re:public exhibition at TBG&S
The harnessing of creativity for urban growth agendas...
or, doing differently.
Tuesday 16th February, 6pm
FACILITATORS - Neil Gray (researcher & writer) & Leigh French (co-editor, Variant magazine)
OUTLINE - Leigh French and Neil Gray will look at the role of the artist in a time when 'creativity' is increasingly harnessed for urban growth agendas (property development and gentrification). The potential of ‘the arts’ to rehabilitate ‘unproductive’ urban space and stimulate the property market has long been established by gimlet-eyed developers (Manhattan, Shoreditch, Barcelona, etc.) and Glasgow's Merchant City is but one example of that now shopworn process. Despite increasing skepticism around hyperbolic 'creative city' claims, the creative city policy framework is still being applied by countless slow-learning cities worldwide.
Using the geographer David Harvey's analysis of the 'art of rent', we will outline the drive towards monopoly rents so typical of advanced capitalism. Harvey's thesis notes that cities are now routinely traded as commodities in themselves. 'Particularity' and 'uniqueness' (of places, spaces, buildings, culture, etc.) provide the 'marks of distinction' which are deemed to confer economic value on particular places in an era of fierce inter-city competition for inward investment.
We will map out how these tendencies have been instrumentally pursued in Glasgow's 'Merchant City' through the 'Arts-Led Property Strategy', as identified by Neil Gray in his writing for Variant & Mute magazines. Taking to task the guru of the Creative City thesis, Richard Florida, we will suggest that the emergence of a so-called 'creative class' has been wholly dependent on a 'supporting infrastructure' of an increasingly insecure and underpaid service class - Florida admitting as much himself.
After this critical introduction to the 'creative city', we will show some clips from the film-making collective 'The London Particular' (LP). LP films address the role of the artist in ongoing forms of gentrification in and around Shoreditch and the east end of London, and show a model of practice which challenges the specialised role of the arts practitioner by actively engaging with questions of place and social relations more often than not eschewed by artists.
We will finish with Harvey, who suggests that capital has always to appropriate and extract surpluses from local differences, local cultural variations and aesthetic meanings of no matter what the origin. This can often mean the retention, or courting, of apparently subversive or transgressive elements. The shameless commodification of everything is, after all, a hallmark of capitalism. Rather than pursue a counsel of despair however, the problem for oppositional movements or independent artists is, as Harvey argues, to use the validation of particularity, uniqueness, authenticity, culture and aesthetic meanings in ways that open up new possibilities and alternatives...
We want to suggest, as one example, that the video work of David Panos and Anja Kirschner works through these problems by reworking narratives around landscape, history and memory, to evoke different possibilities and meanings to the notion of 'creative entrepreneurialism’ advocated by city boosters and property developers...
informal follow-up session
a comparative discussion - responses to creative cities narratives
Wednesday 17th February, 1pm
Cued by screening of the films:
THE LONDON PARTICULAR (2004, The London Particular, 30mins)
Part 1 of a full-length film about the strange, neoliberal 'renaissance' of East London. This is a rough edit tracing the renewal of the city from the gentrification of Shoreditch, through the looting of social housing in Hackney, to the sordid reconfiguration of life, death and work on the fringe of the City of London.
DRUMCHAPEL : THE FRUSTRATION GAME (1989, John Calder, De-classed Elements, 20 mins)
A damning indictment of local authority enterprise schemes which are contrived to look as if they are there to help the disenfranchised but in fact serve the purpose of greater social control. Made by De-Classed Elements in the late 1980s, a video group who were based in Drumchapel, Glasgow, it is as relevant today as it was then.
It was screened as part of The Midnight of the Decade, Transmission Gallery, 26 October - 26 October 1989. Screenings and discussion with Variant Video - Frustration Game, Mud and Stars; Workers City, the Subversive Past; De-Classed Elements - Drumchapel Community Centre; First Strike, Portrait of an Activist - Doug Dibble.
For a fuller understanding of the work referenced, so as to better facilitate the discussion, or if you would like to follow up on any of the issues raised, we recommend also looking at:
THE ART OF RENT: GLOBALIZATION, MONOPOLY AND THE COMMODIFICATION OF CULTURE
The Art of Rent introduces a clearer description of the political dimension of cultural and symbolic production. He manages to link intangible production and real money not through intellectual property, but by tracking the parasitic exploitation of the immaterial by the material domain. The key example is Barcelona, where there is the clearest connection between real estate economy and the production of culture as social capital. The success of Barcelona as an international brand has been produced by its cultural and social roots and is continuously fuelled today by a cosmopolitan and alternative culture: but that collective product is exploited first and foremost by real estate speculators. Harvey introduces the concept of collective symbolic capital (a concept taken from Bourdieu) to explain how culture is exploited by capitalism. The layer of cultural production attached to a specific territory produces a fertile habitat for monopoly rents. The brand of Barcelona is a “consensual hallucination” produced by many but exploited by few. The condition of creative workers (and of the whole society) is a vicious circle: they produce symbolic value for the real estate economy that squeeze them (as they suffer the housing prices in Barcelona). Furthermore, Harvey helps us to understand Richard Florida’s model: the so-called “creative class” is nothing but a simulacrum of the collective symbolic capital to raise the marks of distinction of a given city.
