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Purpose Exploring the need for “neutral” public space located between the private act of voting and formal deliberative democracy, the purpose of this paper is to examine two interfaces between everyday life and democratic politics and considers ways this territory can be a site for generative artistic practises. Design/methodology/approach Many artists and architects work in the space between the individual and formal collective political processes. Speculating outward from two artworks by the author and drawing on the thought of Hannah Arendt, Rosalyn Deutsche, Chantal Mouffe, Bruno Latour and others, this paper maps theory to the territory and proposes a new framework for reconsidering the work of such practitioners. Findings Three potentially fruitful avenues for exploration as artistic practice related to democratic interfaces are identified and discussed through examples. Originality/value This exploration is part of a broader practice-led research project into models of public collaborative thinking within the context of artistic practice. Many argue that the public realm has been co-opted by neo-liberal political and economic forces, resulting in a sense of hopelessness that limits the ability to imagine anything else. This research reflects on artistic tactics that counter this sense of hopelessness. These practices often suggest alternative social structures, foster ephemeral (local) public spheres or propose spatial configurations that support these. This paper offers a useful framework for reflecting on the work of politically engaged artists and architects as well as structuring new projects.
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Experiments in interfaces
Carol Jane Mancke
School of Arts and Humanities, Royal College of Art, London, UK
Purpose Exploring the need for neutralpublic space located between the private act of voting and formal
deliberative democracy, the purpose of this paper is to examine two interfaces between everyday life and
democratic politics and considers ways this territory can be a site for generative artistic practises.
Design/methodology/approach Many artists and architects work in the space between the individual
and formal collective political processes. Speculating outward from two artworks by the author and drawing
on the thought of Hannah Arendt, Rosalyn Deutsche, Chantal Mouffe, Bruno Latour and others, this paper
maps theory to the territory and proposes a new framework for reconsidering the work of such practitioners.
Findings Three potentially fruitful avenues for exploration as artistic practice related to democratic
interfaces are identified and discussed through examples.
Originality/value This exploration is part of a broader practice-led research project into models of public
collaborative thinking within the context of artistic practice. Many argue that the public realm has been co-
opted by neo-liberal political and economic forces, resulting in a sense of hopelessness that limits the ability to
imagine anything else. This research reflects on artistic tactics that counter this sense of hopelessness. These
practices often suggest alternative social structures, foster ephemeral (local) public spheres or propose spatial
configurations that support these. This paper offers a useful framework for reflecting on the work of
politically engaged artists and architects as well as structuring new projects.
Keywords Public realm, Drawing, Politics, Art, Democracy, Public protest
Paper type Conceptual paper
Viewed from a position within everyday life, the formal apparatus of democracy can appear
to be on the other side of an unbridgeable canyon or a tempered one-way mirror. In 2015,
partly driven by an interest in what could be between there and here, the author made a
drawing[1] by tracing the marks she drew on a California election ballot. In the same year,
she made a large round table inscribed with a map incorporating six sites of extended
protest[2]. These works distinguish two interfaces between ordinary life and the political
systems within which it takes place.
The years since 2015 have brought striking changes in political landscapes in the USA,
the UK and Europe that appear to indicate a growing disenchantment with democracy. Is it
possible that democracy requires more of its citizens than we are willing to do, are able to do
and/or understand how to do?
This paper speculates from these two interfaces between everyday life and democratic
politics voting and public protest and considers how the territory in which they operate
might function as a site for generative artistic practises of public collaborative thinking.
Drawing for the count: private voting
Marks on paper often have significant consequences. Lines drawn by colonial cartographers
have resulted in huge loss of life, the oppression of whole peoples and migration on the
global scale. Sykes and Picots cartographerslines on the map of the Middle East and
the Radcliffe Line across the Indian subcontinent continue today to irritate intractably
unstable situations that steadily undermine peace where it exists. Design drawings make
other kinds of things happen. By specifying how something should be made, they set in
motion actions that result in bringing new assemblages of things and environments into
existence. Marks on roads, playing fields and sidewalks define lawscapes and rulescapes
that control the movements of drivers and players. Within the context of everyday life in
Archnet-IJAR: International
Journal of Architectural Research
Vol. 13 No. 3, 2019
pp. 670-682
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/ARCH-05-2019-0116
Received 10 May 2019
Revised 23 July 2019
Accepted 5 August 2019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
California in the early twenty first century; however, marking a ballot may be the average
persons only act of drawing that has any kind of public consequences.
