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Graffiti and Street Art, Reviewed by Julia Tulke

 

Avramidis, Konstantinos, and Myrto Tsilimpounidi, eds.Graffiti and Street Art: Reading, Writing and Representing the City. London and New York: Routledge, 2017. 281 pp. ISBN: 9781472473332.

Key words: Street Art, Graffiti, Space, Urban Studies

Gesturing towards the critical potentialities of an emergent field still largely “in search of academic legitimacy” (Ross et al. 2017), the essay collection Graffiti and Street Art: Reading, Writing and Representing the City, edited by architect Kostantinos Avramidis and sociologist Myrto Tsilimpounidi marks a timely intervention into the field of street art and graffiti scholarship. Comprised of fifteen contributions with disciplinary attachments to not just architecture and sociology, but also anthropology, urban geography, and criminology, the volume posits itself as “a testament to the multiple ways by which graffiti and street art have changed our ways of seeing, knowing and representing urban environments” (1). Crucially, the authors of the volume treat their objects of study—graffiti and street art—not as a static ontological field but rather as dynamic epistemological devices that allow them to examine the “poetic relationship between graffiti, social conditions, and public space” (3). In a similar manner, instead of imposing a set of framing definitions onto the reader, the editors allow multiple conceptual approaches to street art and graffiti to circulate throughout the volume alongside one another. It is precisely this strategic openness that makes Graffiti and Street Art such a productive and compelling resource.

In their introduction, the editors map out with exceptional clarity what they consider a “critical turn in street art and graffiti scholarship,” tracing the development of the field through four distinct historical phases. The first wave of scholarship—preceded only by Jean Baudrillard’s exceptional 1976 essay “Kool Killer, or the Insurrection of Signs”—is inaugurated in the early 1980s by communication scholar Craig Castleman’s “Getting Up: Subway Graffiti in New York.” Castleman and other authors publishing during this first phase focused on describing the cultural phenomenon of graffiti as an “expression of dissatisfied youth” (19) as it had emerged in US-American cities in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During the second wave of graffiti scholarship, stretching from the early 1990s to the early 2000s, authors turned towards more nuanced questions of “what graffiti does,  especially in relation to urban space” (19), while also steadily expanding the geographic scope of the field. Coinciding with the formation of street art as a genre, the third wave of scholarship brought forth a new commitment to context-considerate readings of both street art and graffiti. Authors also started to focus on the spatial politics of interventions into the visual landscape of the city in the context of the increasing militarization and commodification of public space. Graffiti and Street Art sees itself as part of a burgeoning fourth wave of graffiti and street art scholarship, aimed at destabilizing established ways of thinking, writing, and producing knowledge about how street art and graffiti function and circulate within complex and mobile material assemblages: “Prioritizing the visual, experiential and material along with the spatial and political, this volume aims to critically unpack the idiosyncrasies of our urban environments” (11).

The volume assumes a three-fold structure organized around different modes of engaging urban space through street art and graffiti. The first section, titledReading Graffiti, Street Art and the City, compiles contributions that “map, and critically reflect upon, the reactions that graffiti and street art invite” (13). Among them are several compelling chapters are written by established scholars in the field. Sociologist Jeff Ferrell, for instance, offers an account of the dialectical tensions that emerge from the contingent presence of street art and graffiti in the urban landscape, while criminologist Alison Young writes on the ambiguity surrounding legal conceptions of images in public space. Of particular interest is the contribution by urban geographer Kurt Iveson who prompts readers to rethink their assumptions about the relationship between authority and democracy vis-à-vis graffiti and street art. Self-authorized interventions into public space may be politically transgressive, but not always automatically transformative in a meaningful sense. He writes: “it is one thing to transgress the order of the city—it is another thing again to transform that order” (92). The most engaging entry in this section, however, comes from London-based architectural historian Sabina Andron, still a Ph.D. candidate at the time of writing her contribution. Her piece “Interviewing Walls: Towards a Method of Hybrid Surface Inscriptions” is distinctly inventive in that it introduces not only the new conceptual approach of hybrid surface inscriptions but also offers a corresponding methodology of photographic annotation. The term hybrid surface inscriptions is grounded in an approach that considers the totality of signs in public space—street art and graffiti, but also advertisement, as well as commercial and public signage—as “clusters of communication” (71) that form “complex urban palimpsests” (86). The potentials of reading the city through its hybrid surface inscriptions become particularly clear in the annotated photographs that accompany the piece, all of which were taken by the author in London (Figure 1). A kind of map of the city walls, these images illustrate how “[e]ach sign proves that a particular place is alive and inhabited, transforming surfaces into vigorous social spaces in contemporary cities” (81).

