How Art Helps to Create Public Space

By Makiko Horita.

Published by The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Public Space tends to be a subject of homogenization in terms of its aesthetic character as well as surveillance by powers controlling it, whether it is a government authority or commercialization. On the other hand, Guerilla Public Space struggled for by recent activism, such as “Occupy Wall Street,” tries to emancipate such spaces into a people’s place, where the spontaneous “power-to-do” (ref: John Holloway) of each participant cooperates with others to create a world they want to see. The actions done by everybody there contribute to the definition of it.
In this paper I compare this spontaneous power of people to “occupy” and redefine the space with artistic creativity. Then I investigate the possibility of empowering such activism by art through two case studies, the “(Park)ing Day” and the “Sidewalks for People”. Both of them have a highly decentralized, DIY character, which demands strong artistic creativity.
A participatory art, empowering everybody to be an artist, will help activists explore their causes and desires more deeply, diversify their expressions, intensify their interaction with each other on every level including subconscious or contextual ones. It will result in a powerful ecosystem of people creating Public Space. This empowerment will be vital for activists to avoid a trap of fetishism, which can make them stick to a cliché easily co-opted by commercialism, or doctrinarism, resulting in a new power controlling others. Continuously being creative and explorative with the help of art, activists can not only resist but can also successfully grow out of the fetishistic way of life capitalism imposes on them.

Keywords: DIY, Decentralization, Public Space, Social Movement, Inclusiveness, Non-violence

The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.21-28. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 239.604KB).

Makiko Horita

Associate Professor, Graduate School of International, Media, Communication and Tourism Studies, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan

I received MA from the Tokyo University and conducted research on the extended concept of Art by Josepf Beuys. Now, apart from the monograph about him, I am trying to form a theory about Art and Social Change in general, holding a seminar about Art, Culture and Society at the University of Hokkaido. In particular, I am interested in the application of the Project Education in the tradition of Paulo Freire to art, and the New Genre Public Arts or the Community Arts which employ found objects and themes from the situations people live in, as well as in participatory arts, which attempts to make everybody an artist. I investigate their potentiality to enhance the consciousness, critical spirit and spontaneity of the people on an everyday basis. They will function as an immune system against the spectacle and fetishism that capitalism imposes on us and bring out our ability to change society from the grassroots level. This is my academic focus at this point in my life.