The form of ballot used in California requires the voter to link a name to a role or a
proposition to a YES or a NO, by drawing a connecting mark between a solid bar and an
arrow head (see Figure 1). These slight lines combine into an enormous assemblage of
marks on paper that is read as data in what sometimes seems a high stakes gamble. In
tracing the marks made on a ballot paper for Drawing for the count, the artist separated
them from their original purpose, but the new lines remain purposeful as a reminder that
drawing has consequences. The traced lines reflect a way of looking at the world and
document a desire that certain things happen.
In his book Lines, Tim Ingold notes the social, spatial and conceptual consequences of
two kinds of lines which, after Paul Klee, he calls the walk and the assembly of fragments.
The former, Klees (1972, p. 17) line on a walkis dynamic and freely moving. The latter, a
series of appointments(Ingold, 2016, p. 75), is an assembly of lines connecting a series of
points where each segment follows the shortest distance between points. Ingold (2016)
relates these two types of lines to two ways of being in the world. He associates the walk
with wayfaringand its corollaries: story telling and the hand-drawn map based on
personal experience. He relates the assembly, on the other hand, to destination-oriented
transport,pre-composed plotsand printed route-plans (p. 77). In our digital world, the
lines we usually see are made up of pixels. Together these can appear to be any kind of line,
but as assemblies of fragments like the drawing on a ballot, they are very much
representative of Ingolds second worldview.
The verb to voteis derived from the Latin for making a vow or wish. Poll once referred
to the head, as in the counting of heads, and a ballot, from the Italian ballota, was a small
coloured ball to be placed into a container to register a vote. The words have meandered
away from these original meanings such that today in California, citizens go to polling
stations to vote by making marks on a piece of paper called a ballot. We do not vote with
heads, bodies, voices or balls. Nor do we assemble with our fellow citizens in any one place,
Figure 1.
Drawing on a
California ballot paper
Experiments in
as ancient Athenians may have done, to make our vows publically. Nevertheless, voting is a
point of direct engagement with electoral politics and the ballot paper is the one interface
with democracy that a citizen touches and manipulates. Strangely, although like all forms of
government, democracy is both public and profoundly social, voting, our one guaranteed
way of participating, is carried out in isolated privacy.
The aggregation of votes produces a social outcome. Yet the connection between the
private act of voting and its social consequences is difficult to apprehend. Voting is
disconnected from the things that usually bring meaning to human action: our relations
with other people; the places we inhabit and the things (animate and inanimate) we value in
those relations and places. Although this three-fold disconnection may be necessary to
protect the process of voting from tampering, is it also possible that the distance it enforces
between what is meaningful and the formal processes of politics chips away at our faith in
democracy as a system of government? Can we cultivate and nurture more meaningful and
rewarding kinds of engagement?
Table 18: public protest
Occasionally, something happens and public spaces fill with purposeful social
activity celebration, protest, violence, etc. Many of us nurture a notion that there is a
connection between public space and democracy. But, what is that connection? In the ancient
act of appearing in public to be counted, voting and the public display of position and opinion
were one and the same. Today, although it is an official part of a public political process,
the voting act is performed in private. Public protest however, sits at the opposite end of
the spectrum. Although carried out public, its impact on political outcomes is indirect.
Struggles between disparate groups with both each other and their governments are
continuously disclosed and enacted in urban public spaces throughout the world. In many
cities, certain spaces have become associated with struggles for freedom and democracy, even
though in practice, they have also been sites of public violence and unforgivable abuses of
state power. The names of some have become household words Tahrir Square, Tiananmen
Square, etc. they seem to have meaning even when exactly what happened there is forgotten.
Table 18 is inscribed with an imaginary city plan which includes six urban spaces that
were settings of prolonged urban protests in the USA, UK, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine and
Egypt during 20112015 (Figures 2 and 3). The table is round so that each person sitting
around it sees things placed on it from a different perspective. This work was partly
inspired by the ideas of Hannah Arendt who sees the common world as made up of all the
things that humans have made together. Our relation to this world, she writes, is like a
table located between those who sit around it [-] the world, like every in-between,
relatesandseparatesmenatthesametime(Arendt, 1998, p. 52). But for Arendt (1998),
our common world only appears when things can be seen by many in a variety of aspects
without changing their identity, so that those who are gathered around them know they
see sameness in utter diversity(p. 57). Table 18 wasmadetoallowthepossibilityof
symbolically occupying Arendtsmetaphorof practising, in an embodied way, the
appearance of worldly realityand thereby setting a stage for political life to emerge
(Mancke, 2016).
Democracy and public space
The making and doing of the material world, as Marx and others have argued, is a
fundamental feature of human existence. Everything humans do and make is accomplished
through interaction, negotiation and cooperation. Being social activities, they must take
place in some kind of shared space. Production and exchange are thus fully entangled in
social and spatial practices (Paglen, 2009). Democracy, as something we produce together, is
also both social and spatial.
