Today I led a group of students on a walking tour taking in examples of public art and design, and other sites of interest in Cape Town. We started the walk with a psychogeographic quote by Michel de Certeau from ‘Writing the City’ in ‘The Practice of Everyday Life’ (1984):
The act of walking is to the urban system what the speech act is to language or to the statements uttered.
The course the students were on is SIT’s IHP Cities in the 21st Century: People, Planning, and Politics, which “examines the intentional and natural forces that guide the development of the world’s cities. It combines an innovative urban studies academic curriculum with fieldwork involving public agencies, planners, elected officials, NGOs, and grassroots groups in important world cities where exciting changes are taking place”.
This is a rough map of the course we took (still struggling with Google’s interface).
And these are some of the sites we visited:
Brett Murray’s ‘Africa’ 2000
Cape Craft and Design Institute curated artworks from the 2010 World Cup
Egon Tania’s sculptures on Pier Place
John Skotnes’s sculpture Mythological Landscape (1994) on Thibault Square
The Prestwich Memorial
The iconic children’s jungle gym in the form of a Voortrekker Wagon, Sea Point
The SA National Gallery
It’s really not that big!
Mark O’Donovan’s ‘Manenberg’ interactive street sculpture
A couple of Koln International School of Design (KISD) students were inspired by the short course in ‘Provocative Technology’ I taught there in November 2012 in designing the ‘Gentr-o-Mat’ as an output of their research into gentrification in Berlin. The project is a working vending machine that dispenses a range of products to help people ‘resist gentrification’. The products, such as annoying audio devices, marker pens concealed inside latte cups, and ‘Yves Klein blue’ paint-bombs’, draw on real practices of anti-gentrification activists in Berlin. You can download a rough pdf explaining the project.
There are a some pleasing circularities in the project’s symbolism: while equipping people to resist gentrification, it also hints at the commodification of resistance, echoing the processes by which street art and creative guerilla tactics quickly get mainstreamed and aestheticised – and are often used in the first waves of gentrification.
In November 2012 I taught a short course at the Köln International School of Design (KISD) in which students were asked to research, design and fabricate a prototype for a ‘provocative technology’ – an object or tool which has functions for the user but that also challenges the contexts of its use, and provokes questions and debate in wider audiences.
I came up with the term ‘provocative technology’ around the start of my PhD research to describe work across disciplines that uses the design of functional objects to provoke questions and commentary. I have a post about it here.
You can download my proposal for the class, which roughly represents the outline of the course. I’ll post some documentation of the projects students produced in response asap. So far I have documentation for the projects ‘InstaFRAME’ and TRASH.
A couple of students who weren’t in the class, but attended some of our presentations, were later inspired to design a ‘provocative technology’ as an output of their research into gentrification in Berlin: an anti-gentrification vending machine, the Gentr-o-Mat.