Saturday, December 13, 2014

"Koolhaas may think we're past the time of manifestos, but that's no reason to play dumb"

From De Zeen Magazine--Mimi Zeiger Opinion: why have architects and designers been so quiet about America's recent clashes over race and police violence? asks Mimi Zeiger.

My father, a UC Berkeley grad who was arrested in the Free Speech Movement protests of the 1960s, pushed back his chair and went to the window. Later, he would report he counted some 30 white vans each holding six to eight officers in riot gear. (The San Francisco Chronicle the next day reported 150 protesters, but not the number of officers.) My Bronx-raised mother unlocked the door and walked out to take photos with her phone.

And I sat frozen over our uncleared plates. Dumb. Furious at the overabundant force and shaken by a mirror held to my own privilege and comfort. My everyday is not framed by an intimidating relationship with the police and security structures.

Artists responded immediately with works and actions In the days that followed, I struggled to decipher what all these events meant for architects and urban designers. Artists responded immediately with works and actions. Damon Davis' striking black and white posters went up along West Florissant Avenue, wheat-pasted across plywood-boarded storefronts — the liquor stores and laundromats that took the brunt of rioting. Depicting the "hands up" gesture made by Brown before he was shot, they quickly become a unifying graphic and sign of resilience.

In New York City, Willing Participant, a participatory art group that "whips up urgent poetic responses to crazy shit that happens", organised an action called "disarm". According to three of the group's ringleaders, Niegel Smith, Ben Weber, and Todd Shalom, the action directly engages the police in conversation in the hopes of making visible the humanity of both the police and citizens. Pairs of participants were encouraged to approach police officers around Times Square and start a conversation with the question: "Where can I go to find some peace and quiet around here?"

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