This week I hosted a Glass House Conversation, asking: "What tactics have emerged in architecture and design since the financial crisis? What’s the operational mode of the bust, or how do we work now?"
The answers were varied, personal, and for the most part went beyond the standard cliches of architectural practice. By looking at the tactical side of recessionary practice, the conversation re-evaluated the vocabulary architects and designers use to explain what they do. I was surprised at the acknowledgment of the messy issues of interdisciplinary practice and, even thought the term "expanded architect" is a bit overkill at moment, the variety of roles designers are taking on—entrepreneur, cultural capitalist, publisher, NGO— and the kinds of projects, small and large, they're tackling.
I was also surprised that at a point in history where cynicism would be forgiven, the answers were forward thinking, not nihilistic. Bryan Boyer wrote: "I look to skills such as negotiation, translation, and optimism as survival tactics in the post-2008 era. I’m taking tactics to mean skills or maneuvers that can be developed through practice. Even optimism needs to be practiced every now and then."
The question is one I lifted from the first Interventionist Toolkit piece over at Places Journal. And I'll be presenting the Interventionist Toolkit research to the Right to the City symposium in Sydney at the end of next week as part of a panel entitled "Tactics for DIY Cities." And the question from above plays a role as I look at how recessionary-era work employs tactics of DIY and arts activism to create urban change. I’m also very excited to share the panel with artist Marjetica Potrč. I can’t wait to hear more about her current projects that blend art installations with social justice and infrastructural thinking.
Finally, the second in my series is online: The Interventionist's Toolkit: Posters, Pamphlets and Guides. It highlights some great work from The Hypothetical Development Organization, Candy Chang, Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination (everyone should download A User’s Guide to (Demanding) the Impossible), the Center For Urban Pedagogy's Making Policy Public series, Studio X and Gavin Browning, and The Center for Tactical Magic, among others.
Here's a snippet:
...Or consider A User’s Guide to (Demanding) the Impossible, published by the arts group Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination to correspond with the Long Weekend, an action organized by Arts Against Cuts and held at Goldsmiths college in London in early December 2010. The event was held to protest Prime Minister David Cameron’s reduction of government funding for British higher education, a spending cut of nearly 40 percent that targeted arts, humanities and social sciences while protecting the budgets of science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs. Held just days before a major MP vote, the 48-hour event offered a series of resistance workshops. The downloadable user’s guide presented a history of art activist strategies. Included were interventionist examples such as The Tactical Ice Cream Unit; created by The Center for Tactical Magic, the TICU is an ice cream van that not only serves up scoops but also distributes radical literature to local communities and acts as a grassroots mobile communications hub. Another project profiled in the guide is the mid-1960s project, The Free Store; created in the mid-1960s by the Diggers (a group of San Francisco artists and actors, and later called the Free City Collective), the Free Store used tactics that we now see as familiar: it occupied an abandoned storefront, and inside, it distributed goods, food and health services for free or exchange. Recognizing the incendiary nature of the pamphlet, User's Guide authors Gavin Grindon and John Jordan write: "This guide is not a road map or instruction manual. It's a match struck in the dark, a homemade multi-tool to help you carve out your own path through the ruins of the present, warmed by the stories and strategies of those who took Bertolt Brecht’s words to heart: 'Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.'"
Read more here.