a bit about that, about collaboration, and the role of the artist as, I don’t want to reduce it to this term, but as a facilitator of these relations?



R - Yeah, it’s an important role for artists to play at this time, because we have a conceptual framework that we can use to reach outside of our specializations in the field of culture. That’s important because in other fields, it seems that there is no framework for them to step out of their specializations, to look for broader collaborations. For instance, the specialization of architecture is so rooted in the building, the physical building, that architects generally can’t get out of that framework to think about the social aspects, not just the programming of the building, but what it means in a broader social context. And certainly, if you have this issue in architecture, just think about when you start getting into the area of home building, medical care, and the environment… People are very rigid in their training and with what they’ll accept as legitimate practice within their field. Artists step out there and often times challenge them and challenge their own expertise about what they know. People like Mel Chin will walk into a room of environmentalists and say, “That’s great you have all this hard science, but how are you connecting this with the person who is going to benefit from this?” It’s not something you can work on in a lab and wait for the money to rain down. How do you connect it to the broader issue of the people that are living in the conditions, the environmental conditions that you are dealing with? I’ve watched this on the project that I have been working on with Mel Chin down in New Orleans. It’s kind of interesting to see these scientists, who have their heads down; all of a sudden he starts to connect them in different ways that were unfathomable for them at one point. Now they’re beginning to see it and understand it. The same happens to me with all the stuff that I do and the different kinds of folks that I work with, which is to approach people in a way that challenges them and challenges their abilities, and kind of entices them to move out. It becomes hugely important for the development of aesthetic culture, because it branches out. Where can aesthetics have its impact? Not just within the traditional institutional framework of the past. We are pushing it out. T - In the context of the dynamics here at UCSD, which is very well known because of its scientific and technology-based programs, there has been a polarity between the humanities and the sciences. For example, the humanities have been left out of the critical debate about sustainability. Usually issues of environmental crisis are seen through the eyes of 12


environmental degradation, but very seldom do we stop to think that in fact this also has to do with cultural degradation, a kind of cultural crisis having to do with institutions and our relationship to the public, and to the debate with the public about what we mean by environmental sustainability. I feel that in many ways it also has to do with our faulty notions of interdisciplinarity. I am bringing this up in the context of what you are saying because I truly believe that artists can enter into a very heated debate with scientists about these issues. Part of the problem when we speak of interdisciplinarity is that we continue to shelter ourselves by just sharing a vantage point from each field. As you were saying, from each specialization, but we are not truly contaminating ourselves with the procedures of the other. In other words, to be truly cross-disciplinary you had to begin thinking as an architect or a developer at some point. As I see it, architects, for example, sometimes, should begin thinking like geologists, but it is not so much the thinking that is important here actually, it is the procedure of the geologist that can be transferred. In fact in the appropriation of the geologists’ procedures a different idea of architecture could emerge for architects, conceived as distributing space through temporal dynamics. In essence, I am thinking that this issue of public culture here in the department is not just about bringing people from other fields to add to the conversation, but in fact to produce different processes or approaches to creativity… Can artists and architects mutually contaminate in this sense? In other words, how do we appropriate the procedures of the other in order to redefine our own clichés, our own specializations? This shouldn’t be something that is seen with fear or skepticism; it is a very promising possibility. In order to enter into other territories, like you coming into a community and challenging very reductive ideas of housing or development, you have to begin to produce very different ways of acting. So in terms of the tools of the artist, the procedures of the artist, how did you begin to operate differently? I will never forget that article that Michael Kimmelman wrote about you. It was so amazing when you mentioned this group of high school students who told you, “Fine, your paintings and collages express our pain, but that is not going to solve the problem.”3 You had to redefine yourself in terms of the ways of acting and producing. Can you speak a bit about the tools in the process of redefining your role? RICK LOWE & TEDDY CRUZ


R - Often we think of the cross-pollination of different fields and special interests as though we were putting two people together, each with their own expertise, doing what they do. So for instance, in architecture, when artists and architects work together, the architect is looking at the building context, and the artist is looking at some subset of the building context in which they will do some kind of intervention. It’s just not a truly fluid comingling. Actually, that’s one of the things that’s really interesting about your work, how you’ve been able to weave it completely between art and architecture. At any given moment, someone could look at your work and think of you as an artist or architect. But the thing about the artist is that we engage in these different fields on an exploratory basis, an investigatory basis, a basis which is much more about challenging a situation, as opposed to providing the answers to problems, because we have to honor people who have the expertise. I’m not an expert in housing or social services, but I have a different kind of perspective on those things that I can bring to the conversation as a peer, and challenge them. They deal with all the technical aspects that fall within the realm of their expertise, but from the conceptualization standpoint, and a social impact standpoint, it takes people from other interests to come in. I just think that it’s imperative that we push those opportunities because it opens the door to so many different things. And at a certain point, I think, you’ll start to have sincere engagements from other fields. I’m always kind of hard on architects and the field of architecture because when I spent a little time at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, I saw people just focusing on buildings. They weren’t thinking about the people in the context. But I think the field of architecture has made great steps compared to others. There are actually architects out there looking for artists to engage with them in ways that go beyond just, “How can you design something for my building,” but really engage in a conversation about what the building means in order to get to the core of what the building means for the users. Often times, as artists that are engaged in developing conversations, promoting conversations, that’s part of our work. Artists develop many ways of having those conversations outside of the traditional charette kind of thing or town hall meeting. There are people that are generating different ways of having that conversation and getting that information from the community. I think that helps architects greatly, and I think the same can be said for other fields of interest as well. 14


T - This clearly explains what I have also been thinking about—the role of artists in the context of the politics and the economics of making a city. We have been absent somehow from making many of those decisions, or participating in the logics from which the city is being constructed. Of course, now as the whole bubble bursts, we need to redefine institutions. This is a moment when we could be participating a lot more forcefully in producing very different ideas of development. I think that, just as you were saying, artists can enter into the conversation or the politics of the city precisely because they can conceptualize a variety of conditions in a very interesting way. For example, right now I have been hearing that the Obama administration is committed to a reinvestment in public infrastructure, which is fantastic. But I’m afraid that when they talk about public infrastructure, they are just referring to freeway construction or adding more roads or fixing bridges. We need to re-conceptualize what infrastructure means in relation to community, in relation to social service, across the board. R - I just left a meeting this morning with a friend of mine who runs a social service entity and we were talking about exactly that. There is a social and cultural aspect to public infrastructure, so when they had $50 million in the stimulus package for the National Endowment for the Arts, that’s an investment in the public infrastructure. Cultural institutions actually put people to work too. Those dollars go a long way in the nonprofit sector. Similarly, in terms of social issues that are happening in this community, roads and traditional education systems are fine, but what happens to the smaller, community-based groups that are really the fiber of the potential growth of this community, when they don’t have adequate staff ? Staffing those kinds of institutions becomes a big part of the public infrastructure, but I’m with you on that, I think they’re going to miss that. I hope they are not. T - As we talk about the redefinition of artistic practice, or the expanded role of artists within communities and the world at large, we are also talking about the redefinition of public space, public art, public institutions, and the public domain. As an architect I’ve always been dissatisfied with artists’ role in producing public art because I’ve been very close to this topic RICK LOWE & TEDDY CRUZ


from the political standpoint in San Diego. I’ve always said that public art has become a way of camouflaging the mistakes of bad planning, and I wish that artists were really participating in producing the policies that question the screw-ups of planners in the first place and really had a voice in producing a very different idea of the public domain. Usually artists think that to intervene in the public sphere is just to bring art to the public sphere or domain, when in reality what is of interest here is in fact the opposite: how the shifting conditions of the public, or public sphere, begin to encroach into artistic practice. In other words, how, by understanding the shifting nature of the public space and the public domain, will artists begin to redefine their own ways of intervention? So can you talk a bit about your conception, your way of looking at this shift in notions? What is public art? Again going back to that article with Michael Kimmelman, he called your project, “Probably the most radical public art project” in the United States in 2006. R - Artists have to become comfortable with stepping out of their little world. I think you’re right. We need to engage in the political aspects as much as anything. We have to see the people outside of our world as our studio, as a legitimate part of our studio, and a legitimate part of the material resource that we utilize to make our work. Even in terms of local politics, how do you impact that? A big part of it becomes, how do we see our engagement in these many meetings that go on all the time that end up shaping policy? How do we think of ourselves? How do we condition ourselves to think of that as being a legitimate aspect of our work and as a resource to us? You have to go out there into these communities or into these areas, whether it is in politics, environmental design or science, you have to find your way into those fields at a very intimate and deep level in order to be able to understand the language, to be able to speak with people in a way that they respect what you bring to the table. But that’s a lot of work and time. A lot of it is seen as wasted time but the truth of the matter is that when we’re learning to work with any material there is a lot of time we waste learning to use the material, getting to know how it functions, how it works, but once you know it well enough, you start to figure out how to engage with it and how to pick and choose the things that are most important to you to get the result that you are looking for. So for me, in places like Houston, I’ve been here so long, and I kind of know 16


how and where my energies are best placed to impact policy that will help move projects. However, when I work on things in different places, I spend a lot of time in churches, in schools, in community meetings, and those kinds of things, just getting a sense of how those resources work, and how to legitimately engage myself in a conversation. I’ll give you an example. Right now I am working on a project down in a little town called Edenville, Florida, which was the oldest black incorporated town in the US. It was incorporated in 1885. And it was so funny. I went there to help them look at the oldest building there. It was built in 1882, and it’s the only historic building in the town. So while I’m looking at this and I’m talking to them about strategies on how to do this building, I stumble upon this plan that they have for the entire city. They had some firm from south Florida come to issue them the certain death of their town. Basically they want to move all the cultural institutions onto all this agricultural land that the school owned where they are going to do this big, new development with upscale housing, and it would just kill the little main street. So with my seeing that and knowing that that’s the real problem of this town, the preservation of this little church is just symbolic of it. So once I know that part, then it’s up to me to go through all the steps to understand everything within the political climate of that town to be able to offer some different concepts of redevelopment in a way that’s informed and not threatening. So how we walk within these different worlds becomes extremely important. Another thing I’ll say about this, and it happens all the time with any field, but art, I know, in particular, is that if there are financial resources in a certain place, people will gravitate toward them, and they do it because there is money there. So when the whole thing of public art came around people started figuring out how to do public art in the way that it was prescribed because the financial resources were there. Well, similarly with this kind of socially engaged work, or publicly engaged work, you have a lot of people drifting toward it because there are these financial benefits for it. But I’m telling you, it’s not good work for people who really don’t understand it and have a deep appreciation and passion for it. If it’s about doing it because there are the resources there, and you want to be quick to access the resources, then you’re in the wrong place, because much of what happens in the social environment is not so fast. You don’t have the same kind of control. RICK LOWE & TEDDY CRUZ