(16Beaver is the address of a space initiated/run by artists to create and maintain an ongoing platform for the presentation, production, and discussion of a variety of artistic/cultural/economic/political projects. It is the point of many departures/arrivals.)
‘Glasgow’s Merchant City: An Artist Led Property Strategy’
The potential of ‘the arts’ to rehabilitate ‘unproductive’ urban space and stimulate the property market has long been established by gimlet-eyed developers. However, rather than submit to boosterist overstatement it's more useful to contextualise the competitive creative economy mantra as the afterbirth of a wave of self-defeating entrepreneurial urban strategies which preceded it. Yet, despite increasing skepticism around hyperbolic 'creativity' claims, the creative city policy framework is still being applied by countless slow-learning cities worldwide. Despite the austere and worsening fiscal climate and the collapse of commercial property markets, and the strong correlation between inequality and 'creativity', Glasgow City Council continue to act oblivious or unconcerned...
Dublin's Temple Bar - A case study of culture-led regeneration
John McCarthy, European Planning Studies, June '98
Dublin's Temple Bar Culture-led regeneration is often cited as a positive model that enhanced the city's image and increased tourist numbers which in turn was to encourage further investment and economic regeneration in a self-sustaining virtuous circle. John McCarthy points out that despite the large degree of public subsidy the 'trickle down' effect often fails to materialise. Moreover, he finds, there may be more negative effects of displacement of lower-value uses such as artists' studios, which may have provided the initial rationale for development. "In addition, culture-led regeneration initiatives may be aimed primarily at high-spending visitors, which may serve to further alienate and exclude those who lack access to the new facilities. Furthermore, in many cities, high-profile city centre cultural projects diverted public funds away from areas where poverty and disadvantage were most concentrated. ... The development of a residential community in Temple Bar has also been problematic; while the area contained a residential population of 900 people in 1996, this fell far short of the population of 2,000 anticipated..." And this of course was before the impact of the 'credit crunch' on such relatively narrow property speculation projects. There was also a higher degree of gentrification than was anticipated, as well as a dilution of social aims. Rising rents also displaced existing businesses, adding to financial uncertainty. Becoming a major tourist attraction also brought its own social problems.
click here to view
No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail spectacularly (No sanctuary from caricature, parody and oblivion ... )
Also see: Variant, issue 17, Letters:
The Creativity Fix
Cogent critique of architect and populariser of the 'creative class' thesis, Richard Florida's best selling primers on the 'creative economy'. Peck lays bare that Florida's creativity script facilitates revamped forms of civic boosterism alongside the gratification of middle-class consumption desires; lubricates flexible labour markets and gentrifying housing markets; and relegitimises regressive social redistributions within the city.
Shoreditch and the creative destruction of the inner city
In areas like London's Shoreditch and its peers around the globe, the cosmetic renewal of a portion of the crumbling urban core coincides with continued – or intensified – infrastructural decline. Rather than an unfortunate side effect of the real estate market, gentrification is an openly pursued policy objective where 'creative entrepreneurialism’ is identified as key to reviving inner cities. Gentrification takes from the poor and gives to the rich; anything residually ‘public’ will either be reclaimed for the middle class or left to rot. The question remains, is the current crisis a reprieve or a new assault, and who will win this time?
'Creative City in Ruins' - Mute magazine
"Post-Fordist State planners, developers, and their entrepreneurial service arm have debased the meaning of 'creativity' to a shallow pretext for the further looting of cities and public wealth. The cookie-cutter aestheticisation of selective zones of our cities (tourist promenades, waterside public art, creative quarters), is a mere fig leaf covering the acts of enclosure and exclusion that cultural regeneration entails. As the sensibilities of the Creative Class are sensationalised, courted, and monetised, the creative possibilities of the dehumanised majority narrow. But as the recession bites, there are signs that dreams of the Creative City are crashing, as the public purse-strings tighten and the financial sector's ability to underwrite the creative industries weakens. In this issue we examine that possibility, explore artists' creative sabotage of their own regenerative co-optation, and philosophically examine what 'expression' might actually be."
Immaterial Civil War. Prototypes of Conflict within Cognitive Capitalism
Matteo Pasquinelli, Framework: the Finnish Art Review
"We are implicit, here, all of us, in a vast physical construct of artificially linked nervous systems. Invisible. We cannot touch it."
–William Gibson, In the visegrips of Dr. Satan
"Conflict is not a commodity. On the contrary, commodity is above all conflict."
The structure and silence of the cognitariat
Only a small "creative class" achieves the creativity and freedom attributed by stereotype to all knowledge workers, writes Christopher Newfield. Below this elite exist far more numerous "perma-temps", who are highly qualified yet interchangeable. In the American university system, which has parallels in Europe, recipients of higher education are increasingly prepared for a working life in a knowledge economy where independence and social protections have been eroded.