Nine Urban Biotopes: Art and Urban Sustainability ­– e book now available!! by Alison Rooke and Christian Von Wissel

AnthonycreditImage by Anthony Schrag

Between 2013-15 Alison Rooke and Christian von Wissel from the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths have been academic research partner to the international arts residency and cultural exchange programme Nine Urban Biotopes: Negotiating the Future of Urban Living (9UB), funded by European Commission EACEA.

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9UB is an international arts/research project that took place across seven cities in South Africa and Europe in 2014. This transdisciplinary project brought together academics, practitioners and experts in participatory and socially engaged art, architecture and housing, to work in collaboration exploring the challenges of social urban sustainability – including the sustainability of cultural commissioning itself. Local ›biotopes‹, consisting of cultural partners, small NGO’s and their local publics, hosted visiting arts practitioners who responded to issues of regeneration and development, community safety, migration, housing, and economic subsistence in the thick of life.

The final publication is available under creative commons via google play or I Tunes.

9UB_ePublication-69As an experiment in e-publishing, the book incorporates hyperlinked interactive maps, versatile photo galleries, videos and interviews which are intertwined with scientific contributions in order to create a comprehensive visual panorama on issues at stake in the project. The book includes contributions by Alison Rooke and Christian von Wissel as well as by Bruno Latour (Sciences Po, Paris), Michael Keith (Compass, Oxford), Sophie Hope (Birkbeck, London), Henk Borgdorff (School of the Arts, Amsterdam) and Michael Guggenheim (Sociology Goldsmiths) among others.

The aim of 9UB was to establish both a ›trans-local‹ and ›trans-continental‹ dialogue by interweaving and connecting new context-specific social activities of these biotopes. It did so in order to expose, discuss and share different ›intentions, methods and techniques‹ of imaginative urban practices for building ›sustainable cities‹ and in order to learn from each other, theoretically and practically. By combining, linking and implementing 9UB within a South African-European partnership structure, local answers to global questions were discussed such that they were able to shed light on a range of sustainable solutions and innovative ideas regarding urban development issues on both sides of the equator.

9UB_ePublication-137Contributions include:

  • “Artistic research: unfinished thinking in and through art” by Henk Borgdorff
  • “The city as a metaphysical body” by Diego Ferrari
  • “About the transformative effect of contemporary information and communication technologies on our cities” by Adam Greenfield
  • “About commissioning, agency and evaluation of socially engaged art practice” by Sophie Hope
  • “About the social sustainability of cities and connections between innovation, migration, justice and citizen rights” by Michael Keith
  • “About art as a medium for ›making things public‹ and challenging the notion of art’s ›social engagement‹” by Bruno Latour
  • “Upgrading informal settlements” a conversation among Taswald Pillay and Alexander Opper
  • “About urban grass-root initiatives and their potentials for the planning and development of localities and cities” by Marcos L. Rosa
  • “Art practice and urban safety: a relational perspective” by Alison Rooke and Christian von Wissel
  • and many more…

Participating artists and architects:

Dan Halter (Cape Town, South Africa)

Rangoato Hlasane (Johannesburg, South Africa)

Doung Jahangeer (Durban, South Africa)

Terry Kurgan (Johannesburg, South Africa)

Armin Linke (Milan, Italy / Berlin, Germany)

Taswald Pillay (Johannesburg, South Africa)

Marjetica Potrč (Ljubljana, Slovenia / Berlin, Germany)

Athi-Patra Ruga (Johannesburg/Cape Town, South Africa)

Antje Schiffers (Berlin, Germany)

Anthony Schrag (Glasgow, Great Britain)

http://www.urban-biotopes.net 

Dr Alison Rooke is CoDirector at CUCR, Goldsmiths College. a.rooke@gold.ac.uk

Christian Von Wissel is a PhD Candidate in Visual Sociology at Goldsmiths College, London and teaching assistant at Munich Technological Univerisity. (TUM) wissel@citambulos.net

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Streetsigns Latin American Edition Launch

Sociology Department and the Centre for Urban and Community Research present: Streetsigns Latin American Edition Launch

