Madrid | AGO13 | actions to solve urban problems
A pesar del fraude generalizado del contenido de la Bienal:
Cathy Lang Ho
Comisaria del pabellón de E.E.U.U. en la Bienal de Venecia de 2012
“In researching projects for the exhibition, we found hundreds of examples even before we issued an open call in january, which itself yielded over 450 compelling self-initiated urban improvements. We narrowed our choice to 124—the maximum number we could fit in the 4,000-square-foot permanent american pavilion in the Giardini, the public gardens of Venice—though we wish we could have included many more. We were expansive in our consideration of what qualifies as a ‘spontaneous intervention‘, including projects that encroach on the territory of art and graffiti, well aware that some acts are more about self-expression than tactics for long-term change. Our goal was to find a diversity of original projects that transform public urban space to better serve the common good, seeking those that would add up to a useful archive of actionable strategies that could be replicated in other cities facing similar problems.
The notion of the “common good” is mutable and subjective, to be sure—what’s good for some might not be for others—but in selecting projects we adhered to the idea of what is beneficial to the most people with respect to everyday needs. New bike lanes in NYC might irk drivers; guerrilla gardeners might be annoying squatters to property owners; culture-jamming billboard pranks might be classifiable as vandalism; and all of these acts might be gentrification by another name. But we believe that the positive impacts of our featured examples of hands-on city-making far outweigh the negative. More appropriate than considering these works with respect to how they address the “common good” is how they address the “commons,” the space and resources we share, harkening to the originary political conception of the “common wealth,” or public wealth, and how it should be administered. The commons have been under assault for centuries, but intensely so since the dawn of industrialism with the extreme privatization and pillaging of land and natural resources combined with the sad mismanagement by our entrusted public entities of our public spaces, parks, infrastructure, schools, and other shared assets. The word “commons” suggests medieval laws involving free-grazing animals and the right to forage in forests, but we can’t forget that it remains central to our everyday lives, from the water running through our taps to the streets that get us where we need to go. With the commons so threatened, so in disrepair, is it any wonder that “commoners” feel compelled to step in? Spontaneous interventions embody innumerable ways of rethinking our collective well-being, both physical and emotional.”