T - Yes, and what comes to mind is the fact that artists and architects continue to be subordinated to particular institutions of power. This is also the incentive to redefine a way of entering into that conversation, or debate about and with the public, the shifting nature of public domain. I am thinking that this is particularly the spirit of the issue of public culture here: how do we enliven, or how do we produce a very different conversation with institutions outside the sanctity of our own studios as artists and architects? I’m thinking that you’ve been very emblematic in terms of the way you operate, to suggest that the goal of political or politically charged art is not to become a politician. A lot of people ask me, “Well are you an architect or are you a politician?” I think that to be political, in this case, is the ability to help decide the direction and purpose of action, and that we as artists, having the ability to re-conceptualize conditions of knowledge or of information, could in fact be participating more in exposing the very strange and backward procedures that the institutions of urban development have defined as the only recipe to build the contemporary city. What I am trying to say is that artists can be participating, instead of just waiting for resources to produce their art, they could in fact be redistributing those resources to engender new categories of art practice. They would have a say in redesigning and redefining property, or in rethinking how to dismantle and how to expose those very conditions of political and economic power that have somehow defined a way of doing things, at least up until recently. So the role of the artist as a designer, a kind of choreographer that redistributes resources and rethinks the relationship of social service, public culture to housing, to me, is an interesting agenda and you are an emblem of that. Can you maybe say a little more about how you’ve been able to orchestrate that, to realize that you cannot advance the culture of housing, in this case, without really redefining conditions of property, or of social service in relationship to housing? R - You said something that was really important there, and it’s about how we engage and start to impact policy, even when we don’t have the financial resources to do it. I think that what you are saying is true, but often times working outside on the fringes, as I like to work, is a freer way of actually engaging creatively and having a significant impact without the 18


kind of financial resources that a lot of people are looking for to support their work. I’d rather create the conditions through which my support comes than to actually go in under the conditions of someone else. So it becomes very important and empowering for me to figure that stuff out for myself, to say, okay this is an area I have an interest in. If there are conditions and issues that we see before us, that is the opening for our engagement. We can create the opportunities for ourselves — the potential policy, circumstances that will impact the work we want to produce, and so on and so forth. We have the power to do that ourselves, if we really believe in our creative capacity, in how we can utilize that in the world we operate in. T - Fantastic. That’s what I was trying to get at. This suggests a very different idea of the political and social practice. Hopefully this means not just to comment on the problems, not just to bitch about the situation and translate these issues into works that amplify the issues, which only raise awareness. By remaining in the realm of what I would call an inoperative metaphor, we do not transcend the conflicts or at least the conditions that have produced the conflicts in the first place. It is in fact the conditions themselves that are behind the conflict that produced the crisis and must become the material for architects or artists. What I am saying is, and again you said it very clearly, that more than just being relegated to amplifying the social, economic, political histories, we are also producing new conditions, new procedures, new methodologies. We can be the producers of relations, and create the conditions that allow us to go to other levels of effectiveness and functionality. This brings me to another question. Some people might not be familiar with the project that catapulted you to national visibility, Project Row Houses in Houston. It’s one of the most important projects in allowing us to rethink what we mean by housing, what we mean by affordability, what we mean by the intersection of social programming, artistic practice and public culture. Many times I’ve thought that we need to come up with very different ideas about housing, that we need to develop new approaches to housing if we want to speak of environmental sustainability. In my mind it has to do with re-defining what we mean by density. Density has been perpetuated as the number of units per acre – instead, I have been trying RICK LOWE & TEDDY CRUZ


to understand it myself as the amount of social and economic exchanges per acre, and in fact, that’s what you produced. I think that even in this lowdensity area of Houston, there is incredible complexity. As you plugged social, pedagogical and cultural support systems into housing, producing interesting interfaces between people and cultural and economic resources, you transformed Project Row Houses into one of the most interesting cultural projects in the US at this moment. You sent the message that housing, beyond the image of shelter, can be an excuse to produce an operative cultural infrastructure. Maybe the notion of representation has a very different agenda here– the image you are building here, it’s not just an object put on the wall of the museum—you are really dealing with representing a community, people themselves. Social relations are the material to produce levels of transformation at the scale of the neighborhood. You are the choreographer of very interesting programs and triangulations across people, agencies and economies. How has this produced a very different practice for you? R - I think that with Project Row Houses, the seed and essence of it was to have a vehicle through which creativity can flow unbounded. For instance, the social staff didn’t need to be social workers—we wanted a hub of creativity that could move as it sees fit within a neighborhood context. Having that way of thinking has allowed this organization to weave itself into youth education, social services, housing, and even the real estate market. As a result, we’ve had an opportunity to learn a lot about how to speak to people from different fields of expertise through different modes than are normally expected. That becomes a big part of being able to carry out the work. But I began to understand that a lot of this is also about scale, the scale at which we can explore things creatively with greater freedom. What I’ve found with this project, a small scale project with a limited amount of financial capital in the beginning but a lot of social, human capital, was that even though the scale was very small, the impact that it had and is having on the broader issue of community development within the city has been huge. It’s probably much larger than if we had been given the opportunity to work with the housing authority or the department of housing and community development, because of the limitations that they impose upon themselves as institutions. We’ve been able to do things they 20


never would have done, and it’s really going to speak to them in a stronger way because of its authenticity. T - I’d like to talk a little about the tension between the museum as a site of display, which up until very recently has been a very privileged site, and the neighborhood that has become, in my eyes and I think in your work, a site of production and experimentation. In a sense, the city has ceased to be a laboratory, because the terms have already been set by the politicians and developers, but the neighborhoods—where so many alternative community based practices, non-profit organizations, and collaborative art groups - are beginning to produce interesting socio-cultural conditions and economies are truly becoming the new sites of experimentation. It is within these environments where we have an opportunity to figure out new categories of what we mean by economy. I feel that many new economies and markets might emerge from within these communities. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind talking about that relationship. I probably shouldn’t say that word, “relationship,” but the actual tension between the white box as a site of representation and display, and the other, the neighborhood as a new site of production. R - As cultural producers, we have contributed to that isolation and generated that kind of specialization. That tension comes from it being normal for people to say, “That’s art, and it should be in a museum somewhere. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the stuff that we’re doing out here in the real world.” If there’s planning going on, that’s the role of people who are planners and architects, not artists. If artists have something to comment on, or have some kind of creative gesture, they might have to deal with responses like, “No, no, they do that in a museum. That’s where they should be.” And we’ve accepted that role. We’ve played into that because we see the museum as the place that legitimizes what we do and supports what we do. But for me—and I think that you know this too, we talked about this in earlier questions—we can generate support for what we do out in the real world if we utilize our creative energy to figure out how we can place what we do at the center of something outside of these institutions. If we can generate support there then our legitimacy comes from a more democratic process, as opposed to coming from some elite cultural institution. We have a broad constituency working in different RICK LOWE & TEDDY CRUZ


fields, as well as in the community, that validates what we do. I think we’re complicit, as cultural producers, in allowing ourselves to be isolated and segregated. When I think of people like Hans Haacke, his research and the work that he does, which is so incredible, that work should be at the center. All these research specialists on CNN and Meet the Press are throwing out statistics, and someone like Hans Haacke should be right there with them, giving them a different slant. T - Exactly. R - In a sense, and I don’t know much about how he describes his work and how it gets out there, but the issue with me is that people will say, “That guy’s an artist and his stuff needs to be in a museum not, out here in the real world where we’re talking about real things that have a real impact.” I think we have to push beyond that and make it so that we can be in the world where the production is happening. I am curious, in your career and in your work, how have you dealt with this: there’s always a group in the field that are purists, and they want to maintain the sanctity or purity of being in the art world. It’s high art, but when it begins to have a practical function, then it’s no longer art. When you get away from the purity of the design, there’s this protectionist approach. People challenge the legitimacy of the work. How have you been able to deal with that in your work? T - The meaning of injecting very tactical programming into space, regardless of the nature of the form or its aesthetic value, can introduce very interesting conditions of socialization, exchange, and community. At the end of the day, even the most radical, avant-garde practices, if we can call them that in the context of architecture at this moment, remain a kind of formalist project. What people are pursuing is the opportunity of thinking that architecture can somehow be transformative through social and economic contingencies or programming. Instead, architecture remains a sort of autonomous project relegated to a fixed form, and at this moment articulated only as an apolitical aesthetic project. I think what has been absent is the possibility that we, as architects, could also collaborate with agencies that can inject specific programming into those 22


spaces to produce new social and economic relations. Like some of the projects that I’ve been doing, and primarily one here in San Diego at the border, a lot of the spaces we designed are open-ended, and just provide an infrastructure of service. As ambiguous as it may seem, they are really specifically charged with very interesting programming that the NGO or the community based group can inject into the spaces. This relationship of space to alternative triangulations of programming and resources make these projects more efficient for the community, but hopefully also produce different categories of the aesthetic. When you talked about this triangulation of space and social, educational, pedagogical programming, you began to suggest exactly what I was trying to pursue here—that in conditions of marginality, housing cannot exist on its own. We have to talk beyond units of housing as isolated things. Housing design cannot advance without advancing housing policy, without advancing alternative economic frameworks that could produce different effects socially, culturally. So how can we design these procedural systems to inject alternative programming into undifferentiated architectural space? What comes to my mind, and I don’t know if it is true, but I heard that you collaborated with Rem Koolhaas on the Seattle Library to inject into it art programming? RICK LOWE & TEDDY CRUZ


R - You know, it’s kind of true. T - Tell me about it, because he’s the king of programming, right? And of alternative uses. It’s great. I am glad that he invited you to maybe rethink the program or some aspects of the library. R - There is a program for art in Seattle that was affiliated with the library building that he was doing. Originally, Rem selected the people that would design the art plan for the library. But at a certain point, the library staff asked Jessica Cusick and me to help. We looked at the building, identified what Rem was doing with the building, and identified the opportunities with which we could engage artistically, not so much from the standpoint of public art installations but in terms of how the library as an institution could engage creative practices in an ongoing way. So we helped them to think about certain kinds of waste spaces as being spaces that could be transformed into usable spaces for different residencies that may pop up in the community. It was not so much about saying, “Rem, there’s an artist that would do a great walkway through the entrance of the building,” but really looking at how we treat the opportunities for artistic engagement beyond just the building, really focusing on the creative energy within that city. It was interesting because he was not the kind of person you could sit down and talk to about anything because he’s never there. I mean, his attention span is worse than mine. [Both laugh.] T - That’s interesting, because I would imagine that he is someone that would be open and receptive to this very different idea of artistic engagement to occupy space and would be supportive of culturally contingent uses. The new library seemingly emerged from playing with the given uses of the traditional library and shuffling them into new configurations, new programmatic possibilities. So I hope your experience with Rem did not perpetuate the typical bad reputation that architects have… as control freaks. R - But I have to say, in this instance with the Seattle Library, all of his instincts were correct. 24