Date : Friday 22 May 2015

Time : 18.00 – 20.30 hrs

Location : Small Hall Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths, University of London, SE14 6NW
SS Latin America Launch

With special guest: Ana Rosas Mantecón,

Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico, speaking on :

‘Going to the Movies today: Diversity and Inclusion in the 21st Century’

Latin American film industries seem more alive than ever, if aspects such as production, screening infrastructure and audience development are considered in the analysis. Mexico, for instance, occupies the fourth place in numbers of cinemas and viewers worldwide. However, there are some paradoxes in the way the number of cinemas in big cities has increased hugely,  but numbers in rural areas have decreased to extinction; and while local film production is on the rise, movie theatres exhibit mostly Hollywood films which get prime time slots in the best cinema-going seasons of the year.

On the other hand, consumer choices have been reorganized, changing the place occupied by “going to the movies” in the cultural practices of Latin American viewers. Today we watch more films than ever but through television, pirate videos, mobiles and the Internet. This paper outlines this landscape and the features of a film policy that, going beyond the focus on production, might open the chances for a broader audience.

The presentation will be followed by reception and live music from Banda Condorito.

You can see the online edition of the journal Streetsigns 2015 here : http://www.gold.ac.uk/cucr/vurbanism/streetsigns%20publication/ 

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Stalking the Hardy Ash by Peter Coles

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On 29th and 30th May 29, Peter Coles will be leading a walk, in partnership with Andrew Stuck (of Rethinking Cities /  Museum of Walking), to the Hardy Ash – an extraordinary tree in the cemetery adjacent to St Pancras Old Church.

When poet and novelist Thomas Hardy was working as an architect in the 1860s he was responsible for overseeing the excavation of the old cemetery, to make way for the extension of the Midland Railway into the new terminus at St Pancras. The gravestones were stacked around an ash tree in the churchyard and have since fused with its trunk and roots, making it one of the most unusual trees in London, now known as The Hardy Ash or The Hardy Tree. There are some other unusual trees in the churchyard, too.

St Pancras Old Church is a wonderful little Anglican church on the banks of the Fleet River, which is now underground. It is one of the oldest in England, dating back before the Norman Conquest.

The walk is free, but places are limited and must be booked.  The walk coincides with London Tree Week, was commissioned by the Mayor of London. Please see the link for further details and to book a place. Currently there are still places available on 30th.  http://www.museumofwalking.org.uk/events/stalking-the-hardy-ash/

Peter Coles is a visiting fellow of CUCR, Goldsmiths College, University of London.  pcoles@me.com

Images by Peter Coles.

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From America to Latino: Popular Music and the Kidnapping of Latin America by Jorge Saavedra Utman

IMG_0150‘René Pérez Joglar, aka Residente, from the Puerto Rican band Calle 13′ by Jorge Villa Moreno.

I am afraid that Latin America is a decaying concept. I have had that feeling listening to Latin music for some years, the one that sounds in mainstream radios, the one awarded here and there by the industry. Very often, when I go over contemporary lyrics I wonder: where is Latin America? In this article I provide an answer based on the analysis of lyrics from popular songs composed in the last 60 years, identifying three stages: a first moment when composers talked about America as a continent; a second step when Latin America emerged politically loaded; and a third one when the word America –and the political load- was evicted to create a new identity, just Latin. To put it bluntly, I argue that Latin America (as a concept) has been kidnapped in music (although it sometimes wanders around as a fugitive reminder of an unachieved past).

America (not yet the country): nature, voice, them and us

In the fifties and sixties popular music broadcast on radio stations, sold on LPs and played at music festivals, talked about America in a broad sense. These songs were about people and nations, united by a narrative attached to nature, including the green forest, rivers, waterfalls, flowers, hills and valleys. All of this existed in a context of harmony confronted to the brutality of the Spanish gun and fire that destroyed everything around. These songs of unity took elements of that nature to say that we were all just one: Americans, and that all singularities made the whole, but the whole was more than the sum of all of singularities.

