exploring authenticity in the modern city

Month: March, 2012

Object Appropriation

The Atlantic Cities published an article about Chilean artist Sebastian Errazuriz’s newest collection: a series of foldable chairs made of signs from the Occupy Wall Street protests. The clever design seems like a great piece of portable furniture for protestors until you realize they sell for $2,500 each. This art object represents the constant pattern of authentic and often low-cost or low-brow experience being appropriated by the upper class, the 1% in this case, for consumption. We see this in gentrification patterns, Landmark Preservation efforts, etc. The question is if this is a necessary process.

You can read the original article here:


Green Day and Urbanism

“Much as I wouldn’t have gotten into real punk if I hadn’t listened to Green Day, I wouldn’t be so excited about walking down real city streets had I not walked down a fake city street first.” -Dan Reed, Planning Graduate Student, Blogger

I came across Reed’s article that equates Green Day’s relationship to punk rock with generic urban spaces. The planning school student talks about how he explored the Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland as a teen. The development may not have been “authentic,” but it provided him with the tools to understand what made city spaces work. Similarly, his teen obsession with Green Day was a gateway into more “legitimate” punk rock bands, ones you can find performing in grungy back alley clubs rather than in sports stadiums. For me, the take away point here is that authenticity has the tendency be a privileged pursuit, and one must not underestimate the merit of the more accessible and often generic pieces and places of our culture. Ultimately, it is up to the consumer to decide if he or she wants to remain within the generic world or use the accessible as gateways into the more esoteric. But again, these pursuits require time and effort, the currency of the privileged.

You can read the original article here:

Participatory Planning With Technology & Guerrilla Movements

What could be more authentic than average citizens enacting public policy on a micro-scale? In her recent TED Talk, Jennifer Pahlka talks about a fellowship she organized to bring tech-savvy individuals into city government to develop apps and websites that orchestrate neighborhood improvement policies. Getting citizens involved in government is usually difficult and tedious, but Pahlka argues that when public issues are managed through crowd-sourcing, technology-based infrastructure, getting average citizens involved would be a seamless process. For example, the Adopt a Hydrant App allows people to name fire hydrants if they promise to dig them out of snow drifts in the winter. If they fail to do so, someone else can claim the hydrant in a fun, game-like manner a la mayorships in the outrageously successful smart phone app Foursquare. By making public improvement policies viral, they can be integrated organically into our techy, modern society.

Check out the TED Talk here:

At a different level, Russia-based group Partizaning engages in guerrilla planning efforts that are artistic and emotional. The Urban Medic project involved activists placing bloody bandages on worn-out, urban objects like old trashcans and broken benches. The artistic statement personified these objects as if they were calling out to be helped. Whether or not anyone at the civic or public level acted on amending these issues is unknown, but the statement was powerful nonetheless. Another project called Automobile Interventions involved setting up car-shaped tents in parking spaces to criticize the amount of space allotted to the most inefficient mode of urban transport, cars.

Check out more of the activist projects on the website: