EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world
Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006
Investigating the city spectacle in a globalising world
Location Wills 1.5
Date and Start Time 20 Sep, 2006 at 11:30
Moving from the proliferation of urban spectacles, this workshop enquires into the festivalisation of cities and explores the cultural and aesthetic content of the new spectacle in a globalising world.
In the last two decades, large and small, urban spectacles have become the identifying features of the contemporary metropolitan order, providing the city with an aura of cultural grandeur and finesse. Around the globe today, even cities with no carnival "tradition" proudly stage carnivals and curate carnivalesque of all kinds—be them street festivals, new year concerts, international fairs, or sports gatherings—facilitating formations of community and solidarity, and participation in local, national and transnational social spaces.
Focusing on the progressive expansion of urban spectacles and the reorganization of metropolitan social spaces, this workshop pursues three goals: First, we aim to explore divergences and convergences in the development and aesthetic production of the new public spectacle, and connected social practices. Second, we will map out the circulation of styles, organizational structures, discourses, as well as actors, between seemingly far away and disconnected spectacles in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Third, moving from comparative case studies, we will seek to lay out theoretical building blocks for understanding the new spectacles of diversity and identity, new practices of public participation and regulation, and the new economy and spatial distribution of urban life.
How does the expansion of urban spectacle change our understanding and experience of public space? To which extent does the new spectacle depart from being national in content and local in form? What are the markers of diasporic or cosmopolitan projections in the new spectacle? What are the cultural properties and confines of the public displays of identity and diversity? What is the content and limits of the sayable, creative, and defiant in the new spectacle? Which signs, artifacts, and forms constitute its expressive repertoire? These and similar questions will guide us in discerning the social, cultural, and aesthetic content of urban spectacles in an expanding Europe and globalizing world.
Launching the 'spectacle' in Istanbul: physical restructuring, symbolic economy and art festivals
Istanbul's transformation into a 'spectacle' starts in the post-1980 period. Backed by the centre-right government of the period, the municipality undertakes many projects aimed at the reorganisation of Istanbul as a world city, which could anchor Turkey to global flows. These projects involve first and foremost the physical restructuring of the cityspace. Inner city neighbourhoods are cleared, large roads are constructed, business districts emerge. But the changes are not limited to these: At the same time, a deep change is felt in the everyday life due to economic liberalisation. Multinational companies and hotels, shopping malls and global brands take their part in this new world.
In the sphere of culture, a new symbolic economy takes shape at the intersection of culture industries and entrepreneurial capital. The number of international artistic activities, exhibitions and festivals increases suddenly, and institutions ready to organise and sponsor them diversify. While the city itself become a commodity to be consumed, cultural activities turn into means of promoting and selling it.
Although Istanbul festivals start in 1973, they reach a larger scale, and an expanded coverage in the two decades that follow the 1980s. The spectacle(s) of Istanbul festivals add a new twist to the spectacular appearance of the city, first by transforming cityspaces (streets, squares, palaces) into stages, and secondly by drawing an imagery for Istanbul in the international arena. Festivals do not only provide room for international cultural exchange, but also ascribe to it a cultural capital/world city status. Nevertheless the instrumentalization of culture in city promotion is not an innocent project. This paper aims to develop a critical perspective which considers the implications of such attempts in Istanbul, through the case of international art festivals. The case study draws upon fieldwork conducted since 2001.
'Intermundia 2006': political uses of a multicultural festa in Rome
Based on research carried out in Rome, Piazza Vittorio, in the month of May 2006, my paper aims at revealing the implicit and explicit political strategies that emerge from the interactions between the local government's multicultural politics and the performances of various non-profit organizations and city schools.
Piazza Vittorio is a highly contested and embattled space in Rome: For the past two decades, the square has been the crossroads of different migrant communities which happened to settle down in the city. This heterogeneous presence has completely changed the appearance of the whole area. Many immigrants, who decided to settle there, set up various shops, restaurants and stalls in the local street market and in the square itself. In the meantime, the square has also become the stage for political claims directed to the local and national government. In this context the Council Department for Education has chosen to organize a multicultural Festa called Intermundia, specifically directed at encouraging the intercultural dialogue between different communities and Roman citizens through the exhibitions of non-profit associations and schools.