Writing Graffiti, Street Art and the City, the book’s second section, approaches graffiti and street art through its “aesthetics and styles, spatial tactics, language used, urban settings, materiality and locality” (15). It opens with Rafael Schacter’s exceptional essay “Street Art is a Period, PERIOD. Or, Classificatory Confusion and Intermural Art.” The anthropologist here posits that street art constitutes a distinct aesthetic period and scopic regime that was “operative, and crucially, innovational, between the years 1998 and 2008” (105). In the present moment, the practice of street art, at least in Europe and North America, has been distorted to become synonymous with large-scale murals (or neo-muralism) whose production relies on the technical apparatus of the street art festival. The placement of such works in urban landscapes is in turn fundamentally co-opted by the demands of the creative city, employed strategically to embed false notions of authenticity into space and catalyze the gentrification of neighbourhoods. Departing from this rehearsal of an argument already well established in the field, Schacter proposes the term Intermural Artto conceptualize contemporary practices that push against the boundaries of street art and graffiti, “occupying the vital space between the street and the studio, between the independent and the institutional; a practice occupying the spaces in between in disruptive, innovative, boundary-shifting ways” (111). What follows Schacter’s piece is a fascinating set of methodological and epistemological interventions, two of which stand out in particular. Architect Panos Leventis, writing on inscriptions along the UN buffer zone in the divided Cypriot city of Nicosia, pilots a narrative approach in which the urban landscape is not merely an object of analysis but also the site of embodied first-person encounters. Oscillating between description, analysis, photographs, and prose-like sections, his writing creates a polyphonic rhythm truly committed to capturing the contingent ambiance of everyday life in the city. Sociologist Mona Abaza, writing about the context of Cairene graffiti of the Egyptian revolution, probes important questions of ethics and accountability in street art and graffiti research. Having witnessed a heightened academic as well as journalistic interest in Cairene graffiti during and after the revolution of 2011, Abaza describes a hegemonically structured regime of knowledge production marked by the primacy of the Western gaze, the emergence of repetitive narratives, and researchers on the ground being relegated to the position of mere “service providers.”

The volume’s final section Representing Graffiti, Street Art and the City, examines “how, why, and with what impact graffiti, street art and the city are represented in media” (16). Spanning a broad range of approaches and contexts, the section includes two empirical case studies—one set in São Paulo, one in Ottawa—as well as a chapter devoted to a literary study, focusing on Arturo Pérez-Revertes El francotirador paciente [The Patient Sniper], a novel devoted to the fictional graffiti writer SNIPER emerging out of the streets of Madrid. Alongside them is a most notable piece by Lachlan MacDowall. Titled “#Instafame: Aesthetics, Audiences, Data” it traces the aesthetic and political implications of graffiti and street art’s current shift towards digitally mediated circuits of circulation and encounter. As artists have come to seek and achieve fame—graffiti lingo for (peer) recognition—increasingly through social network interfaces, MacDowall urges researchers of contemporary graffiti and street art to recalibrate their notion of “the street” accordingly, treating it as both a “backdrop for the production of digital content and a site of globally connected political action” (232). Moving from the conceptual towards the empirical, he goes on to analyze a specific dataset consisting of the 100 most followed graffiti and street art accounts on the popular photo-sharing platform Instagram, assembled and coded manually by the author. Analyzing the distribution of formal attachments, gender, and other aspects, MacDowall demonstrates how the configuration of contemporary street art and graffiti cultures is reflected and shaped by the platform. This account of what is ostensibly the future direction of both the study and practice of graffiti and street art would have made for a meaningful closing chapter for the volume. Instead, the editors reserve the last pages of the book for a contribution that turns towards a historical point of origin: “one of the most enduring and least understood aspects of graffiti writing, namely the tag” (265). Sociologist Gregory J. Snyder makes a persuasive argument to recuperate the tag from its marginalized position within graffiti and street art scholarship, and to foster an appreciation for its innovative and aesthetic capacities. “Long live the Tag” (272), the last sentence of the book, stands as a testament to the editors’ deep commitment to a lateral engagement with graffiti and street art, as well as a careful decentering of teleological narratives, hegemonic discourses, and regimes of knowledge production—contours of the critical futures of the field.

Reviewed by Julia Tulke, University of Rochester, NY

References

Ross, Jeffrey Ian, Peter Bengtsen, John F. Lennon, Susan Phillips, and Jacqueline Z. Wilson. “In search of academic legitimacy: The current state of scholarship on graffiti and street art.” The Social Science Journal 54 (2017): 411-19.

Down-Market Walkability

Down-Market Walkability

by, Jim Morrow

The idea of a walkable city is quite popular. As the argument goes, life is better if people go for a walk. Medical scholars say that walking improves mental and physical health. Social research shows that people who regularly walk are less likely to be lonely than those who are home- or carbound. Environmental analyses make it clear that any reduction in car travel will make urban spaces safer and more sustainable. Plus economic reports suggest that businesses in walkable neighbourhoods do well in terms of sales and tax revenue.

In Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, Jeff Speck calls walking an ends and means. As he explains, ‘walkability contributes to urban vitality and [is] most meaningful as an indicator or urban vitality’. Simply put, a city that entices people to get out and walk is ‘more liveable and more successful’.