T - How to rethink artistic engagement beyond buildings in the city is one issue that allows us to rethink the nature of public space. In an effort to participate in the politics of the city, here in San Diego, I have joined this board, probably the most powerful board in the city, the Center City Development Corporation. For me, the effort was to inject into the conversation many of these notions, as planners were trying to create new parks and plazas in downtown—because, as you can imagine, downtown has become a bubble of wealth, just about luxury condos and hotel rooms and all these expensive things, but never really about a new public realm. So I decided to join in an effort to encroach into the debate in some way. I wanted to address the “Percent for Art Program,” which developers and politicians were always talking about as only a means to inject sculpture into parks. It is a program that requires developers to give one percent of their construction cost for art. One of the questions that I wanted to introduce into the discussion was, can we think of the “Percent for Art” as an opportunity to provide infrastructural support around these public spaces to inject into them a different type of cultural use? Can developers provide spaces, instead of just decorative objects? Can developers give some available storefront on the ground level of these new buildings as art infrastructure for grassroots public agencies or institutions like UCSD to manage them? UCSD’s Visual Arts, Music, Dance and Theater departments could occupy these available spaces, for example, to inject cultural programming into the public space, and in so doing bring different audiences, publics to the park or plaza? In other words, what is more important than the look of the plaza itself is the cultural, economic and social programming that envelops it. It’s something I keep thinking about, how to rethink  public space as not just a plaza with a sculpture in the middle of it, but really how to produce cultural and social systems that can be injected into it. This has to be a challenge for all of us. How to produce new cross-institutional collaborations to reconfigure resources in order to carve a new space for art in the city and this goes back to everything you have been doing. R - Yeah, that’s exactly what we were trying to do with the Seattle Library. One of the things that we found was that in libraries it’s easy to think about this. They are institutions that have huge deposits of information that we’re interested in. We found an artist that was teetering around a RICK LOWE & TEDDY CRUZ


collection of sheet music from the early 1900s that is there. The collection is local to the region and no one really knew about it. That’s the kind of stuff that needs to be made available. How do you create residencies so that people can explore the things within that space? And how can other institutions take advantage of the fact that the Seattle Art Museum has its own space and its own galleries? What happens when people want to work within both spaces, want to utilize the materials of the library and museum for their work? It’s great for them to be able to do a residency through the museum in the library and vice versa. That’s the kind of stuff we were looking at. T - So then what happened? R - You know, it’s funny you ask that, because we developed a little plan and put it in place and gave it to them. About two or three years after the building was built, I was in Seattle doing something with the library, I mean the museum, not the library. Once again we were meeting with different groups of people about the project that we were then doing in the museum. At one of the meetings, we were talking about cross-pollinations that activate and engage different situations. A woman artist said, “You know we have this great thing at the public library downtown where this space is available that we access and we use.” And she was going on and on about this space that Jessica and I created, about how great it was that the library had this space. It was really nice to hear about that without even asking about it. Damn, it might have worked… So there’s this one instance where somebody really felt that we had put into place the possibilities for them to engage in that institution in a way that they were really pleased with. T - I just wanted to say that the most amazing thing about a project like this, is its ability to leave a trace that is appropriated by institutions and can evolve through time. Arjun Appadurai mentioned in a lecture, a while back, that in many of these cultural projects that are trying to engage the city, one of the most amazing possibilities that can be opened up is operations into public domain that can leave an institutional trace, where the artistic intervention becomes a seed for others to appropriate and develop. I thought that was a really compelling thing. 26


Rick, it’s so great that I finally connected with you and I would love to continue the conversation. And I know at some point I have to go to Houston to visit you. R - Let me know. T - Thank you so much for being available and everybody here is really excited for your visit! R - Thank you so much. Goodbye. T - Goodbye. Notes: 1. The conference is actually titled Distributed Creativities. The potential importance of the difference between the terms distributive and distributed in relation to Rick and Teddy’s practices, of how exactly this shifts the understanding of the place that creativity takes either actively or conceptually is worth considering. 2. Local Initiatives Support Corporation is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 by the Ford Foundation, to help community development corporations in their work with community development. 3. Michael Kimmelman, “In Houston, Art Is Where the Home Is,” New York Times, December 17, 2006.



New Public Art: Redefining or Reconsidering Community-Based Art?

Elize Mazadiego

I presume that we always imagine ourselves occupying a particular site of engagement as artist, historian, architect, etc. In the conversation between Teddy Cruz and Rick Lowe in this issue, both individuals ground themselves within a specific practice. Cruz identifies as architect, Lowe as artist, and yet they insert themselves into other disciplines, or rather extend beyond their own fields, in what Lowe describes as “cross-pollinizations of expertise.” Their interdisciplinarity is in part motivated by the need to consider other methods that might enhance their own practices; but moreover, they invite us to rethink ascribed specializations. Their impulse to absorb alternative models in order to transform their own exemplifies Cruz and Lowe’s underlying debate—the redefinition of public art and artistic production. In their talk they proceed to discuss the ways in which artists can begin to reconfigure their practice, and thereby generate a new public art paradigm. Cruz is especially interested in presenting Lowe’s work, like Project Row Houses, as a prime example of (public) art redefining itself because it challenges traditional modes of art production and operates outside of conventional systems. Such a theoretical discussion echoes the various avant-garde practices that sought to transform traditional art forms. I am reminded of more specific efforts in the 1960s that attempted to reposition art toward everyday life, NEW PUBLIC ART: REDEFINING OR RECONSIDERING COMMUNITY-BASED ART?


which in turn reinvented the role of the artist and his/her practice. In this general sense we can immediately recognize the ways in which Cruz and Lowe imagine their work as related to, and potentially participating in avant-garde art practices. The problem, however, is that this relationship is implicit within their conversation. What they provide is a general proposition that doesn’t address the specifics of their intervention, nor do they assess the processes in which they wish to engage. Thus, while we can speak broadly about the possibility of applying new methods within a given field of study or profession, I would like to interrogate the very terms Cruz and Lowe are initiating in their conversation. So before we shift roles, redraw creative methods and relocate aesthetic quality, I want to begin by recognizing our point of departure. To adopt Teddy Cruz’s own thinking in terms of diagramming, how can we plot out our shifting notions of art and its ontology, particularly in the context of public art practice? From where does this trajectory stem and where is it going? And what is the relationship between and across our coordinates? In this essay I call attention to the 1990s discourse on “new genre public art” as a means to situate Cruz and Lowe’s conversation within a larger art historical dialogue that I feel they are not recognizing, but which clarifies their project’s relationship to art and the avant-garde. The term “new genre public art” sprang out of the 1991 exhibition program Culture in Action: New Public Art in Chicago. Following this was an abundance of artworks, projects, exhibits, and texts that defined “new genre public art” as a form that fosters an often temporary collaboration between artists and communities in the making of locally specific, sociopolitically oriented works. In contrast to traditional public art (that is, a public siting of sculptural forms and installations) the new genre foregrounds community, and its interaction with the artist, as the artwork. By aligning Cruz and Lowe’s conversation with this recent discourse, I wish to highlight the interesting ways in which they are interconnected. Much like “new genre public art,” Cruz and Lowe describe an art practice where territories are displaced by localized networks forging creative coalitions to address socio-political crises and produce solutions within, and for, a particular community. These affinities are further complicated by the fact 30


that Lowe’s work ventures into public art at the same time “new genre public art” proliferates within the art world. Yet, the two never truly converge. Rather, Lowe’s work materialized as a public art project within the last decade, which is only now generating, or potentially renewing, a discourse on public art. The question becomes: Why is Lowe’s work often the subject of current artistic practice versus the public art that happened nearly twenty years ago? Can we conceive of it as a kind of “new genre public art?” Without question, Cruz and Lowe’s methods for redefining artistic practice and public art hinge on the developments made in the 1990s, but are they radically different or do they rearticulate this older model? How does their model complicate “new genre public art” and thus propel public art towards new possibilities? Miwon Kwon’s 2004 publication One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity is critical to this conversation as it gives a historical framework in which we can place Cruz and Lowe’s talk, but also offers us a language with which we can describe their works. Kwon’s text historicizes and theorizes site-specific art practices to distinguish critical shifts that have taken place within this loosely defined genre. In doing so, Kwon underscores the ways in which the genre itself is a “site of struggle” as various artists and groups call into question the nature of the site and its relationship to artistic practice.1 In their attempt to rethink how site-specificity operates, these groups also generate new models that reinvigorate the political strategies and aesthetic sensibilities in a site-related art. Over a series of chapters Kwon loosely traces site-specificity’s historical trajectory over three categories: 1) phenomenological/experiential, 2) social/institutional, and 3) discursive.2 Based on her outline, site specificity moves from the materiality of a specific location to a place that is determined by the specifics of a social network, such as a community. In her chapter “From Site to Community in New Genre Public Art: The Case of ‘Culture in Action’,” Kwon explores artistic practices identified as community-based art in a 1993 project Culture in Action: New Public Art in Chicago. A nearly five month artistic production, curated by Mary Jane Jacob, it joined together artists with Chicago’s local community members and organizers in the making and exhibition of eight temporary public artworks. The program yielded a range of collaborations, such as a multiNEW PUBLIC ART: REDEFINING OR RECONSIDERING COMMUNITY-BASED ART?


ethnic parade by Daniel J. Martinez, VinZula Karla, and Chicago’s Westside Threepoint Marchers, to an urban ecological field station with artist Mark Dion, the Chicago Urban Ecology Action Group, and a dozen high school students.3 The collaborators qualify their work as a “new genre public art” which engages with local communities through “traditional and nontraditional media” to actively address issues that correspond to their everyday lives.4 In Kwon’s more concise definition, [P]roponents of new genre public art favor temporary rather than permanent projects that engage their audience, particularly groups considered marginalized, as active participants in the conceptualization and production of process-oriented, politically conscious community events or programs.5

While site-specificity in this context still considers a material space or geographical territory, the community largely constitutes the site, thus accounting for the particular cultural, social, and political dynamics within that terrain. The physical space seemingly functions as a stage in which a network of people produces, displays, and engages with works that respond to and represent local realities. In this particular version of site-specific art we find a series of motivations adopted from the avant-garde’s efforts to reconcile art and life, forge a direct dialogue between art and audience, and foreground process and participation over object and spectator. Artist Suzanne Lacy similarly identifies this “new genre public art” in relation to a particular history of artists engaged in social activism and feminism. In what Kwon considers a move toward democratizing art, this practice insists on a collaborative effort from all parts of society, rather than exclusively from the art community, to achieve real social and political change.6 In the example of Culture in Action, we could classify much of the works as some variation of a performance, action, or installation. In “Televecindario,” artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle collaborated with his own Chicago Latino neighborhood West Town to create a video collective and block party. The project involved the local high school, community center and television network to create the group Street Level Video (S-L.V). Composed of over fifteen teenagers, the collective’s first project produced 32


forty videos that blended images of the community with interviews of its residents. The films were later screened as a video installation during a neighborhood block party. The piece serves as a complex action and installation that weaves together often oppositional, individual narratives to reveal the community’s collective identity. If we consider Rick Lowe’s work in relation to this type of artistic activity, can we distinguish his artwork, such as Project Row Houses, as making a similar artistic gesture? Lowe’s Project Row Houses began in 1992 as a creative solution to a social problem by revitalizing a series of depressed “shotgun” houses in Houston’s Third Ward. The houses were transformed into art spaces, artist in residence studios, housing for community members, and units for educational activities. Lowe’s Project is his most definitive work and considered by many, including New York Times writer Michael Kimmelman, as one of the most transformative public art projects currently in the United States, an accolade which Cruz reiterates in his conversation with Lowe.7 At its start, Lowe, along with a collective of other artists, purchased twenty-two houses. The subsequent renovation was completed with the aid of local companies, institutions and community volunteers. Lowe and others have devoted seventeen years to developing a site of social and cultural (ex)change. In Houston’s Third Ward, international and local artists temporarily occupy the studios with the intention of producing projects that involve the families that live in the houses, and the outlying community. Lowe is just one of a twelve-member staff that maintains the space. However, as Lowe explains in his aforementioned conversation with Cruz, the project depends both on a diverse coalition to cultivate its artistic program and a larger community that is involved with youth education, social services, and housing. This example details the artist’s mode of collaboration with a number of community players to engage a public along a political axis, and also to cultivate the public through social and cultural activity. In doing so, his project bears a striking resemblance to the works that participate in community-specific art as a mode of site-specificity. Indeed, Lowe is bound to this wave of artistic activity that deviates from past forms of site-specific NEW PUBLIC ART: REDEFINING OR RECONSIDERING COMMUNITY-BASED ART?


