I lived in Korea without a clothes dryer. I live now in Honolulu without a dryer. The flap-flap-flutter of our neighbors’ board shorts and undershirts casts afternoon shade. The scent of Bounce dryer sheets is just a faint residue in some of my sweaters. After 8+ years of unpowered drying, the class anxieties that prompt the anti-clothesline stance of many American homeowner associations seems as quaint as bloomers.
In 1978, when I was living and working in a space on Post Alley below a fixed income residence, a new condominium had just been completed across the alley, creating a potential economic mix that makes cities interesting. I conceived and installed a working series of clotheslines between these two buildings connecting four floors and their inhabitants with their neighbors across the alley: the fixed income renters with the new condominium owners. I called this piece Shared Clothesline: Banners of Human Reoccupation.
The installation proclaimed sustainability as well as social issues, as a dramatic agit prop of utility—what I later called “poetic utility.” The clothesline was introduced on Solar Day in 1978 with an entire load of wash dyed yellow.
Images below are of other Buster Simpson public installations. Top image is from M.G. Tarquini’s blog.
I first read about the Barcelona neighborhood of El Raval (the word means periphery or outskirt) via [polis] but photos of the murals and public art have been floating around for a while in the under-attributed sea of “ooh look neat urban art and place-making” blogs. The second time I virtually visited El Raval was in the middle of my mad dash of a literature review on urban interventions, public art, and gentrification. I’m excerpting several paragraphs below but definitely click through for the full chapter.
Monica Degen. “Consuming Urban Rhythms: Let’s ravalejar” (full text) in Edensor, T (ed). Geographies of Rhythm. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010
the emergence of the marketing strategy ‘ravalejar' in 2005 is indicative of a new phase of place promotion and change in processes of commodification in the city. The campaign was conceived by the Fundació Tot Raval… ”to sensitise citizens to the positive image of Raval and erase forever the negative image that had been created” (see www.totraval.org). The campaign was financed by Barcelona’s city council and conceived as a communication campaign to promote positive values about the neighbourhood.
El Raval is a neighbourhood that has become paradigmatic for entrepreneurial urban regeneration processes in cities across the world. Since the 1980s, Barcelona’s city council has invested large amounts of money in redesigning this working class, and former red light district, into a cultural quarter to dispel its negative reputation, the ultimate aim being to include this valuable city centre real estate into Barcelona’s middle class and tourism circuit. The general upgrading of El Raval’s housing stock and public spaces was accompanied by a range of flagship developments over the years. Starting with a ‘starkitect’ modern art museum designed by Richard Meier, built in 1995 to spearhead a new ‘cultural quarter’ in the north of the neighbourhood, the re-organisation of El Raval’s spatial landscape continued in 2000 with the construction of a new avenue: La Rambla del Raval, that in Hausmannian fashion cut through the heart of the neighbourhood’s main prostitution and drug trade area and required the demolition of more than three blocks of low rent apartments.
Since the late 1990s a string of art galleries, restaurants and designer boutiques have moved into El Raval gradually replacing old neighbourhood cafes, brothels and the neighbourhood’s manual industry. So far, this could be regarded as a familiar tale of gentrification processes, only that in El Raval one of the more unexpected outcomes in the late 1990s has been the constant influx and settling of non-European migration, establishing El Raval as Barcelona’s most multicultural area. As a result the gentrification of El Raval is far from complete and, instead, the neighbourhood offers an eclectic mixture of spaces where minimalist designer boutiques live next to halal butcher shops and Filipino hairdressers, and where the last vestiges of cavernous neighbourhood bars with old gentlemen playing dominoes and drinking ‘carajillos’ stand their ground against luminous pink lid cocktail bars.
There seems to be general agreement across a range of academic disciplines that the quality of urban space is changing such that, over the last twenty years, town and city spaces have become more ‘aestheticised’ (Harvey, 1989; Featherstone, 1991; Hannigan,1998; Jacobs, 1998)… Some analysts detect the increasing importance of urban design to developers and local councils keen to sell themselves in a global market as attractive investment or tourist locations. For others, the growing significance to urban social life of commodity capitalism and consumption has spectacularised urban space; here the emphasis is more on ubiquitous technologies of branding and advertising. All of this work, if in different ways, emphasises the importance of the visual to urban aesthetics.
Cornford & Cross: Camelot 1996. Public open space enclosed by steel security fencing
For a group exhibition titled City Limits, we chose to invite reflection and debate on the physical and social boundaries that often determine the patterns of city life — in this case by denying people access to some small, neglected fragments of public urban land.
Although the site we chose marks the entrance to Hanley town centre, it was defined only by three irregularly shaped patches of grass, flanked with sloping brickwork and cut off by traffic on either side. Rather than using a public art commission to superficially enhance the site, we decided to make an intervention that would engage with the very conception of ‘Public’.
By reinforcing the boundaries of these grass verges with an excessive display of authority in the form of steel security fencing we allowed the public to see but not to walk on the grass, raising the status of the land through its enclosure. In the context of the contemporary debate around security and access within town centres, Camelot explore the political notion of the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ in which resources not under private ownership fall into neglect.
Peter Pink had me at potato.
Potatoes for peace and pink sunglasses.