Speck and others who promote walkability have carefully crafted an image of a city that is intelligent and creative. It is a place where locals stop-by their favourite cafe for an iced latte or make a quick trip to the farmer’s market. But this is an image that neglects the fact that, for many people, walking is a cheerless, sometimes grim part of everyday life.

A lot of people who come from working-class and low-income neighbourhoods have no choice but to walk. Usually, they have to hit the pavement for economic reasons, such as a lack of funds to own or maintain a car. And others travel by foot as a way to cover the last mile between public transit and where they need to go, whether that be work, school, or the grocery store.

An example of unplanned, down-market walkability is Rochester, New York, where 26% of households do not have access to a vehicle. For those who are promoting walkability that number is an almost ideal goal for a sustainable neighbourhood. Yet, in Rochester, it means that a quarter number of its residents are forced to walk to get to transit and beyond.

The carless neighbourhoods in Rochester do not fit the idealized image of what is supposed to be walkable. For example, they are much more likely to have restaurants that serve fast food than the latest farm-fresh trend. Nor are they likely to have full-service grocery stores or shops that sell anything more than the barest of necessities.

Another example of down-market walkability is located in the industrial estates and business parks of Edmonton, Alberta. In these overlooked spaces, there are dirt paths that cut from bus shelters along highways, through brownfields and across drainage ditches. Some urbanists call these ‘desire lines’, and they form an unplanned trail system that winds between transit stops, job sites and convenience stores.

Desire lines never appear on planners’ reports and developers’ renderings. And their existence is proof that walkability is an afterthought in spaces that are conventionally working-class. Likewise, this is a problem because it shows that those who promote walkability either neglect to study down-market spaces or are too focused on areas where residents have the luxury of choosing to walk.

There is nothing wrong with the idea of walkability. It is a noble objective that can change urban living. But, in practice, it has to take into account working-class people and low-income neighbourhoods. After all, they are the people who are most likely to walk to work and it may well be their neighbourhoods that are undergoing revitalization.

In order for walkability to fully contribute to urban vitality, planners have to recognize that walking is not a lifestyle choice. More specifically, there are immediate gains and successes to be had in working-class neighbourhoods, where up to a quarter of residents already walk. Otherwise, if planners only focus on up-market spaces, their successes in improving health, togetherness, sustainability, and economic growth will only benefit a small, self-selected segment of a city’s population.

 

Poisoning places

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon draws attention to the effects of chemical weapons on places.  He writes in The Guardian about the March 2018 nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter that affected many others:

What if the Salisbury attack had taken place in a mega city like Sydney? Let’s say for a start the Central Business District is cordoned and unusable for six months. Millions terrified to go into the city and a 35% reduction in business takings, with millions of tourists avoiding visiting.

The World Heritage site Stonehenge is a few miles from Salisbury, visited by millions each year, but most have been avoiding Salisbury. For Stonehenge, read the Opera House. Sydney very nearly saw a chemical attack last year when UK and Australian security services interdicted jihadists trying to use hydrogen sulphide as a weapon on crowds and jet aircraft.

Geographers and epidemiologists have considered “junctural zones” of contact with contagious diseases during the spread of epidemics.  However, the urban aspects of chemical weapons have not been well analyzed and their persistence (Novichok for example is highly persistent in the environment) has not been taken into account for the way that chemical weapons victimize and poison places as well as communities and individuals.  Introducing such toxins into a local environment weaponizes place against selected species.  Place or material objects are not just vectors but need to be understood as part of the lethal apparatus.

Rob Shields (University of Alberta)

The Question of Space: Interrogating the Spatial Turn between Disciplines. Book Review by Rishika Mukhopadhyay

The Question of Space: Interrogating the Spatial Turn between Disciplines
Edited by Marijn Nieuwenhuis and David Crouch
Part of the series Place, Memory, Affect
Rowman and Littlefield: 2017

The book, ‘Question of Space’ is a refreshing inquiry into the spatial turn that goes beyond disciplinary boundary. The editors have introduced the book through a prelude rather than a conventional introduction and ended it with a postlude. The use of a prelude and postlude is to establish the playful and fluid nature of ten innovative book chapters written by authors coming from different disciplinary backgrounds. Started off as an accidental book project, the book disrupts the hierarchies of knowledge, and disciplinary enshrinement regarding the subject nature of space. The book unravels the ‘different ways of ‘knowing’ space’ (P: X) and teases out, how spatial thinking, which is often implicit in our practice, process, and writing, is already embedded in our understanding of worlding. Influenced by French thinkers, they envisage ‘space as a practice (‘spacing’)rather than a noun (‘space’)’ (P: XI). Here, space is conceptualized as relational and subjective (following Massey, 2005, 1993). It is also expressed through difference (following Derrida, 2004: 337)and as folds (following Deleuze and Guattari in Doel, 1996: 436).

