Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Toward Unitary Urbanism

There should be free parties in city parks every weekend.

I have anecdotal evidence supporting my thesis. The Decibel party in Seattle offered a free party in Volunteer Park as alternative to expensive parties downtown. Decibel was a 4-day party showcasing some of my favorite EDM artists - they spun minimal, dub, glitch, and all sorts of funky beats in between. (Look at the full list of all the artists.) Most of the artists played inside for a hefty fee (Carl Craig for $25 at the door), but a few of them played outside in parks absolutely for free.

Some local and West Coast Djs wanted to give Seattle a free show and that was excellent. Two from the Bay-Area (edIT and Boreta) played for free their West Coast "glitch" underground flavor. Here is a sample of their music:

I don't want to take the unitary urbanist thesis too far, but how can I resist? The status quo urbanism is a compartmentalized way to think about a city's surroundings, where "art" is detached from the rest of life. In that view, "art" is supposed to stay inside artist's lofts or inside museums. And increasingly, art is being pushed back into private spaces and out of public spaces. From this I suppose we can conclude that public art has negative aesthetic effect on some peoples' "indifference curves". These people, typically, we call "squares". Status quo urbanism is square urbanism.

It's unfortunate that square values have triumphed over unitary values in public discourse (in the City of Seattle and elsewhere). The Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle has seen an increase in art, dance, and "hip" scenes in recent years. But the squares are fighting back with socio-economic status and privilege as a way to limit everyone else's fun. In the unitary urbanist ideal, an urban environment is blended so much with work and play that you cannot tell where function ends and where play begins.

"A unitary urbanism — the synthesis we call for, incorporating arts and technologies — must be created in accordance with new values of life, values which we now need to distinguish and disseminate. . . . "

- Gil J Wolman “La plate-forme d’Alba” originally appeared in Potlatch: Information Bulletin of the Lettrist International #27 (Paris, 2 November 1956)

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