artivism and PAR

long time no write to little bloggy you. upon return from chicago to participate in the moving celebration of my grandfather's transition from his 99 years with us on to his next exisitence...i attended the community design in the pacific rim conference at UW yesterday.

by far, for me, the highlights of the first day of the conference was the opening panel and the sesssion entitled artivism. the opening session addressed evaluation of community design, in which michael rios made a case for Participatory Action Research as a model and mark francis made a case for the case-study model. i was excited to see this. i adapted and used a participatory action research model created by the Ms. Foundation for women in evaluating my project, "in a girl's world: re-envisioining the city" this past year. Both people suggested that our field is more and more research oriented with most new hires having Ph.D.'s. they went on to say that community design is not the fringe work that it was in the 60's, it is now mainstream and begs for shared comparitive ways to document and evaluate the work.

the session entitled artivism featured three projects/organization. the pomegranate center which i had heard of was one of the orgs. however the most poignant paper/presentation to me was the one entitled : "identity politics and community artivism: a strategic arts project of cultural landscape conservation at Treasure Hill, Taipei"...in which Minjay Kang presented from the Organization of Urban Re's (REvolution, REconstruction etc. pick one ) and the Department of Cultural Affairs in Taipei which turned a squatter community in to an "artsville" as an act of resistance to eviction and the levelling of the community which the mayor had described as an urban tumor. (more here). they showed the work of one particular artist in residence marco casagrande who is also an architect.

i think this session was most interesting to me b/c it was both theoretical and practical. it was both art, activism and dealing with the built environment. it was both inspiring and controversial. it deals with the politics of preservation. it begs the question, does art really make a difference? in this case is it an impositon on the residents of the squatter or is it their saving grace? its absolutely meaningful but Kang asked a critical question. he presented at a conference on democratic design, is there anything democratic about this?


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