The prelude acts as a short introductory text for any beginners, new to spatial thought. Here the evolution of spatial thinking in Human Geography as well as in Anthropology, Sociology, Dance and Performance Studies are concisely elucidated. Readers can see the trajectory of spatial thought from Walter Christaller’ Central Place theory in 1933 where space was measured in positivist terms, through law and distance from centre, to its recent manifestation in literary geographies. The milestones of this journey are demonstrated by David Harvey’s Marxist understanding of inequality and justice in city-space, to Humanistic school of thought’s spatial understanding based on the philosophy of existentialism and phenomenology. It also addresses Foucault’s theorization of everyday spaces of power and Lefebvre’s representational spaces. Thrift’s non-representational spaces focusing affective and performative spaces are also eloquently explained in relation to space and geography.

However, the inclusion of creative geographies, where space is innovatively reinvigorated, and feminist geographies, which challenges the hierarchies of spaces through the tropes of violence, safety, and access would have added another rich and essential layer to the analysis. Although the authors give a cursory glance at Haraway’s (1988)work, this is missing from the introduction.

The editors have given particular attention to Tim Ingold and Edward Casey’s scholarly work in anthropology, Sociologist John Urry’s work regarding the nuanced nature of Place and Space debate, and Ian Sinclair’s work involving memory, mapping, and language. New entanglement of humanities and space is also touched upon through the new journal of Geohumanities and Literary Geographies. In these discussions, the editors give reference how individual research chapters in the book have been influenced, referred, challenged, and in some cases reinvented these theoretical strands.

The first chapter by David Crouch takes an unusual combination of allotment garden and painting, to challenge the elitist nature of landscape studies. In a community allotment garden, space is intimately performed and experienced through multiple practices, affectivities, meanings, and values. In this chapter, artist Peter Lanyon’s work shows how human and non-human affective atmosphere commingles through memory and space making. He borrows from the theoretical canon of Deleuze and Guattari and Massey to explain this fairly complex occurrence of space, which is relational, multiple, abstract, political, embodied, and many more.

The second chapter by Awelani Moyo shows a unique blend of theoretically rich and ethnographically sound analysis of landscape both in and as performance. Through a study of Cape Town’s Infecting the City(ITC) festival in 2009, and through a homeless coloured woman’s transgressive figure, she has dealt with difficult questions of identity, belonging, citizenship, and mapping the cityscape. She merges Lefebvre’s concept of lived and conceived spaces with Tim Ingold’s work on landscape and dwelling to establish geography as an epistemic category which makes the public space inclusionary/ exclusionary.

George Revil’s chapter on sonic spatiality touches a rarely explored area of theorizing spatiality of voice/sound in social and cultural theory. He draws in materials from scholars working in interdisciplinary sound studies to argue for a mediated, embodied, and experiential understanding of space. He mentions how phenomenological approach by anthropologist and media theorist Carpenter and McLuhan in recognizing materiality of acoustic spaces can be influential. The work of Deleuze, Serres, Nancy, and Lefebvre in spatializing properties of sound and rhythm, Bor and LaBelle’s formulation on sonic mediation made the field of ‘vocalic space’ dynamic and imaginative.

Zivkovic’s chapter on the work of feminist and literary scholar bell hooks, as an affective spatial thinker, powerfully addresses the prelude’s lack of attention towards gender and space. She rightly points out that, for the majority of books on space, gender comes as an ‘afterthought or add-on’ (P: 63). Hook’s scathing critique of white feminist theorization, infused with her censure for imperialist capitalism, draws intimate and personal evocations around space. Her writing, much like taking a memory walk in her hometown of rural southern United States, unpacks the politics of location, aesthetics, belonging, and home in a nuanced way. The essay draws attention to Virginia Woolf and Sarah Ahmed, in relation to hook’s writing, which exemplifies a passionate and subjective politics. These works challenge boundaries, ask questions about spatial ownership, and retheorize ‘look’ and ‘wonder’ as methodological praxis.

Ghraowi’s chapter deftly deals with the subject of trauma, memory, and space through a literary reading of Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani’s novella ‘Returning to Haifa’. He brings together Freudian psychoanalysis, Bachelard’s poetics of space, Lefebvre’s lived space and rhythmanalysis to express the hypocrisy in humanitarian aid, use of testimony to justify psychiatric victim analysis, eradication of Palestinian subjecthood, and the blurring of past and present in the war-ridden city. The protagonist’s narrative experience, which binds these threads together, at times seems too ambitious but does shed light on these difficult conceptual terrains.

Watanabe’s chapter challenging the western epistemological idea of space and place makes the book truly attentive to the decolonization of knowledge. It is stimulating to see a completely inverted theorization of place by Japanese philosopher Nishida, as ‘nothingness, boundless and therefore universal and encompassing all spaces’ (P: 97). In the dominant academic norm where Western continental thinkers produce theory, and Eastern thought is noted as insignificant ‘experience’, ‘anomaly’ or ‘aberration’, Nisida’s ontology of becoming, barring its allegiance towards Japanese aggression on other Asian countries during the Second World War, requires serious attention from western scholars.

