This week we examine the legacy of The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproducibility by Walter Benjamin. Media Theorist and Benjamin scholar (and translator) Thomas Levin explains why this essay resonates today and what Benjamin has to tell us about the utopian power of new media. Also Russell Meyer tells us about the Wu-Tang clan’s plan to release a sole copy of their new album and why he has turned to Kickstarter so he can buy it and release it to the world. And your host shares an imaginary story about Hitler and Goebbels encountering Benjamin’s essay during their final days in the bunker.
Some thinking points on gentrification, place and the self
After listening to Spike Lee speaking (/ranting) about gentrification, I’ve started thinking about how and why gentrification means so much to so many of us - even when it’s not a race question. At the same time I’ve been writing a paper on place, and the combination has brought about an interesting way of thinking.
In ‘The right to the city’, David Harvey argues that ‘The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from that of what kind of social ties, relationship to nature, lifestyles, technologies and aesthetic values we desire. The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city' (my emphasis).* Harvey is operating from a Lefebvrian understanding of space as constructed and is arguing here that in constructing spaces, we are effectively constructing our collective practices and values, and thereby our selves.
There is another way to approach this. If we take on Edward Casey’s assertions of the primacy of place in the human condition, we begin to see why we are so invested in places, particularly those in which we’ve lived for any stretch of time. If, as Casey insists, we ‘live in and through places’ in a phenomenological sense, then change in and to these places strikes at the very core of our being and our perception of the world.
Resistance to processes of gentrification involves more than abstract questions of equity and social justice. It is, in a Bourdieurian sense, a fundamental struggle for the right for our lives to take place in ways that are meaningful to us.
*David Harvey (2008) ‘The right to the city’ New Left review, 53, September-October 2008, p. 23
An on point article about the proposed Melbourne Arts Precinct and urban planning for the arts in general.
A very good article on the contradictions of the ‘creative city’ discourse, gentrification and live music from Kate Shaw in Melbourne.
Shaw however does fall short in the same way that much of this work does, leaning a little too heavily on theorists like Sharon Zukin and applying the term ‘gentrification’ as shorthand for a process which in itself demands analysis.
For example, this is a very different kind of gentrification process, involving what residents call ‘the plan’ and strategies of ‘malignant neglect’.
Ethan Kent, from the Project for Public Spaces, is speaking as part of Sydney Ideas this week.
A recent report suggests surging rents are caused not necessarily by a lack of properties but by a large number of vacant properties. It’s in interesting echo of Marcus Westbury’s argument regarding empty spaces and current regulations.
A quick summary for the uninitiated:
'One of the biggest problems for artists, who typically have low incomes, is finding affordable space from which they can create, distribute and present their work. While a prolonged property bubble has driven up rents and exacerbated this problem, there are still many spaces within Australian cities that sit empty. In late 2008, the Renew Newcastle scheme was established in the regional New South Wales city of Newcastle to take some of the 150 otherwise vacant commercial spaces in that city and make them available to artists, creative enterprises and community groups. To date, the initiative has placed more than 50 artists in shops, offices, studios, and galleries. In doing so, it has revitalised a once emptying city centre and seeded a series of creative initiatives, both commercial and not-for-profit. It is a model for facilitating low-cost decentralised cultural production that other cities such as Cairns, Townsville, Adelaide and Geelong have begun to emulate.
While the scheme has been a success, it is also a case study in the lack of responsibility for cultural regulation at a national level. The very presence of empty spaces in many cities is a product of both market failure and government regulation: many buildings sit vacant due to complex tax laws and planning regulations that provide strong incentives to owners to leave buildings vacant. As a result, flexible access to these spaces for artists and creators is essentially a policy setting – even if it is not an artform-specific funding issue.’