art as it approachs a practice that thinks very differently about the public and the ways in which to engage it. This model registers the public as a complex system, versus an abstract site that merely finds itself outside the art museum’s walls. Using Mary Jane Jacob’s conceptualization of Culture in Action we see how Lowe follows a similar trajectory. As public art shifts from large scale objects, to physically or conceptually site specific projects, to audience-specific concerns (work made in response to those who occupy a given site), it moves from an aesthetic function, to a design function, to a social function. Rather than serving to promote the economic development of American cities, as did public art beginning in the late 1960s, it is now being viewed as a means of stabilizing community development throughout urban centers. In the 1990s the role of public art shifted from promoting aesthetic quality to contributing to the quality of life, from enriching lives to saving lives.8 The public, as a complex social structure, in Project Row Houses is emphasized by the fact that Lowe was first attracted to Houston’s Third Ward as a site which holds specific social, cultural and historical significance.9 In turn, the location also represented possibilities for renewal and (re)formation. This tension between a site that is used because of its existing composition and its potential for (re)development highlights the problems with such an artistic enterprise. Kwon’s issue with this new genre of site-specific art is not the practice of site as community, but rather community as site. In other words, community is appropriated, and created as a unified whole and as a fixed identity in the artistic project. In response, Kwon advocates a collective artistic praxis that serves as a “critical unsiting” of community. By this she means a grouping that constantly reflects and questions one’s formation, operation and negotiation.10 As Cruz and Lowe venture to make critical ruptures across categories, genres, and practices, my concern to link the conversation to the recent history of site-specificity is to acknowledge an existing framework that we can assume Cruz and Lowe’s new public art emerging from, but also reformulating. Interestingly, while they distinguish their practice as one which desires to make more radical leaps and significant breaks from conventional notions of public art, and while they achieve this, my argument is 34


that they are also establishing the terms for a “community-specific art” as a more viable public art. What I find is that their strategies and desired outcomes replay much of the thinking on public art beginning in the 1990s. The first instance of this is found in Cruz and Lowe’s discussion of the role of the artist and his or her engagement with the public. While the public remains undefined in their conversation we can gather that their notion of public is rendered as a site across space and people converging in a sociopolitical body, also known as community. We have to see the people outside of our world as our studio, as a legitimate part of our studio, and a legitimate part of the material resource that we utilize to make our work. Even in terms of local politics, how do you impact that? A big part of it becomes, how do we see our engagement in these many meetings that go on all the time that end up shaping policy? How do we think of ourselves? How do we condition ourselves to think of that as being a legitimate aspect of our work and as a resource to us?11

Ultimately, the artistic gesture here is their creative interaction with a community. Similar to the works of Suzanne Lacy and the roster of artists involved in Culture in Action, Cruz and Lowe identify the social and political problems that stem from the poor structuring of a site, and through a collaborative effort, artists, architects, and community members produce a project which attempts to remedy local issues. On the other hand, they diverge in the ways in which they propose an artistic intervention that preempts the problems that plague communities. This promises a prolonged exchange with the community versus the temporary activities in Culture in Action. As part of that shift they also foreground process and production over intervention as a means of aesthetic practice. Furthermore, the artist’s function is to reconcile culture with a broader political, social, and economic agenda. It is to inject these pragmatic practices with “creativity” so that they may produce a more complete community, instead of addressing the needs of the community after the fact. For Teddy Cruz this is an artist participating in the production and redistribution of resources for a particular site, rather than waiting for, or responding to the allocation of resources. These subtle nuances highlight the degree to which a siting of community as art extends into new territory, and potentially redefines, NEW PUBLIC ART: REDEFINING OR RECONSIDERING COMMUNITY-BASED ART?


again, the role of the artist and public art. Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s project for Culture in Action verges on a similar model of ongoing community interaction in that it outlived the exhibition program and its institutional support. As I described earlier, “Televecindario” was the first project of the newly formed collective Street-Level Video. Since Culture in Action it continues as a non-profit arts organization that provides media arts programming to Chicago’s urban community.12 Kwon attributes the project’s sustainability to the artist’s “intimate and direct knowledge of his respective neighborhood and those living in them.”13 For Eleanor Heartney of Art in America Manglano-Ovalle’s piece was one of two works in Culture in Action that produced an effective public art project and successfully realized the “new genre public art” concept. Like Kwon, Heartney argues “community-based art functions best when artists have a genuine and ongoing commitment to the community, when the concept has a natural connection to the social problems addressed, and when the artist has done enough homework to really understand the underlying issues the community confronts.”14 Thus, the issue of a prolonged exchange, in terms of a more comprehensive program and relationship between artist and community, is fundamental to making public art a politically efficacious practice. The formation and transformation of the site/community relies on a dynamic and fluid collaboration that extends beyond the parameters of the exhibition model. While Manglano-Ovalle’s offers us one of the first examples, Lowe and Cruz generate other possibilities for how this could be achieved. One important distinction is that Cruz and Lowe invert the process by which their artistic intervention is made. Unlike Manglano-Ovalle’s project, Project Row Houses did not develop out of an exhibition program, nor did it ever attempt to operate within an institutional framework. ManglanoOvalle first organized his work within an exhibition that later transformed into a non-profit organization, whereas Project Row Houses established itself as a non-profit arts organization that the art world later recognized as public art. In both examples, public artwork of this kind needed to participate outside of institutional structures in order for it to succeed as a 36


project based on a generative system of process and production. In doing so, however, they blur the lines that once separated art practice from sociopolitical work, perhaps advancing their art closer to everyday life. With this example, we have Lowe pushing the boundaries even further than what new genre artists were able to achieve. In this sense Lowe and Cruz are able to redefine the terrain for a new public art. On the other hand, how do we recognize this development without the historical backing by which we can map out movements and shifts? How do we bridge concepts and methods that inform our trajectory, but which we often reconfigure? As I have attempted to show, the value in revealing Cruz and Lowe’s relationship to an ongoing dialogue is to understand their projects’ relationship to a larger artistic enterprise. Because they do not recognize this connection in their talk, Cruz and Lowe tend to broaden their critical intervention, spreading it out across a general category of another attempt at an avant-garde art. I also fear that in continuing their conversation without the mention of “new genre public art,” Cruz and Lowe reproduce many of the same problems that arose from such a community-based art practice. By inserting new genre into the conversation I don’t mean to dissolve Cruz and Lowe’s proposition into this mold, but rather I ask them to define and address their position in relation to the 1990s critique of public art. Notes: 1. Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004). 2. Ibid, 3. 3. Ibid, 102. 4. See Culture in Action, exh. cat. (Seattle: Bay Press, 1995). See also Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art, ed. Suzanne Lacy (Seattle: Bay Press, 1995). 5. Kwon, One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity, 6. 6. Ibid, 107. 7. Michael Kimmelman, “In Houston, Art Is Where the Home Is,” New York Times, December 17, 2006.



8. Mary Jane Jacob, “Outside the Loop,” in Culture in Action, exh. cat. (Seattle: Bay Press, 1995), 56. 9. See Kimmelman,“In Houston, Art Is Where the Home Is.” 10. Kwon, One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity, 155. 11. Teddy Cruz and Rick Lowe, “Conversation,” pros*, Issue Zero, Winter 2010. 12. History and Mission Statement, Street Level Youth Media About/history.html. [Accessed: 25 August 2009]. 13. Kwon, One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity, 132. 14. Eleanor Heartney, “Culture in Action: A Public Art Program of Sculpture Chicago,” Art in America, June, 1995.



Fared Use: A Political Economy of the DigitallyEmpowered Subject

Nate Harrison

Author’s Note The following essay was edited from a lecture given at the University of California San Diego Visual Arts department conference Distributed Creativities on April 4, 2009. I’d like to take a moment to contextualize it in relation to the conversation between Rick Lowe and Teddy Cruz, printed in this issue. In it, the two speak primarily within the framework of housing and architecture, and the ways artists can (and perhaps must) now act not just as facilitators, but as challengers to those normally tasked with problemsolving in those areas (i.e., the urban planner, the architect). While my frame does not pertain to architecture or housing per se, it does touch upon fundamental aspects of Rick and Teddy’s talk: the critique of increasing specialization within disciplines; the role of public culture; the agency of the artist; and community-building. Both texts share a realization––that old systems of production, which depended on a model of increased specialization in all domains, are experiencing “growing pains” as alternatives show real (and very interesting) signs of viability. In the case of digital tools, which form a portion of my essay’s focus, I don’t think it is an exaggeration to state that there has never been a time when the heretofore specialized processes and techniques of cultural production have been so radically “generalized.” Ultimately, my concern echoes one of Teddy’s: “the fact that artists … continue to be subordinated to particular institutions of power.” Thus my attempt here is to dislodge some of the institutional roadblocks confronting producers today who, equipped with new toolsets, actively seek to realize new cultural relations. 40


Notwithstanding the “digital divide” barrier to entry into the networked society, well along now in its “2.0” phase, the author, it seems, has become the producer. Today’s digital subject has now folded “reading” (downloading) and “writing” (producing/uploading) into one another, altering our preconceptions of the creative act, which has in turn altered the very definition of what it means to be a creator. And while Roland Barthes’ proclamation of the “death of the author” four decades ago may be somewhat misguided, as I intend to argue, it cannot be denied that there has been, on an unprecedented scale, a “birth of the reader,” which has consequently shifted the sites of cultural agency in contemporary society. Creative Industries advocate John Hartley has recently called for the study of media and its effects to shift its focus from negative (political economy questions i.e., “What do media do to audiences?”) to positive (questions of agency i.e., “What do audiences do with media?”). Hartley terms this a “text-audience” approach, which ideologically parallels the “rise of the creative class” discourse articulated by Richard Florida in 2002. Undergirding both Hartley’s and Florida’s ideas is the notion that the liberation of the creative subject is a more or less completed project, that new technological processes and a productivist ethos centered on innovation have unlocked the shackles that had previously restrained the creative capacities of the masses.1 Yet I believe swapping a political economy discourse for a text-audience one is a risky endeavor, for the latter cannot exist without the former. The struggle for control over the logistics of the creative act, while seemingly in a state of transformation from a centralized, top-down model to a decentralized, lateral or user-defined model, is far from over. We must not ignore the fact that any realignments in today’s methods of digital cultural production come in spite of the desires of powerful interests that strive to maintain a stranglehold on content creation, by continuing to administrate the abilities of the creative subject according to the conventions of consumption that have defined Western culture for the last sixty years. The battle is not easily abandoned. In order to better understand its front lines, and thus the importance of the agency recently afforded the digital author-subject in today’s mediascape, I’d like to begin by tracing a genealogy of modern media production in the “broadcast era” —how it was authored and by whom.2