The chapter by Nieuwenhuis takes up the concept of territory in the discipline of International Relations. He questions how we have rationalized black lines on white paper as territories. The chapter grapples with the material basis of territory in relation to the formulation of State, its judiciary, and governance. He asserts, how our ‘cartographic gaze’ has established a connection between line, territory, and State saying ‘without lines there is no territory and without territory there can be no state’ (P: 119). But what happens when we think about territory beyond its horizontal spread but more in terms of its verticality? Can we envisage a relationship which is more ‘abstract, conceptual and ideal’ (P: 119)?

Belibou’s chapter on the materiality of internet cartography and emergence of a twinned reality or ’hyperreal’ nature of virtual, is a very timely piece during the moment of Geography’s digital turn. He tries to map internet through Google maps, as well as the through ‘darknet’, with its most popular browser The Onion Router. The chapter in its succinct way of writing highlights the reconfiguration of the conceptual domain of space and place in creating ‘neogeography’ with theoretical insights from Casey and Malpas.

Conway ventures to illustrate a quite familiar topic in geography, the relationality of space through the motif of films. His illustrious yet illusive writing style with short sections of philosophical underpinning gives spatial thought a textual reflexion.

The last chapter of the book breaks all conventional writing style where Earth exercises her Geo Agency and speaks directly to the geographers through a letter. Author Martin Gren takes the reader through geographies different historical traditions to remind the discipline to be more responsible in the era of Anthropocene.

Overall, the book effectively ushers towards an ontology of space, where space is a discipline in its own right. The way it brings together spatial thought in social sciences and humanities, it calls for a post-disciplinary perspective. It is a compelling read, gives voice to diverse writing styles, thematic genres, and analytical lenses that bring space fully into our epistemology.

Book Review by: Rishika Mukhopadhyay, University of Exeter.

Works Cited:

Derrida, Jacques. 2004. “Semiology and Grammatology”.” In Literary Theory: An Anthology, edited by Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, 332–39. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Doel, Marcus A. 1996. “A Hundred Thousand Lines of Flight: A Machinic Introduction to the Nomad Thought and Scrumpled Geography of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space14 (4): 421–39. https://doi.org/10.1068/d140421.

Haraway, Donna. 1988. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Feminist Studies14 (3): 575–99. https://doi.org/10.2307/3178066.

Massey, Doreen. 1993. “Power-Geometry and a Progressive Sense of Place.” In Mapping the Futures : Local Cultures, Global Changes, edited by John Bird, Barry Curtis, Tim Putnam, and Lisa Tickner. New York: Routledge.

———. 2005. For Space. London: SAGE Publications.

 

 

Ethno-Architecture and the Politics of Migration. Book review by Gerhard Schönhofer

Lozanovska, Mirjana (ed.) (2016): Ethno-Architecture and the Politics of Migration. London/New York: Routledge.

With a background of more than thirty years in teaching architectural theory and design, Mirjana Lozanovska – Associate Professor at the School of Architecture and Built Environment at Deakin University, Australia – offers a collection of contributions from a wide field of disciplines such as geography, anthropology, environmental studies, history, sociology and of course architecture towards a deeper understanding of what Lozanoska labels as ethno-architecture. In the introductory chapter, she defines ethno-architecture as recognizing “ethnicity as a signifying marker in the context of globalizing processes of aesthetic taste, design and construction” (Lozanovska 2016: 4).

Instead of on conceptions of migration and integration that strongly rely on nation-state paradigms and assimilation into pre-existing sociocultural contexts, this edited volume aims to offer different perspectives on place-making, global networks, remittances spatial orders and materiality with a strong focus on interdisciplinarity, always drawing from the relation between migration and architecture. Considering architecture as an identity-category and not merely as material or aesthetic manifestation of housing practices is another aim stated by Lozanovska. Central questions of this volume focus on issues such as defining architecture when looked at through the lens of migration, or examining the kind of field one encounters when thinking architecture and migration together.

The volume is divided into three main sections, each featuring four chapters by different contributors. Notwithstanding the variety of methods and disciplinary diversity, the overall narrative and order of the contributions do offer a clear line of argumentation and epistemology. Starting from ethnographic fieldwork, photo-analysis, discourse analysis to qualitative and quantitative methods such as (semi-)structured interviews, this multi-disciplinary collection offers an equally varied selection of methodological approaches. Yet the assignment of the chapters to each section does not appear fully comprehensible, especially concerning section 1 and 3 – “Ethno-landscapes of migration” and “Temporalities of migrant constructions”.The reason for this may be found in the fluid boundaries between both sections and their guiding motives.

As stated in the introduction of her volume, Mirjana Lozanovska aims to take a poststructuralist approach towards ethno-architecture and identity construction. By rejecting a methodological nationalism, and by looking at migration as a global phenomenon, the typical host-guest paradigm with assimilation of the guest into the host-society as the overall aim of integration shall be overcome. As the different contributions focus on a wide range of varying regional and geographical contexts, migration flows towards cities and peripheral areas as well as cultural practices in connection with ethno-architecture, it may appear equivocal for the reader to end up at Lozanoska’s conclusions: Ethno-architecture should be understood as a “compelling evidence that these structures are neither temporary nor transient, nor that their migrant inhabitants, adaptors and makers lack belonging” (Lozanovska 2016: 217).