Canción con Todos[1] (Song with Everyone, 1969) by the Argentinean composers Armando Tejada Gómez and César Isella reflects this feeling, speaking from the position of an imaginary inhabitant walking around the American countries: “I set out to walk across, the cosmic belt of the south/ I step upon the most fertile region, of the wind and the light/ I sense as I walk, all the skin of America in my skin/ And in my blood a river flows, that sets free in my voice its abundance/ Sun from high Peru, the face of Bolivia, tin and solitude/ Green Brazil, kiss my Chile copper and mineral”. This song carries on its naturalistic description a deep political sense rooted in the most basic condition of Latin – American situation: voice, presumably as a right of a sovereign land to name its name, to talk by itself, to not be subjugated by any master.

“Sing with me, sing/ American Brother/ Release your hope/ With a scream in your voice!” continues the song. It is remarkable, however, to observe that the invitation to take out the voice -and the rest of the lyric- is directed to all American brothers. This call occurs because the songs of this era sing about America not as a national territory but as a whole continent -something that today might cause confusion. Here Latin America does not appear yet.

In “Si Somos Americanos[2] (“If we are Americans”, 1965), another pinnacle song from the 1960s, Chilean singer and composer Rolando Alarcón depicts unity that defines a clear us (and therefore a clear them): “If we are Americans/ we are brothers/ we have got the same flowers/ we have got the same hands/ If we are Americans”. Here, the others (them) are described as those who are not close to dance “marinera, refalosa, zamba and son”, i.e. typical dances from the Andes, from the southern cone of South America, from the Brazilian area and from the Caribbean and Centre American axis. In other words, these songs do not consider the USA, Canada and other nations located on the same continent in their definition of America. Why? The answer is material for another debate, but let’s say that a narrow identity was in the making.

Latin America: resist, defeat, resist, defeat

A second moment appears Latin America, with an undeniable and clear political component. It shows up as a continent that, after the defeat of its emancipatory projects in the 60’s and 70’s, resists against the triumphant empire of 20th century: USA. Here Latin America is again a vegetal, human and mineral territory, inhabited by abused people and exploited resources, popular subjects that must resist if they want to overcome what seems the curse of their destiny. This is traceable from Mercedes Sosa’s song “Las venas abiertas”,[3] (“The Open Veins”, 1985) until the most recent “Latinoamérica”,[4] (“Latin America”, 2011) by Calle 13, among others. In “Latinoamérica” the Puerto Rican band sings: “I am/ I am what they left behind/ I am the leftovers of what they have stolen” before highlighting the natural spectrum of the continent and its dignity based on communitarian reciprocity: “Here we share, what is mine is yours” they declare.

However, I argue that Calle 13’s song is nothing but a 21st century reminiscence of old days. Not because of the rhetoric or the kind of vindication, but because since the 1970’s and after the neoliberal victory in the area, the notion of Latin America got drained from its former meanings, raising some questions: Did Latin America ever really mean something? If so, what happened in the middle? Two songs might answer these questions from two different perspectives. First, Pablo Milanés’ “Canción por la Unidad Latinoamericana[5] (Song for the Latin American Unity, 1975) and the finding that disunity has always been present in Latin America –therefore the lack of strength and collaboration to act as one force: “As the years passed resentments got accumulated/ loves were forgotten, we seemed strangers”. The disunity mentioned by the Cuban musician contributed, according to this song, to the servant condition of Latin America and to an evident defeat that restrained the continent in the quest for its emancipation. The second song, “Latinoamérica es un pueblo al Sur de Estados Unidos[6] (Latin America is a town south of the United States, 1984), by the Chilean band Los Prisioneros responds to the question of utopia and unity in a brilliant and brutal way. It acknowledges a cultural, political and social utter defeat. Latin America, they tell us, is not only the backyard of the USA, but is a continent living, following and trying to imitate the real and successful ‘Americans’, the distinguished and glamorous Europeans, i.e. Coloniality at large. [7]

Particularly pungent, Los Prisioneros lyrics describe Latin America as an “exotic place to visit”, prepared for tourists purchasing trips to the Rio Carnival and the Aztecs ruins. A land plenty of natives who will sell themselves for a few dollars and, furthermore, cry if Ronald Reagan (the song was composed in the 1980s) or the Queen (from any European nation, obviously) dies. A loose sentence in the middle of the lyrics – “to divide is to weaken” – comes up as a key and permanent topic with political and historical consequences.