Figure 2.
Table 18 in use
Figure 3.
Table 18 drawing
Experiments in
The construction of our world, including democracy and its interfaces, is conditional and
never finished. It always retains the potential to change and be changed and this lack of
fixity inspires hope and fear. In her essay Agoraphobia, Rosalyn Deutsche (1996) argues
that public space is created by democracy (p. 324). The foundations of social life are
undermined when there is no monarchy or oligarchy to anchor a class system, thus
rendering social relations contingent (p. 272). State power, no longer derived from an
external force, is now situated inside the social. But, because it is indeterminable, the social
cannot hold a structure of meaning to which democratic power can appeal for authority.
Deutsche argues that this is when democratic public space appears. A need for a space for
conflict, negotiation and deliberation to occur arises precisely when the fixed social basis for
authority disappears and the foundation of society turns into a purely conditional and
contestable social entity (p. 324).
In Democracy and Public Space, John R. Parkinson asks whether physical public space is
actually required for democracy to function. He investigated relations between democratic
processes and public space in 13 cities around the world. His findings point to politics as a
performed physical activity. In contrast to the digital age notion that physical space is no
longer important for democracy, Parkinson argues that today more than ever, physical
stages are necessary for a democracy to function well, or even at all (Parkinson, 2012, p. viii).
Public spaces are needed to allow citizens to carry out the roles that democracy demands of
them. Parkinson lists four: articulating interests, opinions, and experiences;making
public claims;deciding what [or what not] to do, to address public claimsand
scrutinizing and giving account for public action and inaction(Parkinson, 2012, p. 36). The
first role takes place before any formal decision-making can occur, often informally
wherever people meet whether physically or virtually (p. 39). Capturing the whole variety of
positions (p. 31), which in Parkinsons view is essential to functioning democracy, however,
does not always happen organically but needs to be helped along and physical public spaces
are needed to do this.
For example, culturally based taboos that govern what we can talk about where, can have
important consequences. Drawing on the research of Cas Sunstein on group polarisation
(Sunstein, 2002), Parkinson notes that a common taboo against talking about politics in many
settings in English speaking countries combined with the dominant cultural emphasis on the
individual and family means that political topics tend to be discussed only among family or
friends who share similar opinions. In other words, fully free informal debate happens only
when we are with the like-minded [] in isolated deliberative enclaves’” (Parkinson, 2012,
p. 40). Parkinson points out that whilst this can help marginalised groups, research has shown
that it tends to push views in each enclave to become more extreme because of the lack of the
moderating influenceof alternative perspectives (p. 40)[3].
Applying Parkinsons findings indicates the need for spaces and techniques for bringing
deliberative enclavestogether to enable the performance of the first role of deliberative
democracy. But is it even possible to create public settings where narrations from all parts
of a society can be elicited and heard? Can public space ever be sufficiently neutralfor this
to happen? What about the conflicts that are bound to happen? And, as Deutsche asks,
should democratic public space settle or sustain conflict?
Deutsche (1996) argues that our relationship with public space is laced with fear and she
locates the roots of our fear in the fact that in democracy, the place from which power derives
is what [Claude] Lefort calls the image of an empty place’” (p. 273). We maintain democracy
by never allowing a potential tyrant to fill the centre of power, but we are at the same time
frightened by the deeply unsettling empty centre. We are also afraid of the difference and
disorder we might encounter in public space. Powerful public and private forces behind the
development and maintenance of the physical public realm are mobilised to make public space
more universally acceptable, more inclusive, safer and more secure. They exploit our fear to
steer us away from conflict and toward a flattening consensus that, whilst comfortable, could
also undermine democracy by suppressing the articulation of opinions and experiences in
public the performance of Parkinsons vital first role of the democratic citizen.
Some of us may hope that the resolution of difference and social change can happen
peacefully with expressive protest being one of a number of ways that issues can be brought
into public awareness. But at the same time, we want these activities to remain safe to
allow us to keep working, attending school and generally doing our thing. Our desires are
contradictory: we want both complete freedom to use our public spaces for whatever we
want, and we want them to be appropriatelycontrolled.
This desire for public space to be controlledcontributes to disagreements about the
relationship between public space and the demands of capitalism. At the intersection of
public space as sites of protest and commercial activity, are situations like one noted in the
Guardian Newspaper in March 2014. The article reports that the mayor of Madrid began to
call the citys Puerta del Sol square, the site of the indignado and other protests[4], an area
where commercial activity is protected. In her view, [p]rotests should be held in places
where they dont hurt economic activity. How can the plaza be called a protected area, as
the union leader responded, when its a public space that belongs to Madrid and its
citizens?(Kassam, 2014). Surely, the right to use a public space for different kinds of public
expression should be protected against encroaching commercial activity, should it not?