As Ayona Datta shows in her contribution “’Where is the global city?’ – Visual narratives of London among East European migrants” (chapter 1), the visual representations of the migratory experience in London produced by the subjects of her research mainly show disillusionment of migration, that is “produced from particular physical landscapes of the earlier ‘desired’ city […]” (Datta 2016: 17). Also chapter 3, “Indian-American landscapes in Queens, New York – Ethnic tension and place making” by John W. Frazier reaches contradictory conclusions on e.g. how “place remaking by ethnic groups incites protests from existing residents” (Frazier 2016: 43). Also the abandonment of existing plans for building so-called Indonesian villages in different parts of the Netherlands for the Indischcommunity of mixed Dutch and Indonesian origin due to a lack of financial investments, which Marcel Velinga has dealt with in chapter 8 “A comfortable home – Architecture, migration and old age in the Netherlands”, does offer a different perspective on place-making, belonging, architecture and migration – a perspective different to the one Lozanovska conveys in her conclusion. The multiple settings of each case study – e.g. urban and rural settings, which can differ significantly, as several contributions have shown – are also contributing to a somewhat very extended set of conclusions one could be confronted with.

All in all, this anthology offers a comprehensive overview of a wide range of topics connected to place-making, migration, urban landscapes, ethnicity and housing, as well as temporality and space. The selection of contributions definitely meets the variety of aspects that could be dealt with in the context of the overall topic of ethno-architecture and migration. The entire book is written in a well understandable and accessible language which guarantees that also non-native English speakers can make use of the contents for their work. Scholars from a wide range of fields – not only from architecture or migration studies – may gain profitable insights for topics such as globalization, remittances, the public sphere, security & surveillance, everyday life, materiality & the home, cuisine and multiculturalism in general.

Gerhard Schönhofer, KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt

How little you know about me, Seoul Korea. Exhibition Review by Jeongwon Gim

From the beginning of this year until now, South Korea has received significant global attention with their current events such as Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and renewed dialogue with North Korea. Acknowledging this urge to blur territorial and cultural boundaries, there seems to be an increased tendency in Korea to promote social and cultural activities that help citizens re-think the concept of “boundary.”

Within this changing context, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) Seoul is currently holding exhibition <How Little You Know About Me> as the first project of MMCA’s 2018-19 exhibition series about the keyword ‘Asia’. The exhibition explores the new ways of understanding and re-imagining ‘Asia’ through which enable us to develop new perspectives of perceiving the world.

– Dates: Apr. 7th, 2018- Jul. 8th, 2018
– Venue: National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul
– Artists: 15 Artists/ Teams, around 20pieces
– Curated by: Joowon Park

Yogesh Barve, 2018 | National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA)

Yogesh Barve, 2018 | National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA)

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA)
MAP office, 2018 | National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA)
MAP office, 2018 | National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA)
MAP office, 2018 | National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA)
MAP office, 2018 | National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA)
MAP office, 2018 | National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA)

Jeongwon Gim (University of Alberta)

Media, Religion and Gender: Key Issues and New Challenges – Book Review by Nadine Suliman Abdelrahman

 Egyptian army soldiers arrest a female protester during clashes at Tahrir Square in Cairo on Dec. 17. Stringer/Reuters/Landov
Image of “the girl in the blue bra”; a prominent picture from the Egyptian revolution in 2011, referenced in page 1 of the book. Tahrir Square, Cairo. Dec. 17 2011 (Stringer/Reuters/Landov) Click to link to video.

Mia Lövheim Media, Religion and Gender: Key Issues and New Challenges (London Routledge 2013)

Dominant religious institutions have, historically, had strict normative boundaries, especially when it relates to gender. Technology and globalization, through the media, may have instilled what would be referred to as “unorthodox” religious views and perspectives on gender and its preexisting constructs. Focusing my argument on Islam, present day media outlets have certainly impacted the voices of different genders and potentially their roles, creating a “modern Islam” that is better adapted with the world and views from around the world. It is worth noting, however, that the media has consecutively created wider space and reach for religious authority and political religious authority, as will be elaborated further in this book review. Capturing such opposing roles the media plays relative to gender and religion remains a challenge.

One of few books that relate media, gender and religion while taking into account social constructs on sex/ gender similar to Butler’s1 concepts of regulatory materialization of gender and gender performativity, Mia Lovheim’s “Media, Religion and Gender” can be considered a breakthrough across several distinct but overlapping fields. Drawing on historical concepts and theories, the book is an attempt to bring third wave feminism and gender into front centre of its research that is rooted in academia yet based on participatory and reflexive research. This book had an overarching goal of challenging research gaps on the interrelations between gender and its cultural/ societal constructs, religion and the media. Contributors to the book covered a wide range of topics including theoretical perspectives as well as more detailed case studies of different religious views in the media; drawing on examples from various parts of the world.