In his well-known essay The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, Walter Benjamin presciently diagnosed the relationship between technology, the masses and creativity. Benjamin realized that modern forms of media, in their mass production, were fundamentally changing the roles of art, artist, and viewer. No longer tied to premodern ritual and tradition, no longer emitting an “aura,” modern media would be based on a different practice: politics—one positioned for use both in aestheticizing dominant political regimes through their officially sanctioned authors and in “politicizing” art by an emerging, popular movement offering alternatives to the status quo through aesthetic experimentation. The formation of such a movement necessarily entailed rethinking just who qualified as an author in the modern era; for Benjamin, the film, photograph, publication, and sound recording, each in their ability to be multiplied and disseminated, would emancipate the creative capacities of the masses, unleashing new political consciousnesses. “The distinction between author and public,” Benjamin states, anticipating Barthes in some respects, “is about to lose its axiomatic character .... At any moment, the reader is ready to become a writer.”3 Benjamin’s writing on the reformation of the author-subject, and his or her agency as a newfound cultural producer, came just on the cusp of Europe’s descent into war. As such, his words were formed against the very real backdrop of the rise of both Fascism and Communism, and the ways each harnessed the politics of aesthetics in order to advance their aims. Benjamin did not live to see the conclusion of World War II, so it remains to be seen just how he might have reconsidered his thoughts about the work of art in the age of technological reproduction given the balance of power established following the war’s outcome. It is with particular curiosity that one wonders how Benjamin might have viewed mass media and the agency of the reader-as-author-as-producer during the post-war consumer boom in the United States. Writing in exile from Los Angeles, and thus witnessing the effects of an “entertainment industrial complex” firsthand, Benjamin’s colleague Theodor Adorno had a very different opinion of the creative potential of the masses. Criticizing Benjamin’s Work of Art essay, he writes, “The idea that a reactionary is turned into a member of the avant-garde by expert knowledge of Chaplin’s films strikes me as out-and-out romanticization.”4 For Adorno, mass media, far 42


from awakening a revolutionary spirit in its audiences, instead arrested their critical consciousness, even as it trumpeted its activities under the banner of liberated subjectivity in a new democratic age. “Every visit to the cinema,” Adorno writes, continuing his lambast of American film, “leaves me, against all my vigilance, stupider and worse.”5 Absent from Adorno’s rather bleak assessment is the authorial empowerment of the consuming subject, a member of the working class historically situated as the beneficiary of increased general education (i.e., having acquired the capacity to read), but who had not yet won the leisure time and economic means needed to mass circulate a creative voice (i.e., not having acquired the capacity to write back in response to what he or she was reading). For Adorno, the population was instead encouraged to spend what little free time it had swallowing the cultural products generated for it: Hollywood films, TV shows, pop music, comic books, fashion, and so on. But who actually made that stuff ? Here I’d like parse out the authorship of culture from its production during the post-war era and continuing into the present. By production, I mean a relatively large-scale chain of actors, each with their roles in generating a final expression through a division of labor; by author, I am referring to the model, established roughly at the end of the eighteenth century, of the uniquely creative subject, one who is ultimately celebrated as the authentic creator of that expression. Part of the power of the broadcast model is that authorship and production are conflated, while the former is foregrounded even as it increasingly relies on the expanding technological apparatus of the latter. Examples have abounded in mass culture since the invention of modern media: Movie directors win awards for their artistic visions, while the films attributed to them have seemingly ever expanding ending credits; pop music stars are known on a first-name basis, yet anyone who has read their production notes knows the artist’s music and image are tightly scripted operations involving a cast of dozens; even the author in the most traditional sense–– say the best-selling novelist––has behind her or him editors and public relations agents, not to mention those who work the printing presses and drive the delivery trucks. Such a totalizing notion of authorial subjectivity is very powerful, because it reinforces an apparent singular control, through comprehensive ownership, of the productive apparatus. I believe this last point is especially noteworthy, for still today it is often the claim that the FARED USE: A POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE DIGITALLY-EMPOWERED SUBJECT


singular artist has a “natural” ownership right to her or his creations which corporate entertainment uses in order to justify its draconian control over what audiences can and cannot do with the mass culture produced for them. When record labels and film production companies threaten litigation over an unauthorized music remix or film appropriation, they are merely protecting the creative autonomy of the artist, they say, protecting the “genius”––though we can imagine the claim that corporate entertainment has an artist’s best interests in mind is a rather dubious one. Collapsing the distinction between the owners of the means of media production, and the actual authors of such media then perpetuates the belief in the triumph of the self––its ultimate constitution of identity and expression of creativity through private property. The notion of possessive individualism has been a foundational component of the social construction of authorship since the 17th century, when Locke and Hobbes first proposed a labor theory of property and correlated authorship with ownership. According to Locke, subjects, in having proprietorship over their own bodies, could lay claim to those elements in nature with which they mixed their labor. And as Hobbes states, “He that owneth his words and actions, is the Author … the Right of doing any Action, is called Authority.”6 But I want to make clear that, especially in the United States, the development of the author-subject has occurred as much in the legal domain as it has in any social one. More specifically, the articulation of authorial rights in American copyright law stems from what some legal scholars identify as the law’s long-time deferential treatment of the “romantic author.” As James Boyle states in describing the legal formation of the author-subject in the 18th and 19th centuries, “It is the originality of the author, the novelty which he or she adds to the raw materials provided by culture and the common pool, which justifies the property right.”7 Furthermore, this right was defined through the “work,” initially understood as the objectification of the author’s intellectual labor, the material extension of his or her unique personality. Through a series of court rulings in the United States crossing over the late 1800s and into 1900s, the scope of what constituted the “work” eventually expanded beyond the literal text. This helped establish romantic authorship as the default artistic model within copyright jurisprudence, but 44


it also paradoxically had the long-term consequence of shifting copyright’s emphasis away from the author’s intentions (they were regarded as “given,” “irreducible”) and toward formal analysis of his or her productions. As copyright law uncritically embraced the ideology of authorial originality, it nevertheless mitigated its novel or innovative aspects in favor of recognizing the author merely as the work’s point of origin. Into the 20th century, author’s rights, while perhaps appearing to uphold the myth of an antiquated figure from a pre-industrial moment, acted as a foil for copyright’s actual purpose: to provide the means for a fluid and expanding intellectual property market in an emerging post-industrial economy. This is illustrated in the authorial category first mentioned in the U.S. Copyright Act of 1909, and given greater clarification in the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976: the doctrine of work-made-for-hire. In the case of a work-made-for-hire, the Act states, “The employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author … and, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise … owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright.”8 With the articulation of work-made-for-hire, the 1976 Act provided legal buttressing for a 20th-century economic structure already dependent on the division of labor, allowing oligopolistic tendencies to emerge within the production of culture. Far from facilitating a romantic conception of authorship, copyright’s work-made-for-hire doctrine essentially seized control of individual agency, returning the author to his or her place as “just another cog in the wheel” in the fabrication processes of a postmodern culture industry, one awash in new creative tools and transmission technologies. Work-made-for-hire provided a booster shot for the copyright market at the outset of an information economy, but it had become the publishers (i.e., corporate media), not the authors, who would benefit from the vaccine. This, however, did not stop corporate entities from employing the rhetoric of individualism. As Boyle further points out, “The true irony comes when we find that large companies can use the idea of the independent entrepreneurial creator to justify intellectual property rights so expansive that they make it much harder for future independent creators actually to create.”9



FIG. 1, promotion for the NikeiD Design Contest.

Today, Boyle’s statement might seem a touch antiquated––he wrote it in 1996, before web 2.0 and before the ubiquity of cheap technologies, especially in video production. As we all have witnessed, the explosive growth of new communications tools within the last decade has presented a radical challenge to the broadcast model of cultural production. A great many people have been afforded the ability not only to consume content but to produce it in a wide variety of media across an expanding array of channels. If there has been a triumph of the self, there has also been a triumph of the amateur. Major music labels are by many accounts in dire straits, and the film industry is in a panic. Outlets such as YouTube are changing the way we author culture. But has the ownership of culture entirely changed? In many ways, certainly yes. But we would do well to recognize that the 46


paradigms of corporate and other types of centralized authorial control remain, though they have been updated according to the new productive modes of the digitally-empowered subject. Whether tethered to an office job working late nights, or emancipated from cubicle culture as a “free agent,” the author to a great extent still relinquishes control of his or her creations as a contract employee through copyright’s work-made-for-hire. But contract regulation extends beyond the author-subject’s labor time. It also extends into his or her leisure time. Even more insidious perhaps has been the insertion of corporate control, acting under the rubric of “distributed creativity,” into the recreational media space. Take for example the 2008 NIKEiD/5D2F National Design Contest [FIG. 1], in which the company solicited its consumer base to “author” their own pair of customizable shoes through the NIKEiD website. Twenty pairs of shoes were awarded to the finalists, who were not otherwise afforded any rights to their designs. Nike’s Terms and Conditions state that the entries would become the exclusive property of the company, allowing it a “non-exclusive, non-revocable, worldwide, perpetual right” to freely use “any comments, information, designs, ideas, or other content contained in any design posted … without notice, compensation, or acknowledgement … whatsoever.”10 Thus Nike had melded the creative capacities of the author-as-editor, as-selector––to use scholar Eduardo Navas’ term–– and the mode of consumption made possible by post-Fordist smallrun, production-on-demand.11 Through its shoe design contest, the company seemingly presented itself as an advocate of the DIY spirit that characterizes contemporary remix culture, essentially providing a mechanism for consumers to donate their free research and development labor to Nike within the framework of innovative creative expression. There are many more examples like this that illustrate the degree to which the digitally empowered subject inhabits a complex permission culture. Terms and conditions like those in the Nike contest are repeated over and over on screens across the network. I don’t think it would be presumptuous of me to think that you, the reader, have dealt with this type of thing on one occasion or another; how many times have we clicked “OK” at the end of a software license agreement––after having carefully read its every line, of course. Suffice it to say that regimes of intellectual property guide FARED USE: A POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE DIGITALLY-EMPOWERED SUBJECT


FIG. 2, cover art for AmpLive’s Rainydayz Remixes.

the creative potential of the author-as-producer every bit as much as the tools he or she employs. I’d like to mention one more example that I believe could be indicative of a future trajectory for distributed creativity in the network age. It is about permission, and also about a contest. In October 2007, the pop band Radiohead released its album In Rainbows. What was remarkable about this album, was that the band released it as a “pay-what-youwill” download, bypassing traditional record label distribution entirely. Radiohead was heralded as symbolic of a new model of authorial control over cultural production and dissemination. In homage, the Oakland, 48