Deutsche (1996) might see this as evidence that although most people believe that their
support of publicnesssupports democratic culture (p. 269), their different understandings
of the terms publicand democratic culturebring diverse meanings into what seems to be
an agreed equivalence. For some, democratic culturemight mean a consensual, largely
passive citizenry, whereas for others it might mean the existence of political activism. In the
USA, the right to assemble has been upheld by the Supreme Court, but with conditions.
Assembly is legal only as long as general comfort and convenience [] peace and good
orderare maintained (Mitchell and Staeheli, 2005, p. 800). In this context then, democratic
culture includes the right to use public space for political communication through assembly
and protest, but only as long as it does not transgress an authoritys view of what
constitutes peace and good order.
Jacques Rancières distinction between two aspects of politics provides a useful tool for
considering this dichotomy. In his formulation, the administrative and managerial side of
politics, which he calls The Police, handles the everyday workings of local and state authority.
Politics, on the other hand, comes into play with the emergence of situations and issues for
which there are no protocols in place. Politics starts when The Polices rules are inadequate
and new procedures are needed (Cvejic et al., 2012, p. 75). Bruno Latour argues that everything
that already has known consequences,habits of thoughtor rules and/or protocols, is
private(Cvejic et al., 2012, p. 73). Something becomes public and political when no one
knows what to do and they must interact to figure it out. In this situation, any system for
dealing with the matter will be performativein the presence of a body of people, i.e., a public.
In other words, any issue for which there is an administrative protocol in place can be handled
without the engagement of a public and is therefore private. In this way of thinking, the public
sphere does not emerge from a pre-existing private sphere, but rather is a series of small
spheres that gather around specific issues. The public sphere(s) must be constantly reinstated
as new matters of concern appear (Cvejic et al., 2012, pp. 75, 79).
In Latours view, matters of concern therefore are what bring political processes into
being. As they arise and gather publics, they provoke Politics to deal with them. Latour
notes that because this process is both difficult to understand and do, governing bodies tend
to avoid it and instead try to improve management or governance. In other words, the state
tends to fiddle with the workings of The Police exactly when we most need to be doing
Politics (Cvejic et al., 2012, p. 77).
Experiments in
Erick Swyngedouw points out that urban design, planning and architecture are among
the core tools of the managerial side of politics. As procedures deployed to allocate people,
things, and functions to designated places [,they] colonize and evacuate the proper spaces
of the political []. In the attempt to produce cohesivecities through their deployment,
governments mobilise signifiers of inclusiveness (social cohesion, inclusion, emancipation,
self-reliance), while reproducing in practice [] clichés of urban doom (exclusion, danger,
crisis, fear)[5]. By doing this, Swyngedouw argues, the State uses The Police to pre-empt
potential conflict in public space (Syngedouw, 2011, p. 2).
The business-as-usual model is disrupted when people take to the streets. Public protest
is emblematic of citizensefforts to change the political structures that underpin their lives.
Protests offer opportunities for protesters to practise equality, organise and manage
themselves and/or re-configure public space in ways that suggest the possibility of a new
socio-spatial order’”. Politics can thus sometimes be mobilised to reframe the logic of The
Police by hearing or registering as voice, what has in the past only been heard as noise
(Syngedouw, 2011, pp. 1-2), in other words, through the performance of Parkinsons first role
of democratic citizenship.
In Chantal Mouffes (2010) framing, the political is linked to the friend/enemy relation
found in all kinds of social relations (pp. 248-249). The political is the ever present
possibility of antagonism(p. 250). In her view, the aim of politics is to organise human
coexistence under conditions that are marked by the politicaland thus always conflictual
(p. 249). She argues that because collective identities are formed through public action and
because a wecan only be constituted by distinguishing a they, public life cannot avoid
antagonism (p. 249). Furthermore, she argues that in order to thrive within the constant
possibility of conflict, we pragmatically allow our social practices to be naturalised in a way
that conceals their contingent character. But these hegemonic articulationscan be
dismantled through a public process, which she calls agonistic struggle[6]. Mouffe
understands that things could always have been different and every order is established
through the exclusion of other possibilities. Her public spheretherefore, is a battleground
where hegemonic projects confront one another, with no possibility whatsoever of a final
reconciliation(p. 250).