Simply Latin: hips, rhythm and other spicy things from Miami

According to Daniel Party,[8] Miami not only “had become the heart of Latin American show business and the preferred production centre for Latin American pop artists wishing to internationalize their career” (65), but “[Miami] went from capital of Latin America in the United States to capital of Latin America” (66). Party’s assertion is an unavoidable argument on the historical journey proposed by this text as it points to a crucial shift: the capital of ‘us’ settled down in the land of the former ‘them’. ‘Latin America’ became a shorter concept: ‘Latin’. The obliteration of the ‘American’ part of the former compound word became a natural presence in contemporary lyrics recorded and distributed by mainstream music industry. It went so far as to receive coverage from ‘MTV Latino’, awards in the ‘Latin Grammys’ and available in the Latin channel of the music web http://www.accuradio.com.

In this context, the identity of the ‘Latino’ appears as a US based story, as described in one of the songs by the Mexican band Maná:[9] “Warning, this is a call/ Your attention is valuable, they are discriminating Latinos/ I think they are not right/ We are people that never cower/ We are going to show who we are with courage and value”. Even though the song is called ‘Latinoamérica’ (Latin America, 2011), the subject in the lyrics is the Latino who lives his/her Latino experience on US soil. Therefore, the Latino condition is a matter of individuals, subjects; not nations, countries or federations in a context where he or she can be discriminated not by his/her brother – like in the 19th century and part of the 20th – but by those who own the place where the Latino is a foreigner or a significant other.

Nonetheless, in Maná’s song there is a trace of an historical claim, something that in most Miami styles of Latin music is not present. In most of the songs coming from the US, the Latin identity is a broad picture of wild nature, pretty bodies, frantic cadence, mystic secrets and spicy moods. The song “Mujer Latina”,[10] (Latin Woman, 1997) by Mexican singer, actress and dancer, Thalia, is an example. The lyrics says she is the blood of her land “from sea to the mountains, hot like the fire”, while other songs just take the meaning of Latino to a whole new level. Like in Don Omar’s track “Reggaeton Latino[11] (Latin Reggaeton, 2005), where the power of Latin music is to make women dance for the pleasure of men. No revolution, no dream of a better world, no history, no heritage, just dance in this vision of the Latin landscape, men are machos and women are (or must be) hot.

I am afraid – and with some degree of certainty due to the last football World Cup held in Brazil – that the less political, less emancipated Latino image, music and culture rather than a politically-loaded Latin America, will be the one occupying the global marquee in the next few years, especially in the context of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. And this should not cause surprise. The opening ceremony of Brazil 2014 World Cup featured J-Lo, Pitbull and Claudia Leitte (to add the local component), and there is no reason to think that in 2016 the set will be different. Sure there will be frantic hips, vivid colours, ‘Latin words’ like olé or caramba plastic flavours, good feelings and the best intentions. That will be the global image and lyrics of the ‘Latin’ world emerging on the global stage. The notion of Latin America, on the other hand, with its uncertainties, peculiarities and untold discourses, will be behind that noise in the cracks of that industry, wandering around, trying not to be subsumed by the so called Latin music.

‘From America to Latino’ is published in 2015 edition of CUCR magazine Streetsigns. This year it focusses on Latin America. For further articles go to : http://www.gold.ac.uk/cucr/vurbanism/streetsigns%20publication/ 

Jorge Utman is PhD candidate in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London.  jorge.utman@gmail.com

 

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGcqLQswysM

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Y3P5g0Sp0A

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aDMp31qHRA

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkFJE8ZdeG8

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zR9grCBssrk

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3Fj-vSKAVs

[7] Grosfoguel, R. (2007) The epistemic decolonial turn. Cultural Studies, 21 (2-3), pp. 211-223; Quijano, A. (2008) “Coloniality of power, eurocentrism, and social classification”. In Moraña et. al. (eds) Coloniality at large. Latin America and the Postcolonial Debate. Pp.181-224. Durham: Duke University Press.

