studying the city (Annette Koh)

Public space, the right to the city, and civic engagement. How can we improve equity and access through participatory urbanism? Ph.D. student in Urban & Regional Planning at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Former resident of Seoul & San Francisco.
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Posts tagged "public art"

FABLES —a public art project curated by Fourth Arts Block NYC at various sites in the Lower East Side is up through August 2014. One of these days, I need to get my teleportation device up and working. Descriptions copy-pasted from FABnyc’s site, images and video added (click through for sources). 

After an open call for work, FABLES presents five artists/teams who created public art works that explore the Lower East Side’s living cultural heritage, rich historical legacies, and current issues in public storytelling through visual art.

Lexi Bella’s Heroines of the Lower East Side focuses on notable, yet under recognized women of the LES from The Russ Sisters to Rosario Dawson. “It is my heart, my home, and the birthplace of my daughter. I am so excited to express, educate, and pay homage through my art to the great women who are the past and the future of my favorite part of NYC.” 
Location: Centre-Fuge, East 1st Street near First Avenue

[Sau Ying’s Sancocho from Feed Me A Story]

Theresa Loong and Laura Nova’s Feed Me a Story consists of food stories gathered in part from their work at the LaGuardia Senior Center, shared with the public through visual installations that link to audio and video of the participants.
Location: First Park, Houston between First & Second Avenues

“The interesting thing about the project is that we don’t know what [the seniors] are going to say,” says Loong. Sometimes their subjects are shy and speak languages other than English. “The trigger is we ask them to share a secret family recipe, as a starting question, but not everyone has a secret family recipe… when they do, that’s amazing.” One woman once whispered, “Now I make it better than my mom.” [Interview at the LO-DOWN]

Levan Mindiashvili’s Ghost investigates gentrification and its effects on architecture and sense of place. “With the mural ‘Ghost’ I want to contribute to a raising awareness in the importance of historical heritage and outline the overwhelming expansion of gentrification and generalization in the contemporary world.”
Location: Ideal Glass, 22 East 2nd Street

Tamara Gayer’s Who Needs Honey When Sugar is Sweet draws inspiration from Yiddish theater to create works in stained glass style that span the storefront windows of City Lore and L’Apicio. The artist explains, “First Street between First and Second Avenue is a beautiful block, exemplary of the diversity and history that are still evident on the Lower East Side.”
Location: City Lore, 56 East 1st Street / L’Apicio, 13 East 1st Street

Miguel Trelles and Juan Fernando Morales-Nazario’s Posters on the Wall: Our Nuyorican Story, is built from the Center for Puerto Rican Studies extensive image archive from the 1960s through the 1990s. According to the artists and curators, the exhibit “lavishly illustrates the cosmopolitan sophistication of Puerto Rican artists in New York amalgamating traditional Puerto Rican culture with life and activism in the City.”
Location: First Park, Houston between First & Second Avenues

The Street Museum of Art describes its project as “guerrilla curating for a radical art form” and encourages visitors to physically walk through their city and experience each piece within its original context, on the street. 
Back in NYC for its 5th exhibition, the Street Museum put the artists in charge.  As each artist joined the project, it then became their turn to select the next artist they wanted to see involved —and so forth and so on for a total of 18 artists. There’s no way of knowing how long each piece will last in the wild — but for 24hrs in NYC, local artists turned the city into their own public art museum through the guerrilla tactics of street art and graffiti culture.
[Description adapted from The Street Museum’s website]


Platzgeist Shards Array on Flickr.

New Public Sites engages in what the artist Graham Coreil-Allen calls radical pedestrianism and creative cartography. This project Shards of Site is a collection of ”shredded pavement souvenirs servings as mementos of place serve as both intriguing found objects and legible linguistic forms.” The labels read (L to R) top: Terrain Violence; Sub/urban Ambiguity; Impulsive Newness; bottom: Playscape, Urban Sublime, Historical Uncanny.

