Posts Tagged ‘public space’

RGS-IBG CFP: Resistance in public spaces – Questions of distinction, duration and expansion

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Lars Meier and I are planning to host a session at this year’s conference of the Royal Geographical Society – Insitute of British Geographers in London. The title for the session is:

Resistance in public spaces – Questions of distinction, duration and expansion

In this session, we want to discuss the limits of resistance in public places in the context of artistic practice and political movements. While actions such as impromptu performances, entities such as flash mobs or practices like street art are often referred to as instances of opportunities for social change, their actual effects remain understudied. If the ‘right to the city’ is at stake here, however, it is necessary not only to reflect about possibilities for alternative development or about artistic ideals. It becomes necessary to study the manifold ways in which such practices, entities or events enter the practices of those who are in the places where they occur. We would propose that three distinct dimensions are important in this undertaking:

Distinction: Understood in a Bourdieuan sense, what are the positions of those who enact and those who perceive artistic expression or countercultural performance? Where in the social and cultural fields are they located and how do they present themselves in relation to everyday culture and the avant-garde? How will people with different taste be emotionally affected by performances and will the experience change or stabilize their aesthetic preferences? Do artists/protesters bridge social distinction or do they perhaps even enforce or solidify it?

Duration: How long does the event last? When do the last traces of an act of resistance disappear? Here, it becomes important to think both about the materiality of places and about memory, the duration of sensual impressions, both on a social and individual level. In addition, the role of recording technologies is complex: while they do serve to extend the time frame in which the event can be ‘witnessed’, they also fundamentally change the access to an event, which is now mediated in a different way and also accessed by a different set of people (youtube users instead of passers-by etc.).

Expansion: What is the spatial scale of the act, entity or performance? Does it affect only a very limited space or is the reach much wider? The geography of resistance is of crucial importance if one wants to understand its spatial implications. Accordingly, we would like to invite presentations to examine the sensual and material extension of practices of resistance.

We especially want to encourage people to consider connections of art and resistance with current political movements and protests like in Arabian countries, Russia or China or the economical and political crisis in Europe.

We would like to invite presentations that use concrete instances as the basis of arguments about how resistance plays out in public places and where it fails to bridge socio-cultural divisions. We are particularly interested in the limits of resistance and in the ways in which these limits could be extended. At the same time, it remains an open question to us if an extension of limits is actually to be wished for or not, since such an extension might also serve to water down the intended effect itself. In short, we are looking forward to explore the ambivalences of resistance together with the other presenters and with the audience.

Please send abstracts of around 200 words to Lars Frers ( until 27th of January 2013.

Sounds of … something. Negotiating noises and voices.

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Fall is conference season, and this year is no exception. I am very happy that my submission for the 3rd International Ambiances Network Conference & Workshop in Munich (October 6th – 8th) has been accepted. The title of the conference is Urban Design & Urban Society. The emergence of urban atmospheres between design practice and social invention. My contribution has been placed into the October 8th session called Resisting bodies: provoking atmospheres, which should fit the profile of my presentation really well. As the organizers (Rainer Kazig, Monika Popp and Damien Masson) are known for their ability to create productive and stimulating sessions, I am quite sure that we’ll have some excellent discussions in Munich.
The title for my presentation is Sounds of … something. Negotiating noises and voices, following you can read the abstract:

Urban spaces are permeated by sounds. Machines, people, animals, the elements – they all contribute to one of the more difficult to grasp aspects of urban life. In this presentation I will focus on the sounds that I recorded in the context of videotaping different spaces of mobility. I will pay particular attention to how sound establishes atmospheres both through its presence and its absence. The day-night cycle of a railway terminal, for example, produces strikingly different soundscapes. Practices that would get lost during the bustle of the rush hour easily capture the attention of the few who are present during the quiet hours, when night has fallen. To gain attention during the busy times, people and things need to produce sounds of a much higher volume or suddenness, while even a slight change in tune might become perceivable at other times.

These soundscapes are not just passively consumed, they are negotiated with acuity and in interaction with others who are either co-present – but sometimes they are also produced in relation to a perceived absence. It is these negotiations that are at the heart of my presentation. How do people use their voice or other sounds that they produce to establish territories, to influence the way they and the space through which they move are perceived by others and themselves? How do people display attention to or ignorance of specific sounds which they might deem to be inappropriate or not worthy of attention? How are other spaces established through sound?

All of these questions also relate to the question of resistance in urban space. Two aspects of resistance or urban critique are particularly problematic or open to interpretation in this context: on the one hand, many tactics employed by those seeking to critically relate to atmospheres as they are commonly established in controlled and commercialized urban spaces have limited impact because they are just that: tactics. Understood with de Certeau, they offer limited control over time, but almost no control over space. They appear and quickly fade away. Just as sounds do. But maybe they will leave an echo? This question leads to the other aspect: in how far are the soundscapes of resistance the stratified practices of a specific group of people that distinguishes itself from the masses of consumers through their specific taste, for example through ironic references to mass taste, or through references to aesthetics that are only accessible for those who are socialized to place themselves in the upper strata of the cultural field? Answering this second question is necessary if one wants to understand the multiple ways in which the urban experience is negotiated by all the different participants – how normality is challenged and by whom; and how far sounds can leave echoes in urban space and in the corporeality of its inhabitants that might be evoked at other times and in other places too.