Continue reading Media, Religion and Gender: Key Issues and New Challenges – Book Review by Nadine Suliman Abdelrahman

Review: Violence in Place. Cultural and Environmental Wounding

Kearney, A. (2017). Violence in place, cultural and environmental wounding. New York, NY: Routledge

Violence in Place, Cultural and Environmental Wounding takes on a specific type of human-generated trauma: cultural wounding. Cultural wounding is the intentional harm and violence (physical and symbolic) against members of a culture, as well as their way of life. It is enacted from a motivation to destroy or damage beyond repair the past, present, and future of a culture. In this volume, Kearney specifically locates cultural wounding in place, where place is a “relational co-presence envisioned as a vital shaping element in human life” (p. 1). Using this definition, place is imbued with its own agency and even sentience. In moments of trauma and cultural wounding, place is not just the setting; it is witness, participant, and victim. Indigenous epistemologies of place are said to demonstrate this hyper-relativist perspective, and Kearney sets out to argue that, in the wake of colonialism and neo-liberalism, a return to a kincentric ecology of place is necessary rectify the Western dualism of nature and humanity.

Generally, Kearney’s goal is to present a conception of cultural trauma that relies on the actions and interactions of humans and place. More specifically, Kearney provides accounts of 15 years of ethnographic study with an indigenous group in Australia, Yanyuwa, to show how colonization destroyed the kinship between people and place. She uses these observations to develop a phenomenological approach to diagnosing “patterns of place harm” in order to “recognize their presence in contexts all over the world and track back from this awareness to examine the axiologies that support not only cultural wounding, but also its greater effects as violence and trauma in place” (p. 95). To avoid criticisms of romanticism or anthropomorphizing, Kearney sets out to develop a methodology informed by indigenous epistemologies and decolonizing principles, acknowledging our inability to ‘listen’ outside of its relationship to humanity. Place has its own emotional geography that humans within place can relate to and read, and Kearney claims that trauma narratives told in place carry more weight and offer more opportunities for understanding across culture because of this emotional geography.

Continue reading Review: Violence in Place. Cultural and Environmental Wounding

The Social Life of Infrastructure

On Friday, October 27, 2017 Dr. Rob Shields gave a talk on “The Social Life of Infrastructure” for the Space and Culture Research Group at the University of Alberta. Below is a brief description of Dr. Shield’s talk along with an audio recording.

What are the social effects of built infrastructure? Changing public interaction with civic infrastructure accumulates to changes in Canadian social forms. Infrastructure affects social integration, accessibility, and inclusiveness. Infrastructure choices affect the relations of core and periphery, and the exercise of sovereignty and Canadian values.

Listen to Dr. Shields’ talk here:

Podcast: Conserving the Future, Precipitate Ecologies and Architectures

On Sept 29, 2017 Dr. Paulina Mickiewicz gave a talk entitled “Conserving the Future, Precipitate Ecologies and Architectures” for the Space and Culture Research Group at the University of Alberta. Below is a brief description of Dr. Mickiewicz’s talk, some related links, and an audio recording.

What does it mean to archive nature? The growing unease about cetaceans and other species in captivity echoes our increasing unrest and mounting need to reintroduce “nature” back into our urbanized, industrialized, and technologized lives. This presentation will explore the increasingly complex relationships between conservation and preservation, media technologies, architectural design and the reconceptualization of the environment, and how these issues are bound up with states of saturation that inevitably (and materially) precipitate novel organizational and architectural responses.

Before listening to the talk, check out this New York Times article on the race to preserve nature and Shannon Mattern’s website on infrastructure, architecture, libraries, etc…

Canadian Utopianisms – Design from the 1967 centennial

Over the summer, Contemporary Gallery Calgary had a wonderful exhibition looking back 50 years to the futurism of late 60s designers who were commissioned to produce buildings for the Centennial of Canadian Confederation in 1967.  Architecture and National Identity: The Centennial Projects 50 Years On, curated by Marco Polo & Colin Ripley for Confederation Centre Art Gallery of Charlottetown is currently at Paul H. Cocker Gallery, 325 Church Street, Toronto until Nov. 10 2017.

C Gallery Calgary

Rob Shields (University of Alberta)

Review: City-Building in an Age of Hyper-Diversity

Lorinc, J. and Pitter, J. (Eds.). (2016). Subdivided: City-Building in an Age of Hyper-Diversity. Toronto: Coach House Books. ISBN: 9781552453322.

Subdivided: City-Building in an Age of Hyper-Diversity (2016) is a collection of essays taken from a varied source of contributors writing about their experiences of diversity living in Toronto edited by Jay Pitter and John Lorinc. The book attempts to unpack the municipal and national mantra of “diversity is our strength” by exposing the reader to a myriad of unique experiences and world views and complicate the narrative of Toronto as the most multicultural city in the world. As Pitter writes, the reality of hyper-diversity demands a recognition of “diversities within diversities within diversities” and of the intersectionalities of the identities associated which make up that diversity.