California based hip hop producer AmpLive put out his own remix album of In Rainbows the following month, without Radiohead’s consent. The producer’s Rainydayz Remixes [FIG. 2] was also slated to be a free download for “purchasers” of the original recording, but just before its proper release in early 2008, AmpLive was sent a cease-and-desist letter from Warner Music, who owns the publishing rights to Radiohead’s work. The remix album was subsequently taken offline.12 Within days of AmpLive’s public display of Warner’s take-down letter, a blogosphere campaign had launched in support of his music being released. Public pressure mounted, and by February, AmpLive and Radiohead (and presumably Warner Music) reached an agreement to allow the remixes to be made available to the public for free. A “DIYers of the world unite” buzz was certainly in the air, and Radiohead’s concession fueled the drive for otherwise amateur music producers to take creative decisions into their own hands. Two months later, Radiohead announced a remix “contest” of one of its singles from In Rainbows. Fans were invited to purchase the song’s individual tracks from Apple’s iTunes store for a nominal fee and create their own versions. The remixers uploaded their new versions of the single to the contest website, where the public could vote for its favorite. No prize other than the satisfaction of being voted as the best was offered. The novelty of such a “collaboration” propelled Radiohead’s original single further up the pop music charts, while the remixers received some fanzinetype recognition. But like the Nike example, the following conditions were laid out: “… all rights in and to any remixed versions … created by the Entrant shall be owned by Warner/Chappell Music Ltd .… If requested by [Warner], the Entrant shall … sign a formal assignment of copyright to give effect to the foregoing … all rights in and to any Remixes … shall be owned by _Xurbia _Xendless Ltd … and to the extent necessary the Entrant hereby assigns all rights…throughout the World for the full life of copyright … [Warner] will be registered and credited as the sole … publishers of the Remixes … the Entrant will not acquire a copyright interest in the Song.”1 The remix contest proved so popular that another one was introduced a FARED USE: A POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE DIGITALLY-EMPOWERED SUBJECT


short time later under more or less the same conditions. What changed was merely the price of the remixable tracks users had to purchase in order to participate. Radiohead, their publishers, and Apple were gracious enough to reduce the “entry fees,” though they did not eliminate them entirely. As such, the band and ultimately its publishers profited both in the short and long term on the desires of would-be authors to participate in popular culture through a type of “pay-to-play” system––more than giving away their labor, the remixers were paying for the privilege to do so. This example is more concerning than the Nike case, for it establishes a model that, on the surface, seems to solve the author/owner dilemma that has plagued intellectual property for some time. But it does this by replacing “fair use,” the copyright doctrine that facilitates free expression and authorial autonomy––and the one AmpLive could have initially used in his defense had Radiohead not acquiesced––with what legal scholar Tom Bell has described as “fared” use.14 With fared use, any or all elements of a creative expression become accessible, but mediated piecemeal through incremental micro-transactions, yielding a sort of “death by a 1000 cuts of the author,” with each “cut” being a 25-cent fee here, a 99-cent fee there. The pros and cons of such authorial regulation could be an essay unto themselves, and at the very least they raise many questions about the value of authorship. Under a fared use system, authorial control is compromised; the author as producer remains limited in his or her creative options when prefigured as a conduit for culture industry, however decentralized and “bottom-up” it may be. I conclude by stating that I do not mean to discount the ways in which network technologies have afforded the digital subject more creative options as an individual, and just as importantly if not more so, have facilitated new forms of collectivity and collaborative ownership; that AmpLive’s remixes are available is testament to this. The open source software model, and its variations in other productive domains (for example, medical research), seems promising. But to end with John Hartley’s assertion that we should be asking “what do audiences do with media?” I reply, I hope they continue to work media over, authoring not only new expressions but also alternative and “fair” modes of production, toward consciousnesses that do not, by default, equate creativity with industry. 50


Notes: 1. See Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class (New York: Basic Books, 2002). See also John Hartley, “From the Consciousness Industry to Creative Industries: Consumer-created content, social network markets, and the growth of knowledge,” http://cultural-science. org/FeastPapers2008/JohnHartleyBp1.pdf [Accessed August 7, 2008]. The concepts “Creative Class” and “Creative Industries” certainly have their critics. Prominent among them is Matteo Pasquinelli; see his “ICW-Immaterial Civil War: Prototypes of Conflict within Cognitive Capitalism,” in Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter, ed., My Creativity Reader: A Critique of Creative Industries (Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2007), 69-79. 2. By “broadcast era” I am referring to that period in the United States and Europe, roughly between 1920 and 1980, in which radio and television (and film, although not transmitted with electromagnetic waves) were used as vehicles to disseminate information in a one-way, one-to-many, top-down system. Consumers of this media “tuned in” on a regular basis to absorb its subject matter, which has been historically criticized as helping to relieve those who watched or listened from participating as active agents in the world. Herbert Marcuse termed this effect “affirmative culture.” See Herbert Marcuse, Negations: Essays in Critical Theory (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968), 114-115. 3. Barthes ends his seminal essay “The Death of the Author” with: “…we know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.” Thirty years earlier, Benjamin allotted agency to the reader not merely through his or her capacities to interpret but also through capacities to produce. See Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author,” in Image, Music, Text (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 148. See Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility,” in Walter Benjamin Selected Writings Volume 4, 1938-1940 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 258. 4. Theodor Adorno, “Letters to Walter Benjamin,” in Ernst Bloch, ed., Aesthetics and Politics (London: Verso, 1977), 123. 5. Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life (London and New York: Verso, 2005), 25. 6. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Chapter 5, Section 27, http://www.gutenberg. org/dirs/etext05/trgov10h.html [Accessed August 11, 2009]; Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Introduction, Chapter 16, [Accessed August 11, 2009]. 7. James Boyle, Shamans, Software, and Spleens: Law and the Construction of the Information Society (Cambridge, Mass.; London: Harvard University Press, 1996), 54. 8. U.S. Code Title 17, Section 201, [Accessed August 1, 2009]. See also “Historical and Revision Notes,” House Report No. 94-1476, Title 17, Section 201, [Accessed August 1, 2009]. FARED USE: A POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE DIGITALLY-EMPOWERED SUBJECT


9. Boyle, Shamans, Software, and Spleens, xiii (emphasis in original). 10. See the NikeiD web site’s terms and conditions at nikestore/us/v1/us/en/info/privacy.jsp?item=terms&sitesrc=USiD [Accessed August 12, 2009]. See also the contest “Official Rules” at its Facebook page, http://www.facebook. com/topic.php?uid=38028000259&topic=5009&ref=mf [Accessed August 12, 2009]. 11. See Eduardo Navas, “The Author Function in Remix,” [Accessed August 5, 2009]. 12. For the cease-and-desist letter, see blckdoutcandd.jpg [Accessed August 10, 2009]. For more information on the ordeal, see [Accessed August 10, 2009]. 13. “Xurbia” is Radiohead’s own music label, while Warner/Chappell Music Ltd. owns the publishing rights to Radiohead’s music. Although the terms go on to state that Xurbia will not commercially exploit any remixes without the remixer’s consent, it is not clear that Warner is extending that same courtesy. See [Accessed August 5, 2009]. 14. See Tom Bell, “Fair Use Vs. Fared Use: The Impact of Automated Rights Management on Copyright’s Fair Use Doctrine,” [Accessed August 12, 2009].



All e-Communication is Miscommunication

Katherine Sweetman

“Now are you saying dis-tri-bu-ta-tive?” The question pushed air from the lungs and mouth of Rick Lowe. This caused a series of small disruptions in the air pressure at his office in Houston, Texas. The question, now traveling in the form of vibration patterns and shifting molecules, reverberated around the office space before being picked up by a microphone. These sound waves may have been perceived by other sets of human ears at the Houston office just as they were being sampled into a series of discrete audio snapshots by the computer’s microphone and the software.

The software looked at its limited data set and was forced to draw its own conclusions about the sound. 54


“…dis-ti-bu-ta-tive?” The question, mutated by technology and translated into digital information, was now ready to be broken down into tiny packets of data and whisked away by the Skype software and its transmission protocol to a final destination, a receiving computer somewhere in San Diego. “Distributive Creativities,” Teddy Cruz replied to Rick Lowe’s question. “That’s the title of the conference where you’re going to be the star speaker.” It was rainy in San Diego. These sound waves, created by Cruz and his surroundings, traveled slightly faster in the humid air than they normally would before they hit a microphone. The microphone converted them into electrical voltages before they were rendered into digital binary data and sent swarming back across the Internet in the form of numerous data packets, all traveling with potentially independent routes to Houston. This conversation between Lowe in Houston, Texas, and Cruz, in San Diego, California, was conducted over Skype, the free, downloadable software that can, among other things, emulate a traditional telephone conversation and let people video conference over the Internet as well. “Oh, you see me there,” said Cruz, gazing into the computer monitor at a tiny pixilated rendering of Rick Lowe. “What was the name of that movie?” Cruz continued. “Until the End of the World? A few years ago… who directed that film? Anyway, they showed this kind of technology and it seemed, like you know, so distant and now here we are.” “Here we are,” Rick Lowe responded. His image, composed of shades of color and light, flickered onto the computer screen in San Diego. His movements were displayed at an average speed of less than fifteen frames per second. The real (analogue) world had outpaced the digital one. Cruz was still thinking about the film, and trying to remember the name of the director, ALL e-COMMUNICATION IS MISCOMMUNICATION


and Lowe was remembering how often he used Skype to communicate. “Here we are,” they both agreed. Yet “here” was not in Houston and it was not in San Diego. “Here” existed somewhere in data packets of sampled instances of time now traveling around the Internet. Skype’s method of conversation transmission is very different from both publicly switched telephone networks (land phone lines) and other Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIPs). Even though the majority of today’s telephone conversations occur over digital lines, the path the conversation must travel is a relatively direct line—a circuit—between two parties. The alternative VoIP transmission protocols are also much more direct than Skype’s method of communication. If Rick Lowe and Teddy Cruz had been communicating over Vonage (another VoIP), for example, the conversation would have been routed through a central location. The data stream would all pass through a Vonage server and then be routed to its intended party.

Skype uses a decentralized networking paradigm that breaks up a transmission and sends its pieces through the Internet network on alternating paths and routes that allow for the fastest (or easiest) transmission of each packet. Vinton Cerf, one of the founding fathers of the Internet and of the packet transmission process, describes this procedure of sending data as analogous to the sending of postcards. The best way to understand what TCP [transmission control proto56


col] does is to imagine what you would have to do if you were to try to send a novel to a friend, but the only way you could to it was to send it as a series of postcards.1

Cerf goes on to explain that you would need to number the postcards in case they arrived out of order, and you would also keep copies in case they were lost. Your friend receiving the postcards would have to let you know that they had been received. If you did not receive word from your friend, then you would start sending the same postcards again—assuming they had been lost in the mail. He goes on to say that you would also want to limit and stagger your sending process. If you sent all the postcards of the novel at once, they might, by some miracle, all be delivered at the same time and might not fit in the mailbox. Then some would fall on the floor, be eaten by the dog, and you’d have to re-send them anyway.2