I found this via risenapes' post on their typologythat seeks to name all of the nothings we encounter everyday.” You can download this typology and some of the other projects as a 100 pg+ PDF field guide.

Typology of New Public Sites organizes the invisible public spaces of our everyday environment into a system of sites, components and qualities, indexed and described through terms and definitions. The field guide not only represents a system of classification, but also a playful yet serious linguistic intervention into the discourse of architecture and planning. Through invented and appropriated language, this reference book / manifesto poetically challenges the authority of how public space is represented.

Fake planning notices as public art



Hewitt & Jordan and Dave Beech:

An amazing session at the upcoming Nordic Geographers’ Meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland: Public art and accountability: whose art for whose city?

Presentations by

Lesley Murray
Placing murals in Belfast: Community,…


“Bootlegs” is produced for the video installation “we are not permanent but we are not temporary” a series of four videos exploring Sukkot’s core themes: impermanence of life, searching and wandering for a place to call home, and the welcoming of strangers. 

Featuring Sean San José and dancers Jen.Ay Anolin, June Arellano, Assad Invent Conley, Loan Hoang, Susie Lundy and Patricia Ong.

Artist Statement

I believe we are all still looking for our place.. no matter how long we have been here, temporary and permanent.

What the JCC and Dan Wolf are allowing us all to do is — see a wider picture of this search for a sense of home.

The sentence “we are not permanent, we are not temporary” gave me visions, memories- of my own family, this city, our country, the countries and places we have left behind and carried with us.

The pictures we hoped to show is rooted in how rooted this country is in the immigrant experiences- the country is made up of immigrants- and yet: temporary/permanent. By showing three “sides”, three generations of immigrants, maybe that can help us see or feel the permanent temporary ocean in which many of us swim. A world made up of travelers, journeys, family, community and neighborhood.

This project not only allowed the Filipino and greater API experience into the Jewish traditions, it can allow us all to share and see these — and the other pieces- together.. like the communities and neighborhoods we seek to show. (Sean San José)

Written and performed by Sean San José
imagined for Rosario Verches

Directed by Dan Wolf
with Sean San José

Featuring and Choreographed by:

Jen.Ay Anolin
June Arellano
Assad Invent Conley
Loan Hoang
Susie Lundy
Patricia Ong

Shot by Jon Burton and Dalton Patterson
Edited by Jon Burton, Dan Wolf and Sean San José

Music courtesy of

Philippine Music, traditional Instruments - tboli tribe (Lemuhen)…

Utom Ye Dadang, Utom Fun El and Utom K’lelet from Mendung Sabal by Tudbulul Lunay Mogul (Label: TAO MUSIC © 2008)

Produced by Dan Wolf in association with 3200 Stories for the JCCSF

The Under One Dances project wants to generate and grow the public’s interest in dance by making the exploration of this artistic genre “fun and engaging by filming professional dancers in real-world locations, in their every-day clothing.” The project also supports the dancers themselves by paying them a professional rate for their participation in addition to promoting them as artists. Visit Under One Dances to see “beautiful and compelling portraits in motion.”


Juhwan Hwang
Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY


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.   

Lewis Buster Simpson

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.

Found in Belltown Paradise / Making Their Own Plans

 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 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.

Hewitt & Jordan: The economic function of public art is to increase the value of private property.
Billboard text for a site at the corner of Corporation Street and Alma Street, Sheffield, in April 2004. Hewitt & Jordan set out “to question the function of art in the public realm within the economic regeneration of post industrial cities.”

Hewitt & Jordan: The economic function of public art is to increase the value of private property.

Billboard text for a site at the corner of Corporation Street and Alma Street, Sheffield, in April 2004. Hewitt & Jordan set out “to question the function of art in the public realm within the economic regeneration of post industrial cities.”

Peter Pink had me at potato. 

Potatoes for peace and pink sunglasses.