Monday, 23 May 2016

Shaping community 100in1Days at a time

I have created a project called ReadOut for 100in1Day in Canada. Begun in 2012 in Colombia, 100in1day is an act of "urban intervention" for citizens to improve their cities with simple ideas to create temporary or permanent changes to their communities. Canada's six participating cities have set June 4 as the nation's community day of action.

The urban intervention movement seems rooted in twentieth-century counterculture.In counterculture, subsections of a community build, march, and organize without the permission of official social structures, including government. 100in1Day has connections to folk carnivals and festivals, Dadaism, the American happenings and French situationists of the 1950s and 1960s, the flash mobs of the 2000s, the infiltrations of Pussy Riot, and the Occupy movements. Mimi Zeiger's The Interventionist's Toolkit catalogues 21st century urban interventionism with an emphasize on urban architecture and planning.

Dadaists thought that art as a category should be dismantled because such categorization gathered up the qualities of art and isolated them from other human activities, as though the values of art had no business being integrated with human culture generally. Street art, therefore, especially guerrilla street art such as graffitti, aims to remedy this false categorization and return art to where it belongs: everywhere people live. This connection with street art is manifest in the many 100in1day projects that involve visual art in some way. Murals are popular, for example.

In the case of 100In1Day, local governments seem actively involved in promoting these interventions. Instructions for Edmonton's 100In1Day stress the need to fill out permits and follow bylaws.  I suspect that municipal city planners and nonprofits are desperate to appeal to as many subcommunities as they can and therefore appreciate this self-funnelling of group energies into small-scale activities. Groups can reveal a need or a willingness to cooperate through an urban intervention, and in this display make their cause visible to others, including nonprofit and government agencies. At the same time, land developers and real estate agents, as well as other businesses, sponsor or initiate projects. As a result, some of the interest in this day has a foot in the door of private profit-making.

Perhaps 100In1Day is a cooptation of underground activism for ideological ends. My little project has people reading and waving and talking to people in their neighbourhoods. If one of the things people choose to read on their front lawns is Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle, so be it.

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