In this six day Festa, migrants, far from being the actors of the various performances, have in most cases become a symbolic object: Using the rhetorics of multiculturalism, the council has taken possession of this object to convey a specific representation of its political strategies towards migrants. This dynamic has been even clearer in this year's edition because the Festa took place one week before the local elections.
Localizing identites: how festivals in urban spaces produce we-groups
In a context of globalisation, political carnivals produce new collective identities in urban spaces. Festive events offer a mode of expression for people who are excluded from official positions as decision makers, e.g. the summer feasts and the recent carnival in Paris.
Divergent re-orientalisations: ghetto-spectacles in WorldCity Berlin
Kreuzberg has been situated literally in the "center" of the still ongoing process of gentrification that has swept through unified Berlin. It has, however, persistently occupied the 'margins' in the discursive and imaginary topography of WorldCity Berlin. In this presentation, I assert that the concept of "ghetto" has been variously mobilized within the spatial and discursive transformation of the unified Berlin into WorldCity Berlin. Meanwhile, I argue, similarly complex, yet distinct "ghettos" have been produced (and consequently consumed by diverse parties) in the terrains of WorldCity Berlin.
First, I will argue that Kreuzberg has been re-imagined and re-presented as an ethnicized and carnivalesque spectacle in the terrains of WorldCity Berlin. Beyond Migration Series recently presented by Kanak woodlounge over a month, Turkish Film Week in the hip Babylon Theater, May Day celebrations on Oranienplatz, are just a few examples that illustrate the ways in which Kreuzberg has emerged as the conveniently re-Oriental-ized yet carnivalesque spectacle of WorldCity Berlin.
The municipality of Neukoelln, on other hand, has been produced as the dangerously foreign, gang-ruled, and unapproachable ghetto-spectacle, particularly after recent criminal acts in Neukoelln subway stations, riots at the Ruehtli secondary school, and a very-well circulated, Berlinale-premiered, feature-film "Knallhart" [Tough Enough] that narrates the struggle of an upper-class white German teen, as he moves from one of the most affluent sections of Berlin into the ethnicized and dangerous ghetto: Neukoelln. The film has been praised by numerous critics as "a modern film noir" and interpreted as "an unexpectedly radical ballad from Berlin's social ghetto".
In conclusion, I illustrate how "ghettos" have been simultaneously constructed, mobilized, lived and displayed in diverse, and in the case of Kreuzberg and Neukoelln, divergent ways in the dynamic topography of WorldCity Berlin. I argue that these temporal configurations of "ghetto" deserve critical attention in order to fully engage the greater process of spectacularization: namely that of WorldCity Berlin. In other words, Neukoelln and Kreuzberg have come to embody, display, and market diverse and divergent expressive repertoires within BerlinCity-as-a-spectacle: in its new participatory and regulatory regimes, its globally-resourced, transnationally-circulating, yet locally-rooted economy as well as within its dynamic spatial, discursive and lived urban topography.
The business of art: art spectacles in the contemporary metropolitan order
This paper examines city spectacles through the example of large-scale urban art events such as biennales and performance festivals. While these art events are often presented as aiming to engage a broader public than 'conventional' art formats and to (re)claim public space, I posit that in cityscapes increasingly characterized by income-polarization, gentrification and social segmentation, urban art spectacles have become a vital economic development strategy. This type of city marketing, I argue, is intimately connected to and based on discourses of "cultural entrepreneurship" that are currently restructuring international art worlds and within which artists and other cultural workers are increasingly understood as the new service providers for global metropolises.
But how can we conceptualize this convergence of economic interests, cultural policy and artistic practices? What are the effects on artistic production and consumption of this development? How is it impacting the critical potential that contemporary art is supposed to entail? Who is the actual audience addressed in these urban spectacles? And finally, how is urban, national and international diversity expressed or rather managed within these types of events?
Drawing on examples collected in a comparative ethnographic study of the art scenes of Istanbul and Berlin, as well as data previously gathered in New York City, my paper attempts to answer such questions and trace the circulation, parallels and divergences of the discourses and practices that account for the "spectacularization" of art in the contemporary metropolitan order.