Cerf also notes that, as with the ground mail system, sometimes postcards get lost. “You’re cutting out,” Lowe told Cruz at two points in their conversation. These “drop outs” might be caused by a low sample rate cutting off pieces of Cruz’s speech or by data packets being permanently lost or not arriving in time to find their place back in the audio stream puzzle to which they were assigned. There are other potential communication gaps for Skype users. Audio is recorded at both a limited frequency range and a limited dynamic range, and although both of these can be improved with additional hardware (microphones), typically users find the built-in microphone sufficient. But limiting the sound frequencies that can be transmitted can leave out certain sounds. Limiting the dynamic range of audio can potentially drop sounds that are too loud or too soft to fall in that dynamic range (a given decibel parameter into which sounds must fall in order to be transmitted). Whispers, for example, can be especially vulnerable. Cruz and Lowe had a very amicable chat, but if, for example, they had ALL e-COMMUNICATION IS MISCOMMUNICATION


chosen to growl at each other, these noises could potentially be outside the frequency range, especially when the Skype software was faced with a low bandwidth (a slow Internet connection). Other sounds, like sighs and grunts, and certain inflections in the human voice, are often left out. But we have always forgiven technology for the sacrifices in full communication we must make when we use it. After all, it is that communication technology that lets us have this contact in the first place. We, as a society of long-distance communicators, have realized that disembodied communication leaves many things out of the conventional embodied exchange of ideas. Since the invention of the telegraph people have missed the full context for the textual communication they received. Individuals can try to create tone and emotion through formal aspects of text—creating them in capitals and italics, adding things like exclamation marks etc., but miscommunication still abounds. Scott Falhman, the man who allegedly invented the ASCII smiley face, understood this potential for miscommunication and tried to create a means through which one could express some kind of playful or joking comment that could otherwise be misread.2 Without this invention,


how many more blunders in communication would have occurred? When using the telephone or communicating through email, people miss the body language component of communication that some experts allege accounts for 50-80 percent of the message being conveyed. Skype tries to embody us with small digital representations of ourselves and those with whom we are speaking, but we still miss what’s outside of the frame (gestures, feet tapping, etc.), details unavailable due to the low frame rate and other resolution dependent information. Skype’s video quality (resolution and frame rate) change depending on the speed and congestion of the Internet connection, and will adjust automatically during the conversation, but if the connection is slow, the resolution of the video can potentially cause us to miss things like subtle facial expressions, quick movements, etc. Technology mutates/translates/changes, but, of 58


course, facilitates

communication like the conversations held between Cruz and Lowe. The communication traveled through the recording hardware (microphones), the Skype software, the transmission protocol over the Internet, and then through the audio output systems. This rendered something similar to the original version of the conversation, but not the true thing. The technology transmitted and regurgitated the words and movements but only in pieces. The real problem with electronic communication is that it gives us the illusion that we are getting “the full picture” when this is simply not the case. But perhaps this is all we really need in order to communicate. Miscommunications, of course, happen all the time on their own, independent of technology. “Distributive Creativities,” Teddy Cruz answered to one of Rick Lowe’s first questions. “That’s the title of the conference where you’re going to be the star speaker.” The real title for the conference was “Distributed Creativities,” not “Distributive Creativities,” and that miscommunication probably can’t be blamed on technology.

Notes: 1. Vinton Cerf, “How The Internet Really Works,” cerfart.html [Accessed March 13, 2009]. 2. See Falham, 2. lbid. 3. “‘Joke’ Conversation Thread in which the :-) Was Invented,” [Accessed March 13, 2009].



Occupy the University: Reconsidering the Local

Micha Cárdenas

Author’s Note As this article goes to publication, the University of California is erupting as a site of political conflict over the recent budget cuts, tuition increases and furloughs. A UC wide strike and walkout of faculty, staff and students has been called for on August 24th, 2009, the first day of instruction. It seems that the UC’s disregard for the health and wellbeing of their employees, as well as for the quality of education, has reached an intolerable point for many. Many academics have taken this opportunity to turn their research back to the university itself, which is exemplified by UC Berkeley’s colloquium event entitled “The University in Crisis: The Dismantling and Destruction of the University of California.”1 In a conversation recorded for pros* journal, Teddy Cruz and Rick Lowe agree that socially engaged art has the ability to actually change the material conditions under which art is made and in which people’s lives occur. They seem to agree that the best way to change housing conditions is to engage at the level of local legislation, housing associations and city governments. I would like to intervene on this point. While I agree that socially engaged art can change people’s lives, my intervention, to be simple, is to say that the decision about how to intervene is not so simple. Cruz and Lowe OCCUPY THE UNIVERSITY: RECONSIDERING THE LOCAL


urge artists to engage in local city politics, yet I argue that perhaps an even more local focus may be more beneficial. In her book When Species Meet, Donna Haraway describes a feminist approach to political ethics, which accepts our finitude, contingency and historical situatedness. Her approach acknowledges that from a position of a lack of certainty, “there is no outside from which to answer that mandatory question”2 of what political action to take. Refusing to take a political action is still a political action, and so we are faced with “bearing the mortal consequences” of our choices of where to put our artistic energies in this expanded field where any artistic practice is apparently acceptable. My own affinity with a feminist ethics of uncertainty grew out of my work with Avital Ronell at the European Graduate School where I asked, “But how can we sit and discuss the deep meaning of this punctuation mark while bombs are being dropped on people?” Her response was, to paraphrase, that by introducing doubt into commonly accepted definitions of ideas and political strategies, that the decisions about dropping those bombs, or imprisoning people, may be stalled, changed or ended. By considering the university institution in which this discussion takes place, with its framework of research and knowledge production, we can find ourselves implicated and complicit on a new level. While the rhetoric of humanist charities or of helping the poor children of the world may sound convincing as a call to involve artists in questions of social engagement, it also serves the institution to appear engaged in the communities. In fact, one could argue that reproducing this dialogue serves to entrench the existing conditions instead of changing them. I propose that a wide section of contemporary artists are concerned with shifting, altering, rethinking and recreating the material conditions of society and choosing very different approaches from Cruz and Lowe, a few of which I will outline here. These artists and activists question the structures that create and enable political and economic conditions, and structures of knowledge production, such as scientific dogma and medical definitions. The Electronic Disturbance Theater’s notion of Science of the Oppressed will serve as a useful guide for understanding practices which seek to re-imagine knowledge production in the service of social movements and oppressed peoples. The practices presented here seek to intervene in society at the level of the causes of social inequity, of the underlying knowledge structures, instead of working 62


through local legislation, which could be seen as merely a symptom. One trajectory of contemporary politically engaged art is centered around the notion of community research initiatives, ways of conducting research, which are based in the concerns of oppressed or politically active communities. The *particle group*, a nanopoetic art collective,3 and Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT)4 have proposed and developed this idea of the Science of the Oppressed. Science of the Oppressed describes a form of knowledge production which is based in and arises from a social need, and whose contours are shaped by the community from which it arises. A Science of the Oppressed, as I read it, is an invitation to re-imagine knowledge production and the way in which it could improve the lives of oppressed communities by empowering the people of those communities and existing social movements. Implementing this science, the *particle group* describe their work as “combin[ing] digital technology, investigative research, and multimedia formats in works that forge subversive relationships with the twenty-first century’s frontiers of nano-science and the para/literary.”5 In “nano_Garage(s): Speculations about (Open Fabbing),” a performance at Medialab Prado, the *particle group* refers to a number of research oriented gestures, saying: We can imagine Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, Chela Sandoval’s Methodology of the Oppressed, Critical Art Ensemble’s tactical science, Natalie Jeremijenko’s public experiments and what the Electronic Disturbance Theater has framed today as the “science of the oppressed” – each of these parts of a wide area call for a re-framed relationalilty between spectator, poesis, praxis, experimentation and Sandoval’s differential consciousness of the “la conciencia de la mestiza.” Each gesture diagrams alternative social forms of life and art that fall between the known and unknown, between fiction and the real, between clean science and dirty science – each a part of a long history of an epistemology of social production which privileges the standpoint of the proletariat, the multitude, the open hacks of the DIY moments, and of autonomous investigators who stage test zones of cognitive styles-as/and out of – concrete practices as speculation and speculation as concrete practices – at the speed of dreams.6

Here we see a wide selection of practices concerned with research itself, OCCUPY THE UNIVERSITY: RECONSIDERING THE LOCAL


with knowledge production as a method of political action, concerned with addressing questions about technologies and their effects on the public. The *particle group*’s own work engages in Science of the Oppressed by researching current nanotechnology and creating their own transperversal responses based on this research. Similarly, the Electronic Disturbance Theater is currently engaged in research into the effects of access to GPS technology for post-contemporary border geographies with the project The Transborder Immigrant Tool, working with immigrant rights movements to prefigure the changing nature of virtual geographies. One approach, which could be seen in dialogue with Science of the Oppressed, involves the development of tools to aid social movements. Situation Room is a project by, which focuses directly on the issue of providing information to social actors in order to facilitate informed decisions about what action to take, consisting of a room sized installation including a number of mapping and communications technologies. The work comes out of their experiences “in the design and implementation of several temporary media-labs.�7 These labs are actually a common feature of major mobilizations against corporate globalization. I have participated in a few of these kinds of Situation Rooms, which often involve a map of the city, lots of computers and phones and a flurry of activity as people in the street send in information about what actions are happening, where arrests are being made, and what police activity is being taken. They serve as a valuable part of facilitating distributed political action, in which small affinity groups engage in their own direct action instead of simply joining a publicly announced mass action. Due to the increasing militarization of these events, this strategy, a particular instance of distributed creativity, is increasingly common and necessary. For example, at the Republican National Convention in New York City in 2004, the police literally swept up masses of people in orange construction netting, arresting bystanders and protesters alike. Due to actions like this, distributed political action is critical as an intervention in events like the Republican National Convention or any of the meetings of international financial institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), or the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 64


The installation by Hackitectura, presented at LABoral in Gijon, Spain, sought to “advance in the design of a situation room that could be actually used in the context of social movements, for special events or for daily research, strategic planning and organizing.”8 To accomplish this, Hackitectura created a large Situation Room in the gallery space including projections of maps, computers and phones and engaged in a series of discussions and hacking sessions. For example, they developed an interactive map that users of the Situation Room could dynamically add content to and see related independent news stories about. While they see the gallery installation “more as a simulation,” because it was not attached to a particular event, it demonstrates the way in which art practice can be used to empower social movements by developing tools and strategies in collaboration with these movements. Many of these movements are inspired by a notion of direct action, which is closely linked to the idea of Civil Disobedience, but also to Cruz and Lowe’s ideas about art practice. Direct Action is the idea that political actors can directly create change instead of asking legislators to do so. In the case of Situation Room, Hackitectura are supporting networks of social actors who are engaging in Direct Action, in actions such as Fadaiat, a previous event held on the Spanish-Moroccan border where they set up a communication network, autonomous from the state, across a highly militarized border. The tools and techniques used in Situation Room may empower social actors at future gatherings. Many of the examples mentioned by the *particle group* are concerned with biotechnology and health. Aids Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) is one early example of activists and artists who were directly engaged with research as a form of social struggle. In “Make it Work For You: Academia and Political Organizing in Lesbian and Gay Communities,” Maxine Wolfe describes some of the research process of ACT UP: In the four year ACT UP campaign that changed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) definition of AIDS, ACT UP women, working with others, wrote lots of critiques of the existing system and continual critiques everytime the CDC made one of its inadequate proposals... But the basis for the campaign had come from working with infected women who described the infections they had but were OCCUPY THE UNIVERSITY: RECONSIDERING THE LOCAL


never mentioned by the CDC.9

Here we can see a clear example of how research-based activism can address the needs of the community of HIV positive people. ACT UP had access to knowledge arising from their connections with the community of HIV positive people and their work challenged and eventually changed the official CDC definitions of AIDS. This can be seen as an example of the kind of hybrid political action/artistic practice/research the *particle group* describes in their call for a Science of the Oppressed. Wolfe goes on to describe the way that the Direct Action movement of ACT UP acted as a kind of laboratory, generating new hypotheses and then experimenting with them in the streets: People who do grassroots, unpaid political work talk about and discuss political issues and world ideas continually, as we are acting to change a world that would like to see us die or disappear. We have to have an analysis to do what we do. And, we have to know a lot —from how government operates to how long traffic will be backed up if we block it; from constitutional rights to the politics of the Irish community; from how institutions operate to how to make a chant people will remember; from where to buy an air horn to how to design research trials; from right-wing theory to left-wing theory. We are constantly analyzing our successes and failures and having to come up with something based on the outcome -- something we can act on again. It is intellectually challenging work of the most creative sort.10