[8] Party, D. (2010) “The miamization of Latin American Pop Music”. In Corona, I. and Madrid, A. (eds.) Postnational musical identities.  pp. 65-80. Lexington: Lanham.

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7aQi5kXC5k

[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HFctj6bluM

[11] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTjyw7QQKgE

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Nailing it: A Multisensory Exploration of a Manicure by Louise Rondel

Louise Rondel nails

What can a sensuous exploration of urban space offer us as researchers? How can we use multisensory methods to attend to the ever-changing social world and produce better urban research?

As well as watching what unfolds, my research into hair and nail salons experiments with listening, smelling and touching as alternative ways of accessing urban life.  Influenced by Les Back and Dawn Lyon’s research into fishmongers on Deptford Market, which explores ‘the embodied and sensory dimensions of work’ (2012: 3.3), I engage my own senses to produce a ‘thick description’ (Geertz 1973) of a recent visit to a nail salon.

Opening the door from the cold street and entering into the nail salon, the first thing you notice is the sweet and cloying, although not overly unpleasant, smell of the nail polishes and removers. Within a couple of minutes, however, this has disappeared into the background. It’s 3pm on a Wednesday, I am the only customer and the two manicurists are chatting behind their stations in Vietnamese. I am relieved I don’t have to wait and spend ten minutes flicking through five month old Hello! magazines. Above the quiet chat of the manicurists, the television in the corner playing Jessie J’s latest hit dominates. It is warm in the salon so I remove my coat and scarf and pile them rather unceremoniously on a chair and go to the display of an array of brightly coloured nail polishes to choose exactly which shade of red I want. Returning to the station, I sit down and face my manicurist, stretching my hands out as she begins to clip my nails; my palm resting on the towel, she supports my fingers in her hand and stretches each one towards her, the metal of the clippers presses against my fingertips. With each clip, a lifeless part of what was once me falls onto the towel.

Whilst she does this the phone rings and her colleague answers and explains the price of an airbrush design to a potential customer in a south London-Vietnamese accent, palatalising the consonants, turning Os into As. The next stage of the manicure is the filing, the manicurist dons a mask to cover her nose and mouth and the rough edge of the file rasps as it saws and shapes my nails. I then soak my fingertips in warm water before she uses two brutal looking instruments to scrape away and to trim my cuticles, the first applying pressure to my nails, the second snipping at the dead skin.

Finally, in preparation for the polish, she buffs my nails, rubbing the buffer backwards and forwards. All the while the hand being worked on is in her hand, we make small talk but never make eye contact, her focus is on my hands, her work. After washing the bits of nail dust off my hands I return to the station where she applies a synthetic fruit-smelling hand cream to my hands and lower arms: rubbing it into my wrists, she lifts one hand at a time and massages the palms and each finger. Then, she takes my right hand and applies a base coat, one deft stroke on each nail; replacing this hand on the counter she does the same with the left.

Next, with the same deftness and precision, she paints two coats of bright red on each nail, using her own nail to scrape away any polish that goes astray. Once this is complete, she ushers me to the driers where I am to sit for ten minutes facing the wall with my hands splayed. From this position I can hear the woman in the massage chair, her body vibrating, having her toenails clipped whilst recounting her day on the phone. I can also hear the sound of the file as another customer begins her manicure. After ten minutes my manicurist comes over, lifts one hand, touches a nail with her fingertip and says ‘two more minutes’. A few minutes later she does the same thing, this time announcing that I am done. I collect my belongings, pay at the counter and open the door back out into the cold. For the next half hour, I am conscious of how I use my hands as if any slight contact might chip the bright red talons…

Paying attention here to the various sensory engagements within this space, and in particular to the aural and to the tactile, ‘it is possible to hear and sense the body at work’ allowing us a way of accessing ‘the sensuous quality of labour as an embodied practice’ (Back and Lyon 2012: 5.15, 1.3). In the way the tools become an extension of the manicurist’s body and in the way that she uses her body as a tool, there is apparent a ‘corporeal comprehension’ (O’Connor 2007: 134). This skill and the rhythms of her work cannot be attended to by observation alone, rather, as researchers, by using our senses to consider the sensory practices of work we are more able to ‘flesh out the flesh of [the] world, its materiality’ (O’Connor 2007: 139).