Deutsche (1996) reaches the conclusion that the task of democracy and its corollary,
public space, is to sustainrather than to settleconflict (p. 270). [P]ower stems from the
people but belongs to nobody(p. 273) and public space is the place where rights can be
declared and the way power is exercised questioned. Deutsche and Mouffe agree both that
because these rights are multiple and not subject to consensus, public space exists as a site
of irresolvable conflict. In their view, democracy moves towards authoritarianism precisely
when this role for public space is denied (p. 275). A battleground is a situation where the
fears and hopes of enemies coexist. Public space is therefore exactly the place where one
persons hopes arouse anothers fears, back and forth, endlessly.
Experiments in interfaces
Starting from two artworks that registered interfaces between everyday life and democratic
politics and moved through the ideas of a diverse group of thinkers, this speculation proposes
the in-between territory/battleground as a site for art practices that might be called
experiments in interfaces. This paper is part of a broader practice-as-research project into
modes of public collaborativethinking within the context of artistic practice. It might be useful
here to touch on connections between an art practice of public collaborative thinking and the
mechanisms of deliberative democracy.
In her essay Activist challenges to deliberative democracy, Marion Young (2001)
usefully juxtaposes the positions of the activist and of the advocate of deliberative
democracy. The latter believes that the best and most appropriate way to conduct political
action, to influence and make public decisions, is through public deliberation [and that d]
eliberative democracy differs from [] other attitudes and practices in democratic politics in
that it exhorts participants to be concerned not only with their own interests but to listen to
and take account of the interests of others [](p. 672). The activist, on the other hand,
argues that the system that supports deliberative democratic processes is structurally
unjust and inherently exclusionary. Because it is not possible to address fundamental
injustices from inside a skewed system, a good citizen should be protesting outside []
(pp. 673, 675 and 677).
When viewed from the activist position, the mechanisms of deliberative democracy
happen on the other side of the canyon/one-way mirror. An art practice of public
collaborative thinking, however, might well experiment with bringing forms of deliberative
democracy into art contexts. In the same way that Drawing for the count draws on its
relationship to voting whilst existing in a completely different register from the actual
electoral process, a gathering around Table 18 might re-cast public protest and/or forms of
deliberation within equally distinct contexts. The meaning of these activities resides not in
how they resemble political processes, but rather in the possibilities they suggest for
enacting, symbolising or rehearsing other ways of living, together.
Turning to the work of others for concrete examples of experiments in interfaces, three
potentially useful categories of practice emerge: practising, disclosing and re-grounding.
Practising involves embodying or trying out alternative forms of democratic political
processes such as assembly, narration, self-management, debate, argument, negotiation
and conflict, etc. Another way of defining this might be: practising methods for shifting we/
they(us and them) relations. Disclosing includes practices that create representations of
matters of concern to particular communities/situations in ways that support the gathering of
publics around them. Re-grounding encompasses practices that attempt to unsettle existing
interfaces through some kind of de-normalising process. Practising, disclosing and re-
grounding,are each simultaneously material, spatial and social. They are not discrete separate
routes to pre-determined destinations, but rather interlaced meandering tendencies that
combine materiality, spatiality and sociality in different ways and proportions.
A number of thinkers have noted how the durational protest of 20112015 offered
unprecedented opportunities for trying out alternative processes of collaborative
administration and politics (Haiven, 2014; Thompson, 2015; Stravrides, 2016;
Swyngedouw, 2011). The assembly of large numbers of protestors in public spaces
within the context of potentially explosive situations and in some cases extreme
weather forced demonstrators to organise structures for their own day-to-day survival.
In such a situation as Syngedouws (2011) notes, politics appears as a public practice of
re-organizing spacethat transgress[es] the symbolic order and mark[s] a shift to a
new situation that can no longer be thought of in terms of old symbolic framings(p. 3).
This appears to describe something resembling Mouffeshegemonic shiftin action
within the context of the protest space itself. At the very least, alternative forms of
democratic processes were put into practise resulting in demands on the spaces and those
gathered within them that were outside the terms of reference of The Police. This in turn
generated a need for restructuring the terms to allow those demands to be symbolised,
understood and, in a few cases, met (Syngedouw, 2011, p. 3). Although many of the
demonstrations may not have achieved the kind of change that protestors had hoped for, it
may be too early to judge the longer-term effects of these experiments on the places and
the social contexts in which they took place.
Through his New World Summits, Jonas Staal has orchestrated ambitious public
forums where representatives of unrepresented or stateless populations and political
Experiments in
organisations practise international politics together. The temporary physical structures he
creates for the summits present a memorable aesthetic that lends the assemblies presence
and gravitas commensurate with state-sanctioned forums. The forums provide a public
stage where the groups can articulate their individual claims and practise alternative forms
of world building together with other groups (Staal, 2012).
