[-empyre-] Re: Critical Spatial Practice

I'm flattered that Kevin found the van tour in Brooklyn an interesting enough example to use here, but i should clarify one point (just for the record):

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.

The municipal/city owned lot we visited in Brooklyn (The Grant Parking Field) is not the only one of its kind in the city - there are 59 in the city altogether - but Kevin's assessment of the distance compared to privately owned/operated facilities is correct nonetheless. You can compare them here (blue arrows = municipal lots, red drops = private ones)
But i digress into minutiae...
More on topic and of general interest, the questions raised by Kevin and Brett about instrumentality, criticality and reception are, i think, really key to these discussions getting past their over determination by techno- and aesthetic-determinist frameworks, but also past the idea that practice and/or research is a transparent tool to understand the world.
In an interview with Paul Rabinow (reproduced in the Routledge Cultural Studies Reader), Foucault is questioned about the role of space in conceptions and realizations of "freedom". His remarks are also related to questions of technological development and freedom and subjectivity. In many ways, his statements seem obvious, but somehow counter to the way a lot of practitioners and theorists write about "space" and materiality.
Foucault: "Liberty is a practice. ...It can never be inherent in the structure of things to guarantee the exercise of freedom... This is not to say that the exercise of freedom is completely indifferent to spatial distribution, but it can only function when there is a certain convergence..."
I know Foucault is hardly at the cutting edge of discourse here (and yet another continental reference), but i found this questioning from the 1980s as an interesting foil to a lot of the emphasis currently being placed on developing spaces and technologies as solutions to political problems, whether it's in architecture, design, urban planning or even tactical media. Interesting because it is a position still rigorously invested in "space" as a material and discursive affair, rather than an avoidance of it.
Kevin introduced a great way, IMHO, of furthering this (as I think Brett's examples do too):

To borrow from Mobility Studies, these projects pay attention and respond to the ways in which one person's movements occur in relation to, or even at the expense of, the lessened movements of others - especially when posed as "critique."

Remarks that art can become/has been used as a tactical means of support, is i think also significant and no small concession. A critique of how and why "interventionist" practices become institutionalized and assimilated into the "high" cultural sphere (i.e. non profit and commercial museums and galleries) is a significant and important task, but i don't think the most important or significant one. At least not without a larger engagement with the what and how of that cultural sphere. It's all too easy to accept seemingly solid economic, spatial and industrial boundaries that are really quite fluid and often supported more by a cultural imaginary than anything else. In other words, what's at stake in questioning "where's the art" when we're only using a map with art institutions and labels on it? Along these lines, an essay by the Radical Culture Research Collective addresses some of these questions (pointed out to me by Kevin a few days ago):
There are practices that I think encourage a reading of CSP as a methodology that includes academic/aesthetic modes, but one not in any way subjected or beholden to the histories and needs of the avant garde culture industry. Of course there are plenty of historical and recent examples from various forms of protest carnival, sit-ins, etc. I think that we'd be doing a disservice to the discussion if we didn't take into account such practices, alongside those with more visibility to us as artists and scholars. My particular interests have led me to practices like Toxic Tours and other forms of spatial, experiential didactics aimed at generating a convergence of knowledge dissemination, spectacularizing spatially organized inequities, building coalitions, etc.
(if you're interested in toxic tours: http:// www.temporarytraveloffice.net/blog/2007/06/toxic-tourism.html )
How to account for the intervention of aesthetic exercise/analysis into these realms, i.e. how power is shifted and redirected, is of concern...
Best + thanks to the guests and other contributors for initiating a great discussion.

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