Subdivided: City-Building in an Age of Hyper-Diversity (Lorinc and Pitter, 2016)

Neither of the editors belong to the discipline or the profession of urban planner or have been involved in municipal governance, they are better described as city-builders: writers and activists that have invested personally and professionally in advancing progressive action in Toronto. Pitter has worked (and grew up in housing) with the Toronto Community Housing Corporation and both have written for publications such as Spacing and Walrus, among others. The rest of the contributors make up a diverse group of writers, urban planners, journalists, and lawyers among others.

With a narrative form and personal stories, Subdivided is aimed at a broad audience. While the inclusion of more theoretical and ideological language might distance some readers, the personal tone of the contributions anchors their stories in a very real and relatable way.

Although the stories shared in the book are very different, what they and the editors share is a desire to critique the current conception of diversity in Toronto and to explore the socioeconomic realities of the divisions separating those diverse groups. An interesting thread that the book picks is the universality of the impact upon these disparate groups relating to the changing economic realities of Toronto as housing prices skyrocket and government programs have been curtailed or abandoned completely. While reaching few conclusions, this exploration of the meaning of diversity in a changing economic and social context does accomplish its intended purpose – to start conversations. Exposing the reader to experiences of the “diverse” living at the margins of the popular and institutionally supported conception of Toronto’s diversity as a fait accompli (an attitude the transnationally wealthy in Toronto like to pat themselves on the back for), this anthology raises the question of what that attitude really means for those living that diversity without the power to challenge the accepted rhetoric.

Kieran Moran (University of Alberta)

Spatial Machinations

A shoutout to Sam Kinsley’s site Spatial Machinations.  Its reach across contemporary theory and global issues more than fulfills it ambitious mandate to chronicle and catalogue how media produce temporalities and spatialities.  Recent discussions of affect theory and geography, American military visions of cities as dystopic are typically engrossing and on point.   However, taking the time to archive a missed event – I just picked up “Paramatta”, so inferred its not only past  but was far away (suburban Sydney Australia), gives us not only an echo of an event but flags important insights such as the declining rate of innovation.

A typical gem of a post is the 2009 A Vision – Simon Armitage’: which draws on Simon Armitage‘s Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid a lyrical contrast between a found architect’s rendering and a bleak-looking photo of Thamesmead, a huge Brutalist housing project in SE London.

Thamesmead was the setting for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.  There is little online in photographs that capture the social life of the development.  Thamesmead seems stuck in black and white 60s and 70s, including the outstanding photography of George Plemper.

  Rob Shields (University of Alberta)

Rating the Walkability of cities

Walking is not only one of the most natural activities the human being is able and willing to do, but also an activity whose effects have a profound impact on the public sphere, specifically on urban development. Since urban population growth made cities spread out until they reached a non-human scale, people living in urban areas switched from walking to using automobiles in order to travel long distances in less time. Therefore, urban design became more car-oriented than people-oriented, resulting in a poor integration of public space and the functional ways in which people use it. There is a concern that large urban areas where people travel more in cars than they do in public transport or alternative means of transportation are unsustainable. The planning agenda is therefore focusing on how to retrofit urban areas in order to facilitate and promote walking.

However, walking is not only a functional matter of urban mobility and transport; it is important to the improvement of peoples’ health and even the promotion of leisure. Planning approaches address walking both as a personal experience and choice, and as a public issue. When people decide to walk they are choosing a specific way to use the public space and to interact with the city, therefore their choice affects the city but also what happens in the city determines their experience at walking. As a result, there is an indivisible and double feedback loop between people walking and the city, and caring about walking is not just a matter of helping people individually but also contributing to improve public issues.

Walking is a spatial phenomenon. Thus the concept of walkability refers to the relation between spaces and the people who walk through them or, in other words, how does these socially-created spaces facilitate walking or not? Consequently, the chief issue of walkability is to determine what features of the public space, and specifically the streets, make a city more walkable. There is a wide research on the topic that suggests that walkability depends on the “friendliness” of the space, which includes connectivity, accessibility, functionality, safety, security, comfort, convenience and availability of pedestrian infrastructure.

As there are so many definitions of walkability and friendliness of space, there have been several attempts to condense the related concepts in one single approach, such as the Five C Approach that includes connectivity, comfort, convenience, conviviality and conspicuousness as the main characteristics to make a space walkable. There are many others approaches and definitions, but most of the aspects that can make a space walkable can be determined only by the people that actually use the space to walk. That is why the measuring or rating of walkability depends largely on the contributions of people and relies precious little on the estimations that can be done with the macro-scale variables of the city, such as the continuity of the grid or the level of mixture of land use.

The project that we are developing addresses walkability as a public and spatial issue, and engages people as the main source of data. We are trying to involve pedestrians in developing of a walkability rating tool that allows comparisons of the conditions for walking within and between different cities. This will help cities to realize what walkability related problems they have, and especially where these problems are located, so that infrastructure and walking spaces can be improved in favour of pedestrians. This project contributes to the common good on the sidewalks by collecting people’s opinions, and helping them create a local and global database about the pedestrian experience of cities — day and night, winter and summer — so that they can improve the quality of everyone’s daily walks.