Re: [-empyre-] Critical Spatial Practice

Yep, and that's a big part of why the notion of the "Intervention" deserves some scrutiny -

If I might answer my own question here a bit, I would offer that Art as a critical platform is of little to no use for the sorts of practices I might look at in relation to CSP. Art's critical faculties are, as I think you put it here Saul, too often in service of self-perpetuation.

Few of the projects I've looked at as part of my engagement with this thread's topic would gain much from being identified as Art. But there are some ways in which the category and the practices of Art have been helpful.

By some accounts, art has been useful to some as a means to achieving funding or institutional legitimation, which may then be used for a variety of ends. Small as arts funding may be, for example, art's identified role within the "creative city" may allow for funding of projects that might be otherwise quickly identified as counter to the Plans. That may not be a sustainable strategy, but it seems to work for a little while.

I would offer one other way in which Art has been useful to some of the projects we've looked at in our group here at Illinois. Art's expected pre-occupation with the sensory and the phenomenal has made it easier to include examination of bodily experience as part of action into specific places and spaces.

In a recent exchange here at Illinois, my colleague Ryan Griffis was asked about where the Art was in his tours of urban parking infrastructure. Ryan's response was to point to his examination of the aesthetics of tourism, which in his work we get to experience first-hand. But I would also point to the distinctiveness of Ryan's work as spatial, and differently sensory, compared to a solely textual examination of the same topic. Last Fall, on a van tour of Brooklyn's parking infrastructure, we got to experience firsthand the distance (by car) from the convenient, privately-owned parking near BAM to New York's only city-owned parking structure, way the way out on the fringes. Our tour group's experience of a specific structural condition - that of the management of auto-mobility by city planners - was mediated by a specific collection of rain, noise, waiting time in traffic, and visual progression through changes in the windshield- view. We left with the phenomenon written into our senses and bodies, as well as into our textual brains (via an accompanying audio tour, and Ryan's ample knowledge base on the subject.)

[For more see]

Though I won't deny the material, sensory qualities of textual production and reception, I would argue that Ryan's multi-sensory engagement with his subject left us with a distinctively and diversely sensible encounter with a specific political condition. From talking to my colleagues in the Humanities, this is something that is easier to do when the word "Art" is anywhere near one's practice. It is also something for which artists are trained.


On Sep 9, 2007, at 4:10 PM, saul ostrow wrote:

Seemingly at this point in history art is hardwired to function as an emergent subject, that maintains and reforms itself through a recursive critical application of its own values system. It is by means of this process its practices reach a specific point of qualitative change - consequently, it is a practice that is self- reflexively committed to the revision, reformation or demise of its its own objective's in accord with the social, economic and cultural environment. As such it, as a system rather than its products is exemplary.

On Sep 9, 2007, at 4:38 PM, Kevin Hamilton wrote:

3) What about Art has been, or continues to be, useful to "Critical Spatial Practitioners"?

saul ostrow Chair, Environmental Chairs Council Chair, Visual Arts and Technologies Head, Sculpture


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