Other artists work within formal urban planning processes to imagine and develop
alternative procedures and systems. Imani Jacqueline Brown et al. attempt to co-produce
and practise alternative planning processes for housing development in New Orleans in
order to eliminate structural injustices force poorer people of colour out of their homes. Their
collective, Blights Out, seek[s] to demystify and democratize the system of housing
development and expose the policies that lead to gentrification. By forming a coalition of
policy makers and artists and including people of all ages, races, economic situations,
backgrounds and professions; the collective functions across interest groups. Rather than
reinventing the wheel, the collective sees itself as being the wheel. (Blights Out, 2015).
Practising may be exactly this: becoming the wheel turning in a different, and hopefully as
in the case of Blights Out, a more just way.
As long as it remains accessible, public space has the potential to function as infrastructure
needed to support the gathering of publics around matters of concern. How this capacity
might be mobilised through artistic practice is of primary interest here. Bruno Latour
(2005a) argues that the fundamental reason people assemble in a democracy is to address
divisions over concrete things (p. 14) as opposed to abstractions. In his view, political
discussion stops when debate is confronted with matters of fact(Forensic Architecture,
2012). In his view, any system becomes open to abuse as soon as the focus of debate moves
away from concrete things. Latour presents Colin Powells use of the factof WMDs as a
reason for war to underline the kinds of abuses discourse that eschews things in favour of
facts or evidence allows. By maintaining a focus on things within their concrete contexts,
Latour (2005b) argues, dingpolitik is incapable of supporting generalising rhetoric (p. 998)
and thus disallows ideologically driven debate.
Latours discussion of dingpolitik appeared in the catalogue for an exhibition that
aimed to rethink problems of representation in bothscientific and political spheresand
to take advantage of arts ability to capture interest and provoke thought (Fox et al., 2010,
p. 199). For Latour and his dingpolitik, art is something that represents and draws
attention to a matter of concern and consequently has an important role to play in
mechanisms that assemble appropriate (legitimate) groups of interested individuals
(representatives) around particular issues. For Latour, art also contributes to the
reformattingrequired to do Politics, that is, to find appropriate protocols for dealing
with situations where there are none already in place (Cvejic et al., 2012, p. 77). This
challenges artists and their images, objects, performances and other practices to actively
participate in political processes.
The work of Forensic Architecture might be emblematic of a practice of disclosing with an
important caveat that deserves further scrutiny. Whilst interrogating the situations they
study in rigorous detail and communicating their findings with exacting clarity and exquisite
imagery, Forensic Architecture goes beyond simply making issues visible. They use all means
possible in an attempt to discover and present truth. Their choice of the name forensic
with its association to judicial processes of collecting evidence and uncovering facts,
intentionally reminds us that justice systems are deeply political. Participating in an early
seminar hosted by Forensic Architecture, Latour challenged the gathering to consider what
type of assembly could protect against the closing down of discussion which is obtained by
the political epistemology of the matters of fact(Forensic Architecture, 2012).
Another example of disclosing might be Krzysztof Wodiczkos, Arc de Triomphe: World
Institute for the Abolition of War. The project proposes to encase the Arc de Triomphe in a
scaffold-like structure that would reposition the memorial to the bellicose pastto become
a gigantic object of research. The Institute would offer an open-access invitation to all
who wish to be historical witnesses, critical interlocutors and potential intellectual and
activist forces toward a war-free world(Galerie Gabrielle Maubrie, 2011). If realized, the on-
going research represented and activated by the structure has the potential to become a site
of continuous disclosing.
Taryn SimonsThe Will of Capitalmay be an example of a different form of disclosing.
Simon carefully examined how the signing of international trade agreements has been
documented in photographs. By reconstructing and re-presenting the impossibleflower
bouquets that adorned the tables of each signing, she draws attention to how the global
economy that the agreements that support it distort our understanding of the real places in
which we each live and thus discloses matters that should be of concern to all living things
on earth.
Mouffe writes of the difference between enemies(people who are actively opposed or
hostile) and adversaries(opponents in a contest, conflict or dispute). Beyond the dictionary
definitions, there is a sense that one can live with and even enjoy having many adversaries,
but having enemies could get you killed. If, as Mouffe argues, humans constantly re-defined
themselves in relation to othersas part of an us vs them binary, then it is important to also
see that each issue cuts a different we/they fissure across gathered publics. For Mouffe
(2010), the crucial question of democratic politics is [] to manage to establish the we/they
discrimination in a manner compatible with pluralism(p. 249).
