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Art & Social Space
SITAC Art and City: Urban Aesthetics, Public Space, Policies for Public Art
by Jennifer Teets

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II Phantom urban cinematic entities, envisioning Torolab, and mini/megacity renewals

Moving on to specific city case studies, novelist and screenwriter Norman Klein initiated his round table speech by describing the infamous city of Los Angeles as follows, "Los Angeles is the second largest city in Mexico as well as the largest city in Armenia. It is also in great part a city never invented, except in film." Amidst the authorí­s wise cracks about the nature of storytelling—"whatí­s a good story without a murder,"—the public vs. the entertainment sector, and the age of the electronic baroque, Klein arrived at an interesting conclusion regarding Los Angelesí­ and the United Statesí­ inner city current dilemma: "With the growing importance of the private sector in city life in the US, new tools for urban analysis may be needed: how "public" space is scripted, how collective memory is manipulated in these spaces, how the global economy tends toward hierarchy, and the monumentalizing of hierarchy. Many of the classic postmodern urban models such as suburbs and theming have matured, entered a new stage. This stage parallels the political shocks that are now changing the constitutional powers in the United States as well as the new modes of erasure, class identity, and political crisis that cities like Los Angeles are facing." In a similar spirit, artist/architect Raúl Cárdenas contemplated the current state of the San Diego/Tijuana region from the perspective of his workshop/business experiment Torolab. With three projects on hand, ToroVestimenta (ToroClothing), Vertex 0.2 El Puente (Vertex 0.2 The Bridge), and Arquitectura de Emergencia (Emergency Architecture), Cárdenas reiterated Torolabí­s emphasis on intervening in urban zones by means of clothing, mini-housing units, and electronic and printed materials. He explained that Torolab "is not interested in trendy art stardom, nor does it wish to perpetuate the artistic bureaucracy. What we look for is to establish intimate relationships among people, ideas, living equipment and human shelter atmospheres in order to achieve a better quality of life." Editor/art critic, Rosa Olivares, spoke of a similar example in Victoria, Spain. Concentrating on the political interests of town councils and governments when "legitimizing" certain existing public art monuments, Olivares suggested introducing political and aesthetic criteria for public art works.

Mexico Cityí­s Ciudad Futura, an environmental urban collective, presented their controversial, yet intriguing proposal for urban renewal, highlighting Mexico City as a paradigm of urban collapse in the third world. Although Gustavo Lipkauí­s commentary had little to do with urban aesthetics, the proposal suggested the possible construction of museums in the proposed redesigned lake system. Lipkau commented, "México Ciudad Futura is a strategic project whose purpose is to recover Texcoco Lake as part of a scenario of infrastructure, ecology and urban development for the Valley of Mexico. It considers the construction of a lake system, supplied by the cityí­s residual water. These lakes will be connected by urban infrastructures and surrounded by an 80 km coast that will supply areas for urban growth, services, parks and infrastructure, as well as the new International Airport of Mexico City. The financing that these infrastructures will bring will transform the vision of the lake into the most important ecological recovery that any large city of the world has seen. México Ciudad Futura imagines more productive environmental strategies for territory planning. It changes the urban and regional landscape of the Valley of Mexico, transforming Mexico City into a more sustainable surrounding."

Fortunately, PACí­s initiatives to unite the work of many exhilarating cultural practitioners annually under one roof meant that SITAC was able to invite philosopher/urban art historian Nelson Brissac to speak about his Sí£o Paulo project Arte/Cidade. In addition to speaking about specific works by Laura Vinci and Regina Silveira for one edition of the Arte/Cidade project, Brissac noted specific conditions subject to the public art process as well as the current Sí£o Paulo situation. He stated, "Sí£o Paulo has become a battlefield, a city made of modernized enclaves and vast interstitial territories, where new urban practices appear. Slum quarters, street vendors and homeless populations occupy the city. How do we map these dynamic and formless processes that break with all conventional parameters of urbanism and culture? Today, the development of artistic and architectural interventions in an urban environment raises new issues related to projects and their implementation. The experiences carried out in recent decades established an extraordinary repertoire regarding the choice of situations as well as the aesthetic and urban strategies employed. But these new practice methods in urban spaces triggered some pressing criticism in response to their relationship with urban redevelopment plans and the politics of art institutions. These are the questions that permeated the preparation and implementation of Arte/Cidade—Zona Leste in 2002. The project consisted of gathering around 30 artists and architects to devise interventions in Sí£o Pauloí­s eastern zone, which comprises an area of 10 square kilometers. This region was the setting for the cityí­s first wave of immigration and industrialization in the beginning of the century. Transport systems were introduced which completely deconfigured the areaí­s traditional spatial organization. Later, new quarters, built with modern infrastructures, began to emerge and proliferate in the vast intervals between shantytowns, street markets and areas inhabited by the homeless. Not by chance, this area is today targeted by the first large urban development projects under the format of those which have reconfigured the worldí­s metropolises. The idea is to take this region of Sí£o Paulo as a field in which all issues concerning the globalization of cities and art are examined. Berlim-Mitte, setting to one of the most extensive urban redevelopment projects, serves as a critical parameter for these new large operations. At a moment when recent urban revitalization politics and established public art schemes are collapsing under the complexity and scale of the new situations, Arte/Cidade proposes to discuss new urban and artistic strategies of interventions in megacities."

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