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    Architecture is noticing Occupy...

    Javier Arbona-Homar
    Oct 25, '11 1:04 AM EST

    [post was edited Tues. AM.This just caught my eye:

    Some great folks are going to be discussing Occupy and public space at Avery Hall, Columbia University. Again, the link...

    Would love to hear more of what they discuss, if anyone can live blog or something. I am curious. But, I'm having a lot of qualms myself about seeing the architecture intelligence community take possession of Occupy. Michael Kimmelman, for example, recently wrote a column in the New York Times, which surely you have seen, I hope. 

    I can't quite put my finger on it yet, but part of my gut reaction has to do with the fact that these kinds of stories about "single-family skyscrapers" bring a dose of sobriety and pessimism when it comes to architecture's horizons. What measure of innovation or revelation can architecture academia provide if we've spent the decade devising ideas that feed into what you see below? Please bring me good news, though, Columbia. Maybe there is hope.

    I hate to sound so dour, but there were plenty of opportunities to bring an intellectual—and architectural—scope to social movements that were happening in the last few years. In other words, opportunities existed in exceeding amounts to contribute as intellectuals to a broad spatial question of justice. But to a large extent we failed to do so in any cohesive or precise way. Sometimes reading everything online about Occupy leaves the impression that this came "out of nowhere." (And the NYTimes, in fact, even stated as much, which is lame). This is a fallacy, of course, but even noted intellectuals like Michael Kazin have perpetuated the myth that the left was disarticulated in the last few decades. This did not come out of nowhere, except that much of the activism has been in marginalized communities...

    To wit, in the last several years, within the U.S. context and the struggles here alone, there have been vast anti-war and food-not-bombs actions; a widespread Latino movement for immigrant rights in 2006; the undocumented high school and college Dream Act activists (doing marvelously creative things in ridiculously oppressive spaces); the California and Puerto Rico public university student movements (with attendant occupations); the Wisconsin occupation of the state capitol; the California prison hunger strikes; Arizona and Alabama's racist and anti-public immigration laws, to name a few. In addition, multiple cities have passed Sit/Lie ordinances against the homeless, and Muslim Americans have faced persistent discrimination and hate speech, especially (but certainly not limited to) their architectural presence in places like "ground zero."

    Of course, these spatial conflicts have emerged out of a motley range of conditions and interests, but most, if not all of them, converge on issues that also overlap with Occupy. Namely, issues of economic and social justice side by side with persistent forms of exclusion in the heart of empire. They all present difficult-but-important challenges to that vaunted concept: space. They all raise converging issues of territoriality and power in the neoliberal city.

    So the question is, what the F%! took so long for us to take notice?? 

    P.S. Tuesday AM addendum: Unfortunately, part of what persistently challenges liberal intellectuals and stands in the way of 'taking notice' are the issues of race and gender. It is no mere coincidence that many of the items in my informal list are items connected to civil rights demands. Time perhaps to learn and not to teach? Related...

    Note: I'm saving clippings and thoughts in preparation for the event (poster) on Nov. 19th at the VDL Neutra House. (More: see this post; all posts tagged--ahem--"glam").


    • When I first ran Occupy as a news in Archinect last month (seems like ages ago,)  special emphasis was given to 'space.' For me at the time, that was the one 'clear, obvious and operational' arm of the movement. 

      "Whose Public Space Is This? 80 Arrested in 'Occupied Wall Street' " 

      Oct 25, 11 12:17 pm  · 

      yes--i'm actually working on getting something out from a historical perspective. that said, i share your qualms. on kimmelman:

      -even the new york times food section had itemS on occupy before kimmelman.  he gets points, but only because the bar before him had been set incredibly low. and only for topic selection, not content.

      -his piece had a very conservative, 'power of place' conclusion that completely dismisses how occupy has organized itself through the web. i know this sometimes seems like an over-discussed topic, but that doesn't mean we should completely dismiss it. it's something that sets 2011 apart from previous revolutions, it's there.

      similar to k, i've read other articles on the topic that seem to share this conservative attitude in an almost celebratory way--there's a bit of glee in some voices--"see, power of place, told you. you and your scary internets." (i don't mean to diminish the strength of showing up, but let's just deal w the full picture. i see this as one of the ways occupy can start to be co-opted for certain agendas.

      i am very interested in the free school university lecture series (at occupy boston) and different intellectuals visiting (i know it's sometimes a bit too star system but i thought chomsky and zizek were very good). i'd rather argue for the power of thought over the power of place.

      i'm curious to know how that columbia panel went, but i'm also eager about analyzing and thinking and writing about it in a more thorough, scholarly way (this in progress while i go through other projects).

      Oct 25, 11 6:18 pm  · 

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A bezoar is a mass of disparate pieces and materials. For this blog, you will find something somewhere between tweet-length posts and tumblelogging; inchoate thoughts; provocations and assorted scraps that don't fit anyplace else; criticisms of a political and geographic variety; ecoaffective ramblings; spatial imaginaries that don't conform. On Twitter: @AlJavieera; 1/3rd of @Demilit; bookmarked content: @AJFavorite.

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