Thinking through Mouffe suggests that to be meaningful, interfaces with democracy
must engage with the ever-present potential for conflict. Table 18 was informed by
Hannah Arendts use of the table as a metaphor for the world we build and share. The table
is a device that joins, separates and offers a surface to display things seen together from
different perspectives. A round table gives each person seated around it a different view.
But sitting around such a table also constructs a unity that implies an usthat may obscure
divisions that exist within any group. Re-grounding this practice might involve finding
ways for co-participants to shift between antagonism, agonism and fellowship in other
words between being enemies, adversaries and fellow wayfarers.
An example of this kind of practice might be that of California-based artist Melissa
Wyman. Wyman draws on her martial arts training to engage participants in combative
collaborative drawing sessions. After providing a simple martial arts tutorial, she invites
the gathered collaborator/fighters to publicly engage in an adversarial struggle for space
within a shareddrawing (Wyman, 2016). Re-situated into the context of physical
conflict, the act of drawing something together turns from a visual/intellectual activity
into one that is fully embodied. The insights the activity can provoke are also manifested
in the body and as such might contribute to a recalibration of the participants embodied
understanding of human mutuality.
Possibilities for critique
The presentation of these three categories of practice so far suggests that their
methods are value-free, yet the projects presented as examples have all been, to greater or
lesser degrees, those that seek more open, more inclusive, more egalitarian or more
democraticstructures. In fact, any of the methods can be employed by anyone towards
any worldview or vision for the future and all three types of practice can be employed to
generate unsafe or violent situations. Zmijewski (2007), which deserves much more
Experiments in
scrutiny than is possible in this paper, may be a case in point. The work is presented as a
film documenting a series of workshops to which Zmijewski invited representatives of
four ideologically opposed groups. In the first workshop, each group was asked to create a
mural re-presenting their beliefs and values. Zmijewski had these printed onto t-shirts
which group members wore in subsequent meetings. In the second gathering, Zmijewski
proposed a gamein which anyone could correctanything in the room that they felt
was problematic.
Over the course of the remaining workshops, the groups gradually defaced each others
murals and t-shirts, finally burning the former. The film is difficult to watch even though the
participants maintain a surprising veneer of politeness throughout. The progression to more
and more extreme behaviour appears hopelessly inevitable. But it is important to remember
that the set-up, as a game, gave participants permission to disrespect the images made by
others, thereby inviting and encouraging retaliation and driving each group to be more
extreme. Taking place inside the art worldas a series of workshopsmay also have
removed social barriers and/or the fear of physical violence that, in a real world situation,
might have constrained participantsbehaviour.
Does the conceptual frame provided by the three categories of practice outlined here,
offer a tool for thinking about Zmijewskisproject?Them sets up and documents a
process in which opposing groups retrench into their ideological stereotypes right before
our eyes. At the same time, there are no incidences documented in the film where
participants actually practise the values they profess, nor is there any component of the
game that suggests a potential for recalibration through re-grounding. If we take the film
at face value, however, it could be argued that it illustrates and exposes one-way in
which social division is normalised and could therefore be seen as an example of
disclosing with a critical focus on identity and ideology (Lamont, 2012). It could also be
argued, however, that in allowing and encouraging participants to alter emblems of belief
made by other groups, the game appears to have been deliberately constructed to stoke
anger and resentment between the groups. Another kind of game where participants are
invited to make new emblems that combined the beliefs of two groups or encouraged to
propose changes by creating new versions of other groupsmurals without defacing
the originals, for example, may lead to very different outcomes. What is actually exposed
in Them may be simply be that opposing groups have equal propensity to engage in
or become victims of violence when invited to represent and proclaim their beliefs in
a shared space.
In Seeing Power Art and Activism in the twenty first Century Nato Thompson (2015) writes
that [b]uilding new worlds requires patience, compromise, and conviviality. It is a process
of working in the world and with people. [] If art is a dream, then it is a dreaming best
done in and with the public(p. 164). Many of the projects noted in this paper are what
might be called world buildingpractices. Not content to simply reflect back what they see,
disrupt the status quo or imagine other possibilities, these practitioners actively engage
political processes with an aim to construct new realities.
Many argue that the public realm has been co-opted by neo-liberal political and economic
forces, resulting in a sense of hopelessness that limits our ability to imagine anything else.
This research reflects on artistic tactics that counter this sense of hopelessness by suggesting
alternative social structures, fostering ephemeral (local) public spheres or proposing spatial
configurations that might support these. This paper identifies three possible categories of
practise in this arena. Further work is needed to establish whether these provide a useful
framework for critically reflecting on artistic experiments with interfaces between everyday
life and democratic processes within the broader research context.