Wolfe describes here the complex feedback loop involved in social struggle. Political struggles are in themselves a form of knowledge production where social actors form ideas about contemporary society, power, and social change and then test those ideas out in the street. ACT UP is one example, which included a complex interweaving of strategies including art, politics and knowledge production. Their mission statement says, “We protest and demonstrate; we meet with government officials and public health officials; we research and distribute the latest medical information; we are not silent.”11 While ACT UP is an art and activism group concerned with changing the way that bureaucracies such as the CDC work to distribute AIDS 66


medication, their strategy for doing so is one of direct action and knowledge production, questioning the structures of medical authority and science itself by engaging in their own medical research. Similarly, the later projects by Critical Art Ensemble bring the public into the practice of science through public demonstrations and performances in both GenTerra and Free Range Grain.12 GenTerra was a series of public performances involving a machine, which would release a harmless genetically modified bacteria, aimed at informing the public about genetic engineering.13 Free Range Grain also involved public demonstrations in which food could be tested for genetic modification in a mobile laboratory. These projects attempt to shift the public understanding of genetic engineering by inviting the public into a realm of knowledge production from which it has been excluded. They attempt to shift the conditions in which scientific knowledge is presented to the public by the public relations division of corporations, such as Monsanto. I see Science of the Oppressed in this trajectory, of questioning and reinventing the very conditions of knowledge production and science, asking under what logics it should operate. Our own university is a good example of the need for such a Science of the Oppressed. Currently a heated debate is occurring between the administration of the University of California, San Diego and the students and faculty over evidence of an on-campus “cancer cluster.” More than eight cases of breast cancer, two resulting in deaths, occurred in women working in UCSD’s literature building. A study was commissioned by the Chancellor’s office in response to Literature faculty requests. The study by UCSD epidemiologist Dr. Cedric Garland found that “women who worked in the Literature building had a roughly four- to five-times greater chance of developing breast cancer than if they didn’t work in the building.”14 The report ruled out potential causes, such as the domestic water supply, radioactive chemicals, mold and exposure to carcinogens. Garland did, however, suggest that there could be a link between the cancer cluster and the building’s electrical and elevator systems.15 As a result, the only response from the administration has been to shut down the elevator in the building. Students and faculty want to be moved into a new building. However, the university has commissioned a new study and is waiting on results from this study before taking action. The crux of the issue is a question of knowledge—knowing what the cause of the OCCUPY THE UNIVERSITY: RECONSIDERING THE LOCAL


cancer is—and the university’s reluctance to accept blame and to act. In this case, a community research initiative seems necessary. Discussions online have claimed that there were four more cases in the late nineties.16 This is clearly a situation where the institution conducting the research is heavily invested in a particular outcome and a community based factfinding project could be incredibly valuable. In the short term, it is clear to me that no one should have to work in this building. Yet in the long term, a feminist community based research project could help to overcome the university’s bias in the case as well as to consider the fact that the cancer has only affected women. The cancer cluster leads me to ask why the UCSD Visual Arts department’s discussions about Public Culture are not focused on a more local context and on considering the issue of building construction at UCSD, its health effects and the accountability for such decisions. In a recent issue of e-flux, Tom Holert critiques university institutional structures, which shape art into a type of knowledge production, pointing out that “for applications and project proposals to be steered through university research committees, they have to be upgraded and shaped in such a way that their claims to the originality of knowledge (and thus their academic legitimacy) become transparent, accountable, and justified.”17 Holert quotes Simon Sheikh as saying: The notion of knowledge production implies a certain placement of thinking, of ideas, within the present knowledge economy, i.e. the dematerialized production of current post-Fordist capitalism; and goes on to add that the repercussions of such a placement within art and art education can be described as an increase in ‘standardization,’ ‘measurability,’ and ‘the molding of artistic work into the formats of learning and research.’18

Perhaps, though, this university based knowledge production can be utilized and turned around in the mode of Science of the Oppressed to use the university’s own structures to investigate and undermine it, as in the case of the UCSD literature building. Other university occupations provide interesting examples of such a strategy. Holert cites the 1968 student occupation of the Hornsey College of Art as an early inspiration of the introduction of knowledge production into art education. The 68


documents from the occupation state that “research activity must also deal with the educational process itself... it must be the critical self-consciousness of the system, continuing permanently the work started here in the last weeks [June, July 1968]. Nothing condemns the old regime more radically than the minor, precarious part research played in it. It is intolerable that research should be seen as a luxury, or a rare privilege.”19 Perhaps these drives for critical research can be realized by combining a drive for knowledge production with a concern for socially responsible art, at times referred to as Public Culture. Perhaps an occupation of the UCSD campus is precisely the gesture, which could create the space for such a public laboratory of knowledge production to occur, as in the case of Hornsey, and could illuminate the types of local engagement brought forth in this discussion in order to produce some answers about the literature building. Looking closely at the wave of recent student occupations, from the Athens Polytechnic University in Greece to the New School for Social Research to NYU [New York University] to Helsinki University, one can see a deep reconsideration of local action and social engagement in a university setting. In the essay “Preoccupied – The Logic of Occupation,” written and distributed as a photocopied zine, the occupiers of the New School wrote: The university shall never again be merely the lukewarm appendage to civil society that our (hypo)critical theorists so highly acclaim; rather, as our friends in Greece have shown, the university can also be an appendage to civil war, a space in which impenetrable bodies and inflammable knowledges can conspire towards the dissolution of their very condition, that is, separation. Yet it is exactly that sharing between life and thought that is preemptively banned from the territories marked under the sign “university”. Such territories betray their innocence not only in their concrete unfolding, but in their very name. There is nothing “universal” about the university anymore except the universality of emptiness. Students and professors spend their waking lives covering up this void with paltry declarations and predictable nonactions. The void should no longer be avoided; it should be unleashed. Seceding from the university is no longer enough. One must bring it down as well.20

To even write this academic article for a journal about the need for an OCCUPY THE UNIVERSITY: RECONSIDERING THE LOCAL


occupation of our school seems futile, or somehow cowardly to me. To invoke the names of the brave students of NYU or of Greece in such an article feels to me somehow hypocritical, yet the very argument I am trying to make here is that knowledge production itself can be a transformative act, and that one must examine and acknowledge the structures in which we place ourselves, and our own complicity with the neoliberal economic system which is robbing the university of its possibility to be a space for transformation of self and of society. My hope is that the movement for action in response to the cancer cluster will grow and that this article may in some small way help that momentum, add to the resonance of discontent. In this paper I have described projects by artists which engage in knowledge production, direct action and questioning the structure of science, in collaboration with oppressed communities and existing social movements. I claim that by considering a more local form of action in the university, by more ardently striving to change the conditions under which we ourselves live, learn and create art, we might find many more strategies for local political engagement outside of local laws and housing associations. Yet doing so may endanger our very positions within the institutions that we are attempting to subvert, so one’s course of action must be carefully considered. Still, the urgency of the current issues being faced, such as the UCSD cancer cluster, the deaths of our own colleagues and friends, illustrate the serious need for a reconsideration of the stakes of local action and the effectiveness of current strategies.

Notes: 1. More information is at and profiles/blogs/the-university-in-crises [Accessed September 10, 2009]. 2. Donna Haraway, When Species Meet (Minneapolis, MI: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 88. 3. Ricardo Dominguez and Amy Sara Carroll, “Nanosferica,” Hermispheric Institute, http:// [Accessed March, 19, 2009]. 4. The *particle group* consists of Ricardo Dominguez, Amy Sara Carroll, Diane Ludin, 70


Nina Waisman, Marius Schebella, and a number of other collaborators. Electronic Disturbance Theater includes myself, Ricardo Dominguez, Brett Stalbaum, Carmin Karasic, Stefan Wray, Amy Sara Carrol and a number of other collaborators. 5. “Particle group opens at CAL NanoSystems Institute (CN(S)I) – Jan. 14th, 2009,” Particles of Interest, [Accessed March 19, 2009]. 6. Ricardo Dominquez, “[-empyre-] nanoGeoPolitica/Poetica/Pelicula – fabricating with minor scales,” html [Accessed March 19, 2009]. 7. Regine, “Situation Room,” We Make Money Not Art Blog, [Accessed March 19, 2009]. 8. Ibid. 9. Maxine Wolfe, “Make it Work For You: Academia and Political Organizing in Lesbian and Gay Communities,” [Accessed March 19, 2009]. 10. Ibid. 11. Mark Harrington, “AIDS Activists and People with AIDS,” Tactical Biopolitics: Art, Activisim, and Technoscience, ed. Beatriz da Costa and Kavita Philip, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, c2008) 326. 12. “Critical Art Ensemble,” [Accessed March 19, 2009]. 13. Critical Art Ensemble, “Project Links,” [Accessed March 19, 2009]. 14. Amanda Ripley, “Cancer cluster at UCSD,” San Diego CityBeat, http://www.sdcitybeat. com/cms/story/detail/cancer_cluster_at_ucsd/7774/ [Accessed March 19, 2009]. 15. Ibid. 16. David Harvey, “Lit. Community Reacts to Cancer Cluster, Calls for Action,” The Guardian, [Accessed March 19, 2009]. 17. Tom Holert, “Art in the Knowledge-based Polis,” e-flux Journal, http://www.e-flux. com/journal/view/40#_ednref9 [Accessed March 19, 2009]. 18. Ibid. 19. Ibid. OCCUPY THE UNIVERSITY: RECONSIDERING THE LOCAL


Sprawltilage La Jolla Village Drive is 2.6 miles long and defines the southern border of the UCSD campus. It extends, east to west, from the end of Miramar Road as it crosses interstate 805, until it becomes North Torrey Pines Road at the southwest corner of the UCSD campus. The road is 3 eastbound and 3 westbound lanes at its narrowest, and bifurcates what is know as UTC (short for University Towne Center, after the central mall that was completed in 1976), UTC/La Jolla (as addresses in this area are listed as “La Jolla”), North University City by residents of the earlierdeveloped “University City” south of Rose Canyon, and as the “Golden Triangle” by radio traffic anchors as the territory defined by the intersections of I-5, I-805 and SR-52. An un-cited source on Wikipedia describes the demographics of the area as, “Young professionals, college graduates and university students. Also, more of the population of North UC rent rather than own their homes. There are several university-owned off-campus housing projects for graduate students.” The University City Community Association was founded in 1984, amid “high density fears” caused by new housing developments in North UC, according to the association’s website. On August 1st, 2003, a fire was started at a 200-residential-unit construction site on the corner of La Jolla Village Dr and Towne Center Drive. The conflagration burned hot enough to shatter windows in neighboring developments and necessitate their evacuation. It caused some $50 million in damages, including toppling a 100-foot crane. A large banner was found near the fire that read, “If You Build It, We Will Burn It” along with the acronym “E.L.F.”, for Earth Liberation Front. Among other slogans found at arson sites that E.L.F. has claimed responsibility for, “Stop Sprawl” is common. In April 2009, I walked the length of La Jolla Village drive along its south and north sides. I photographed every buffer space between the sidewalk / street and private property. These spaces most commonly contain well-manicured lawns, decorative gardens, security hedges, grasses, weeds, and invasive cover plants. They are often the byproduct of setbacks required by code as buildings interface with roads designed to accommodate high-speed automobile traffic. Chuck Miller, September 2009



pros* journal issue zero  

Creative Agency and the Public Good

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