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    “The Grass Is Closed” at the University of California campuses

    Javier Arbona-Homar
    Nov 11, '11 7:55 PM EST

    Facing not only the privatization of public education and the concomitant worsening of the quality of schools, it has become more than apparent that students at UC Berkeley (and many other places) in addition now must make visible the degree of violence unleashed by the administration on its own people. 

    In an earlier satire today, I wanted to bring attention to the convoluted logic that the Chancellor uses to justify that they have not been within the law when approaching protesters and occupations. But in the piece, I also wanted to bring attention to the larger pattern of "weaponizing" or instrumentalizing space in order to do the dirty work of the police in more permanent ways. The fictitious phrase "peaceful brutality" I coined, which isn't so far from the absurdity of the Chancellor's own words of "not non-violent," refers to a serious architectural matter. UC does this over and over again: using "public" space to make "peaceful brutality" permanent.

    For this reason, a post by Aaron Bady is comical, tragic and serious at the same time. Bady reports and the analyzes how a cop in front of Berkeley's Sproul Hall told him: "The Grass is Closed." Relatedly, the UC regents have taken up the practice of holding meetings at the relatively new UCSF Mission Bay campus, a university built from scratch thanks to one of the largest real estate boondoggles in San Francisco history (a post for another day).

    The Koret quad at the center of the campus was landscaped by Peter Walker and partners. There is something eerie about that quad. Dead. Quiet. Forested in an odd way... One could say that it was deliberately designed, using trees and mounding, to make "the grass closed." Look:

    I do not know if this was specifically a conscious directive given by the regents. I don't know if it was Peter Walker's idea. I don't even know if anyone thought about it at first. Maybe. But I suspect that at some point, maybe one of the regents figured out the utility of the way in which the landscape foils UC Berkeley-style civil disobedience. It makes demonstrations impractical and invisible—and closed. To be sure, protesters found other ways to confront regents meetings, and will again (as soon as next week). But more than anything, I am 100% sure that there are many other instances at UC and campuses all over in which design erects "peaceful brutality."

    Photo by Frank Farm

    • 1 Comment

    • not just the trees. it looks like in the one avenue of openness leading between the two sides of the lawn they installed some sort of pyramidal bollard...

      Nov 12, 11 8:21 am  · 

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About this Blog

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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