1. Drawing for the Count, 2015, pencil on A3 tracing paper.
2. Table 18 2015, plywood, metal fasteners, 3.860 m diameter, seats 18 people.
3. Consequences of this are painfully apparent in the political situations in the USA, UK and other
European countries in the late 2010s.
4. In 2013 alone, 391 public protest activities were held in the Puerta del Sol.
5. Trumps use of the word carnagein his inaugural speech may be an example of this.
6. Mouffe distinguishes antagonism, the struggle between enemies, and agonism, the struggle
between adversaries.
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About the author
Carol Jane Mancke is Artist, Architect and Educator, and works at the intersection of art and cities.
Her practice engages a range of time frames and scales involving drawing, photography, sculpture,
installation, architecture and urbanism. Her work has featured in solo and group shows in Britain,
Japan and Australia. Carol received degrees from M.I.T., UC Berkeley and the University of the Arts
London and is currently pursuing a PhD in Fine Art Practice at the Royal College of Art London. She is
Founding Director of Art and Architecture Practice, Machina Loci ( For the
past eight years, Carol has been developing opportunities for collaborative thinking by making
clearings ephemeral places where time appears to pause and different kinds of conversations might
begin. Carol Jane Mancke can be contacted at:
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In a striking empirical regularity, deliberation tends to move groups, and the individuals who compose them, toward a more extreme point in the direction indicated by their own predeliberation judgments. For example, people who are opposed to the minimum wage are likely, after talking to each other, to be still more opposed; people who tend to support gun control are likely, after discussion, to support gun control with considerable enthusiasm; people who believe that global warming is a serious problem are likely, after discussion, to insist on severe measures to prevent global warming. This general phenomenon -- group polarization -- has many implications for economic, political, and legal institutions. It helps to explain extremism, "radicalization," cultural shifts, and the behavior of political parties and religious organizations; it is closely connected to current concerns about the consequences of the Internet; it also helps account for feuds, ethnic antagonism, and tribalism. Group polarization bears on the conduct of government institutions, including juries, legislatures, courts, and regulatory commissions. There are interesting relationships between group polarization and social cascades, both informational and reputational. Normative implications are discussed, with special attention to political and legal institutions.
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), pensadora política alemana. En esta obra parte de un análisis de lo que ella denomina vida activa. Lo hace a partir de los conceptos de labor, trabajo y acción. Su objetivo es rastrear en el tiempo la alienación del mundo moderno, para comprender la naturaleza de la sociedad y destacar la capacidad del hombre para transformarse junto con los otros. Contenido: La condición humana; La esfera pública y privada; Labor; Trabajo; Acción; La vita activa y la época moderna.
Obra teórica de una sociología de las asociaciones, el autor se cuestiona sobre lo que supone la palabra social que ha sido interpretada con diferentes presupuestos y se ha hecho del mismo vocablo un nombre impreciso e inadecuado, además se ha materializado el término como quien nombra algo concreto, de manera que lo social se convierte en un proceso de ensamblado y un tipo particular de material. Propone retomar el concepto original para hacer las debidas conexiones y descubrir el contenido estricto de las cuestiones que están conectadas bajo la sociedad.
The ability to dissent and to protest is a cornerstone of western liberal democracies. But dissent always threatens to exceed its bounds and to become a threat. The issue facing liberal states, then, has not only been how to incorporate dissent, but also how to shape dissent. In this project, the politics of public space has assumed a central role, as material public spaces have become a primary venue for the shaping of dissent. This article examines the ways in which dissent is incorporated into the liberal democratic state through a case study of protest in Washington, DC. In that city, as in others throughout North America and Western Europe, protest permit systems have evolved as a bureaucratic means to actively shape, if not directly control, public dissent. And yet, even as permit systems are becoming fully regularized, debates over their legitimacy suggest that geographically based permit systems might be inadequate to the task of incorporating dissent. As we indicate, recent protest activity shows just how important geography is to regulating, incorporating and policing dissent, even as those protests expose just how blunt and how fragile a tool that geography is.
Krzysztof wodiczko /arc de triomphe, world institute for abolition of war
  • Galerie Gabrielle Maubrie
Galerie Gabrielle Maubrie (2011), "Krzysztof wodiczko /arc de triomphe, world institute for abolition of war", 21 May, available, at: (accessed 10 September 2018).
Artur Zmijewski ‘Them
  • E C Lamont
Lamont, E.C. (2012), "Artur Zmijewski 'Them' (2007)", 22 March, available at: https://emmaclairelamont. (accessed 12 April 2019).