Shaking the Snow Globe and Changing the City

Authored by: Melissa Laing

The Routledge Companion to Art in the Public Realm

Print publication date:  October  2020
Online publication date:  October  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138325302
eBook ISBN: 9780429450471
Adobe ISBN:


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There is a common sentiment among urbanists and urban activists that goes something like this: ‘We’ve fucked up our city. We prioritised the wrong things, moved in the wrong directions, and now we need to fix it.’ This sentiment can be found in the mid-century writings of Henri Lefebvre, Jane Jacob, and the Situationists. It was both the point of and the cause for the objection to Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc. It appeared with polemical strength in Mike Davis’s 1990 book City of Quartz, and underlaid the smooth surface of Marc Auge’s 1992 anthropological examination of non-places. This failure to build our cities for all people is at the core of Rosalyn Deutsche’s landmark book Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics, threads through Richard Sennett’s laments for the loss of urban sociality, and gives urgency to the 40 years of practical work by Project for Public Space. In the arts, the social impact of ‘fucking it up’ was a driving force behind the rise of ‘new genre public art’ and community arts practices, and continues to fuel the more recent surge in socially engaged and dialogical work.

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