Louise Rondel is an MPhil/PhD student in sociology at Goldsmiths. She is interested in urban space, everyday experiences of the city and hair and nail salons.

 l.rondel@gold.ac.uk    @LouiseRondel

 

Back, L. and Lyon, D. (2012) ‘Fishmongers in a global economy: Craft and social relations on a London market’, Sociological Research Online 17:2 available at http://www.socresonline.org.uk/17/2/23.html

Geertz, C. (1973) The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays, New York: Basic Books.

O’Connor, E. (2007) ‘Embodied knowledge in glassblowing: The experience of meaning and the struggle towards proficiency’ in Shilling, C. (ed.) Embodying Sociology: Retrospect, Progress and Prospects, Malden and Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Image by Louise Rondel.

 

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Seminar : Revisiting Segal. Learning from the Lewisham Self Build Schemes

Copyright ‘Walter’s Way’ by Brian Whittle is licensed under CC by 2.0

Date: Thursday 19th March 2015

Time: 7-9pm

Location: RHB Cinema, Goldsmiths, Lewisham Way SE14 6NW

In the 1970s and 1980s, Lewisham became the first council in London to fund a self build project using the Segal method of building. While today self build is often associated with ‘Grand Designs’, these projects focused on providing social housing through self build. Against the current backdrop of the housing crisis across London, it is timely that were visit what were quite groundbreaking, socially-motivated schemes.

This event showcases this innovative approach to supporting people to build their houses. It includes a showing of the BBC Open Door programme The House that Mum and Dad built (1982) that captures the experiences of families involved in the first project, Segal Close and a discussion led by people who were involved in the various Segal schemes rolled out in Lewisham at this time.

This event is part of the research project Selfbuilding: the production and consumption of new homes from the perspective of households.

For more information contact Dr Michaela Benson. Michaela.benson@gold.ac.uk

Copyright ‘Walter’s Way’ by Brian Whittle is licensed under CC by 2.0

190315 Poster JPG

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Seminar – Council Housing Estates in London: From Urban Marginality to State-Led Gentrification by Dr. Paul Watt (Birkbeck)

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Date : Wednesday 11th March,

Time : 4pm

Location : Goldsmiths, University of London,  RHB142

This paper examines how processes of ‘state-led gentrification’ are occurring at London’s council housing estates via area-based regeneration programmes. These estates are currently disappearing from the city’s skyline in the name of regeneration and improving the lives and opportunities of their residents. New mixed-tenure developments are arising where the estates used to stand. These developments are dominated by gleaming private tower blocks, the 21st century distorted mirror image of their much-maligned modernist council housing antecedents. What long-term processes have brought this dramatic state of affairs about? How have London’s council housing residents (primarily multi-ethnic working class) responded to their estates’ demise or threatened demise? What political responses can be identified to state-led gentrification at this time of ever-deepening housing crisis in London? This paper examines these questions with reference to London-wide research on the changing nature of social housing provision, but with a focus on the outer London Borough of Barnet. 

Paul Watt is an urbanist whose research interests span geography, sociology and social policy. My over-arching research focus is the inter-relationship between social inequalities, space and place, especially in global cities and their hinterlands. This includes the following themes:

  • Social housing and urban regeneration.
  • Neighbourhoods and communities. 
  • The 2012 London Olympics and the regeneration of East London.
  • Suburbanisation and the suburbs

For more information contact Dr Michaela Benson michaela.benson@gold.ac.uk

Image Copyright  by Andrew Mager is licensed under CC by 2.0

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