2012 FELLOW JANINE MARCHESSAULT
Going Public: Art, Urbanism, and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century
If there is to be a "new urbanism" it will not be based on the twin fantasies of order and omnipotence; it will be the staging of uncertainty; it will no longer be concerned with the arrangement of more or less permanent objects but with the irrigation of territories with potential; it will no longer aim for stable configurations but for the creation of enabling fields that accommodate processes that refuse to be crystallized into definitive form… Rem Koolhaas, "What Ever Happened to Urbanism?" (1994), in S,M,L,XL, OMA, (with Bruce Mau), The Monicelli Press, New York, 1995, pp. 959/971.
What is the function of public art today? If art is the highest expression of our culture, might it play a role in bringing citizens together in new and unforeseen ways to recognize shared problems and devise common purposes? Might the “new urbanism” proposed by the great architect Rem Koolhass be found in new forms of participatory public art that are temporarily transforming urban spaces around the world?
The most enlightened urban planners and designers have always been interested in public art’s capacity to communicate across diverse communities, to generate new insights, and to propose generative pathways. The cities of the 21st century need to address the most pressing tensions between ecology and economy; agriculture and development; and diversity and history. The challenge is to move away from conventional top-down approaches, instead incorporating participatory and inclusive processes in urban planning.
At Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Janine Marchessault, professor of cinema and media studies at York University and a 2012 fellow of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, will deliver a Trudeau Lecture on her experience curating a 30-artist show on the role of artists in urban planning. What if artists were to create new forms of urban planning, using their own language to address broader issues where traditional forms of political engagement, city planning, and policy development have fallen short? Can an art exhibition with a range of interdisciplinary activities foster productive conversations about our cities? These are some of the questions Marchessault sought to answer in September and October 2013 with the public art intervention Land|Slide: Possible Futures. Located at Markham Museum, an open-air historic village in southern Ontario, the show ran in one of Canada’s most culturally diverse and fastest-growing cities, which spreads across one of the most agriculturally rich regions in North America and sits on the edge of Ontario’s massive, 1.8 million-acre Greenbelt, created to preserve farmland and vital natural resources. For three weeks, Land|Slide artists transformed the museum’s well-preserved historical buildings, opening them up to contemporary dialogue through surreal, utopian, and haunting artworks. They augmented the past in often humorous and always ingenious ways to suggest interwoven lines of human culture, wildlife, migration, and sustainability that must be considered as we plan and develop future landscapes. Land|Slide presently represents Canada at the 2013-14 Hong Kong-Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture.
The lecture is presented as a part of Imagining Our Future, an expansive, experimental and provocativethree year series of events and activities that explore the geographical, historical, and cultural context of our anticipated move to the False Creek Flats (Senákw). At this seminal moment in our institution’s history, the series brings together practitioners from across a range of practices and fields of inquiry, evoking both radical and practical propositions for how we inhabit our new campus, and how we imagine the art, media and design university of the 21st century. Through various platforms, the series will explore the relationship between the proposed campus and the land on which it will be built, the communities that surround it, and the historical and urban context of the site, and its promise to become a central element in a new creative and cultural district in the City of Vancouver.
More information at imagining.ecuad.ca