Odlingar och demokrati


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Master Degree Thesis
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Publication 2-year master student thesis
Title Odlingar och demokrati
Author Lundberg, Christel
Date 2003
English abstract
Democracy in Urban Planning, by Christel Lundberg Much activist art take place outdoors, in public spaces, in street activities, etc. Of this reason we´re as activist artists often connected to the subject of planning processes and finds ourselves putting our noses deep down in comprehension plans etc. And since many activist art activities are reactions against exploition plans we´ll soon finds out the irritating fact tha urban planning isn´t a democratic process, despite it´s a process inside a democratic system. Especially this is the case in central planning, which ought to be translatable to ”the planning of central parts of cities, regions and nations”. But instead it´s a definition which means ”centralized planning”. It´s scary to realize that citizens have nothing to say, only used as cosmetic, when there´s need to pretend democracy.There´s a complex relationship between urban or regional planning and participatory democracy which demands research, but this is too often neglected in the every day urban planning processes. But how do we then, as artists apply critical analysis of democracy in our activist projects? As artists ”Public Globality Gardens” made an ”image” of this power-relation when creating an art-installation of a full-scale allotment garden at a central square in Malmö, Sweden. This research of democracy in real life, made four questions especially significant. ”How to rule the vision in relation to the people living in the area?”, ”How to take care of citizens knowledge of an area?” , ”Who´s the speaker of the citizens?” and at last ”Who has the code of entry and who hasn´t and how are we going to deal with that?”. How to rule the vision? Often we think about this relation as something we have to choose between, and the choice has serious implications. It is a strongly hierarchical view, where citizens may get the position in planning in the districts and allowed to participate in less important decisions. How to take care of citizens knowledge? Citizens are not stupid and ignorant but they are often treated as though. The issue is that there ”is no time and no money” to deal with deep knowledge of the citizens. It is not a question about more potted flowers, but an investigation which is in need of professionals with different methods of how to deal with people in this kind of process. How to make people telling what they are not expected to say. It is often better to provide for a situation which is not expected. When the artist group ”Public Globality Gardens” constructed an allotment garden at a central square in Malmö, it was not for the reason that the garden was the aestetical solution for this area, in the contrary, it was to stipulate that this area do have a problem and this art-installation was a position, a not expected one, for the citizens living i the neighbourhood, to fill with whatever they wanted to. ”The allotment garden at S:t Knuts square” was located in Malmö, during the cultivation period May-December in 2003. Since there isn´t much profit in market trade nowadays the square is not used as a market place any more and actually not used in any manner at all. It is a dead urban stone desert. Around the square lives many people, looking down on this empty square suffering from something to happen there. The closest neighbor is the two-laned through route. In this surroundings the allotment garden was built upon the paved market-place with a range of 120 square meters and a height of 1,5 meter. As a ecological remark recycled materials were used for the installation, and the garden rested on 300 loading pallets of different sizes. The installation of this garden really filled a ”black hole” in this district. The artists cultivated together with those living around. A senior and former boxer pre-cultivated leek and harvested potatoes named ”Birgitta”, a danish sort, which we got from the Nordic Gene Bank (a research centre which is preserving old local seeds) and a five year old boy who planted tomatoes and squash in the garden and helped us watering the garden. When developing a sustainable city-planning process it´s important to get a feeling for the area. This ”feeling” is not delivered or provided for you instantly, it takes time. One implication of participatory democracy is the need of more cooperators in this process. ”The Allotment Garden at S:t Knuts Square” was a cooperative project with different professions working together with NGOs and those living around in the districts. ”The Allotment Garden at S:t Knuts Square” was a reminder that we need public spaces which are not commercial and invites all citizens. If we do not use them they will become storing places for the public administrations or worse, parking lots. This central allotment was used day and night the hot season of 2003. It was used for small concerts, social meetings, as a resting-place, for political meetings, for sports, sun bathing, lectures, cultivating, people harvested and planted, watered and cared about it. In the nights it was used by young people as a place to meet and talk in a more ”private atmosphere” than public spaces use to be. Does a collective urban garden work? Since the allotment was located at a central public space, the usually private characteristics of gardens had to work together with the fact that everybody were invited to this garden and could do whatever they wanted to do. A common question we had to answer was: Don´t everybody want to vandalize this garden? On the contrary, it was hard to teach people that they were allowed to use the allotment and to harvest herbs, vegetables and rhubarb. Urban life will step by step be improved if we consider urban spaces ”in between” as possibilities for environmental improvement. Who´s the speaker of the citizens? Well, it´s not traditionally the politicians and often not those who carry out the visions, e.g. planners, architects. The problem is often that the visions are missing and the belief in pragmatic rules the planning situation. And for that reason the planners, architects are themselves fighting for their situation. There are visions in the society, but they need more space. Public Globality Gardens has become a voice in Malmö. They are living in the area och participate themselves in the discussion with e.g., local organizations, multi-cultural citizens, individual actors. And it is a voice with visions. It is a habit not to listen to citizens because often they´re not a collective voice, but different people with private interests. This attitude,unfortunately, cause often no problem. But since artist groups are working with the aim to make a collective voice of citizens perspective and give the individual interests a larger perspective, it make demands on the politicians to listen. Who has the code of entry and who hasn´t and how are we going to deal with that? Since there are demands that citizens must get more participatory power in the planning processes the outcome has become a misunderstanding of democracy. It´s not only dangerous when small organizations or agents act on their un-democratic own egoistic interest and not for a good thing for the collective. These forces are the same which is in the frontiers blocking visions. It is not those only who have the correct code and language which we have to listen to, it is as many as possible. And this listening has little to do with democracy processes. It´s more like an understanding of a situation and a platform for the visionary agents in the planning processes to take care of. Un-expected spaces and contexts and with different medias gives a possibility to create new understandings which might be an invitation for former excluded groups to take part in the democratic planning processes. The society and region cannot be sustainable if some groups don´t want to join or feel excluded. We have to understand why they are not interested or why they feel excluded and we have to try to solve these problems. Everybody don´t have to participate, but it´s important that representants from different groups participate. If we only have seniors and middle-aged white citizens in the group we receive a senior-middleaged white answer. Cultivation is a good-working and concrete platform for political discussions, because it is a ambiguous act on nature. It is both anthropocentric and ecocentric; it is both means to control nature as it is a possibility for us to understand and be a part of nature. And politically, when we become landowners, is this in itself a transition from altruism to egoism; or when does the property of landowning become ethical and environmental troublesome. Well, we are not asking people to draw final conclusions of the market economies influence on society, but it is a demand for citizens, not only in Malmö, but all over the world, to react and act upon the increasing domination of financial capital that reaches all countries through globalization. ”The Allotment Garden at S:t Knuts square” was a non-violent contribution to this discussion. It is better to ask: ”What are the problems?” instead of: ”We know you have this or that problem, we have this solution, what do you think, and you have three weeks to make your opinion about this pre-fabricated solution?” The first positions creates political aware citizens, the latter creates non-political citizens. Since it is not only a local question if a green area in Malmö or Copenhagen is exploited or not, but in every sense has regional and global effects and implications. Globally it affects citizens in other areas because of the concrete situation that we´ll have less oxygen supply with the decrease of green areas, and in spite of that the loss of one individual green area doesn´t have huge affect on citizens, what is our reaction if we are summing-up all of the exploited green areas? Maybe we will panic. The global implication of the closing-down of one individual area in Malmö will be that if nobody have a larger view and reacts and acts on this the commercial interests will rule the planning situation and we as citizens become the audience of this tragedy. As artist working in this concrete milieu we are trying to provide a larger view of different local wishes or demands.
Publisher Malmö universitet/Kultur och samhälle
Pages 47
Language swe (iso)
Subject Konst
Offentliga rum
Deltagande demokrati
Relationell konst
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/32900 Permalink to this page
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