RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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181 Culture and the city: What place do the arts have in our urban spaces? (1)
Convenor(s) Cara Courage (University of Virginia, USA / Futurecity)
Ciaran McDonald (University of St Andrews, UK)
Chair(s) Cara Courage (University of Virginia, USA / Futurecity)
Timetable Thursday 28 August 2014, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Electrical Engineering Building, Room 403a - DO NOT USE 2020
Session abstract There is a necessary call for researchers to seek out the social exponents of participating in arts and cultural activities in cities and this session, formed of an international cohort of researchers and scholars, will to critically analyze current practice and policymaking in this field. Papers will be presented from research across the UK including from the AHRC-Connected Communities, and from Singapore, Dublin, Philadelphia and Milan, addressing creative placemaking, urban regeneration and policy making and a range of project scales, from the small scale local projects to city-wide urban transformations.

Culture is an all encompassing concept, which defines who we are and what we do. In recent times, arts and cultural activities have become critical factors in the creation of urban place- and policymaking. Yet, such culture-led regeneration has had its shortcomings, specifically in cities taking a neoliberal approach, which has all too often catalysed urban gentrification. Many critiques of this have been widely published in academia and continue to contribute to ongoing debates surrounding the roles of the arts in cities.
Linked Sessions Culture and the city: What place do the arts have in our urban spaces? (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
Whose Culture, Whose Creative City? Cultural Rights Between Policy, Intermediaries And Community
Saskia Warren (University of Birmingham, UK)
Phil Jones (University of Birmingham, UK)
Paul Long (Birmingham City University, UK)
Beth Perry (University of Salford, UK)
Paul Haywood (Middlesex University, UK)
This paper presents insights from Cultural Intermediation & The Creative Economy, an AHRC-Connected Communities project that aims to discover how the value of cultural intermediation can be captured and how this activity can be enhanced to create more effective connection between communities and the creative economy.

Building on project research in 2013 exploring the dimensions of cultural governance, the agency and understanding of cultural intermediaries in Greater Manchester and Birmingham, researchers are currently exploring experiences of intermediation with ‘hard to reach’ communities in Balsall Heath, Birmingham and Ordsall, Salford in order to evaluate their relationship with cultural work and sense of what this entails.

Questions emerging from this vista of work concern the visibility/invisibility of intermediation projects how these are recognised amongst communities deemed to be beneficiaries of such work as well as their own sense of cultural ‘needs’ and local assets. Such issues (and their definition) extend to considerations of relationships between professionalised interventions and ‘organic’ cultural projects in the context of the specificity of demands, histories and experiences of communities in each location.

Here, we offer a critical eye on the positive and negative impacts of connection/disconnection, evaluating the nature of the ‘right’ to the creative city and a sense of cultural citizenship in the structuring relationship between communities, intermediaries and policy makers.
Creative grassroots interventions in urban space: Exploring culture-led urban regeneration from below
Cecilia Dinardi (City University, UK)
Culture has become central to processes of urban transformation in contemporary cities. From converting industrial buildings to developing whole districts into arts squares or creative clusters, culture functions today as the cornerstone of a new orthodoxy by which cities seek to enhance their competitive position (Miles and Paddison, 2005:833). Among these entrepreneurial urban policies, culture-led urban regeneration has risen as a global phenomenon, widely acclaimed by policymakers. Yet the discourse of urban regeneration becomes an indirect way of promoting gentrification as the cure for all the problems of cities, disguising its negative effects (Lees, 2000). Urban regeneration and gentrification, then, become two sides of the same coin, one which renders culture a panacea that enables the implementation of neoliberal urban renewal processes (Dinardi, 2012). While official culture-led urban regeneration has been widely documented, forms of urban revitalisation from below have been overlooked in the academic debates. This paper engages from a critical, sociological perspective, with the role of culture in urban development by examining creative interventions in public space by cultural grassroots groups in two Latin American cities. In doing so, the paper seeks to de-centralise knowledge about culture-led urban regeneration by bringing to the fore the experiences of culture and creativity of cities of the global South, and how these produce alternative forms and views on culture in contexts of urban segregation, social inequality, poor-quality public spaces and growing informal settlements.
Struggling for the Space to be Creative: The Contested Arts in Singapore
Jason Luger (King's College London, UK)
Singapore, like many cities over the past twenty years, has made arts and culture a policy priority. Funding has provided large-scale arts infrastructure, from festivals to concert halls, as well as smaller-scale initiatives such as arts-housing and grant funding for specific artists. However, empirical research conducted in the City-State over a 2 year period finds a huge disconnect between the aims of the State and the artists on the grassroots, who sometimes bite (and resist) the hand that feeds.
Building upon the recent explorations into ‘cultural activism’ (Buser, et al., 2013) and ‘creative resistance’ (Colomb and Novy, 2012) as well as the new literature on an envisioned revitalized ‘left’ in the post-2008 millieu (Soja, 2010; Harvey, 2012; Amin and Thrift, 2013), this paper will shed light on the tensions exposed when an ever-present State attempts to both build and manage an arts scene. Small acts of subversion occur, as does mutual co-option, as both State and artist use each other in different ways. Moreover, the Singapore case illustrates the complexity of arts and culture in the wider authoritarian world and the West as well. The question arises: is the state necessary to grow and maintain an arts scene, or is it a hindrance? The Singapore case reveals that the State is paradoxically crucial and extremely limiting: artists rely on State funding but feel trapped at the same time. Finally, the State itself is often at odds with its own aims and objectives, adding an additional layer of complexity.
Arts and culture: for whose sake exactly?
Ciaran McDonald (University of St Andrews, UK)
Since the 1960s, the community arts movement have argued over the economic and social benefits of culture to the individual and society. Yet, policymakers have often been puzzled by the social role of arts and culture (Holden, 2006). Despite there being a myriad of preceding studies, which have lauded the benefits of participating in arts and cultural activities (see for example Matarasso, 1997; Belfiore, 2002; Shaw, 2003; Evans, 2005), there is a need to critically analyse current policymaking in this field. Presenting findings from recent PhD research, this paper seeks to analyse the spatial mismatches between cultural policy and two regeneration neighbourhoods in the cities of Dundee and Edinburgh. Applying the theoretical lenses of assemblage and post-Foucauldian governmentality, this study then examines how arts and culture are interpreted and negotiated across national, city and community scales. In response to these measures, it has been found that the cultural activities are organised from the ‘bottom-up’ thus challenging a traditionally dominant ‘top-down’ perspective. Furthermore there is a grounded response by the community-based cultural activities of arts activism and resistance, which have often been maligned by the local authorities. Consequently, this paper, set within the unique context of Scottish policymaking, will argue for a fresh perspective on policy’s relationship with arts and culture in our cities.
Artists reclaim their place in the city: the case of Milano, Italy
Marianna d'Ovidio (University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy)
Along the decline of the manufacturing-based production as the engine of urban development, culture and creativity have become the common answer for promoting urban and social growth; after more than ten years of such political turn towards culture, its promises are mostly broken and artists often do not recognise themselves in the politics proposed in their name, alternative and avant-garde culture is still emarginated, the production and promotion of culture is not more open than before and a large segment of creative labour is suffering a precarious and insecure situation. Increasingly the so called “creative class” is aware of the politics of exploitation of culture and refuses most of the actions that are formulated in its name. The paper will focus on political actions performed by cultural workers in Milan, Italy opposing to cultural urban policy. Through a qualitative analysis involving both in-depth interviews and documents analysis, two cases of activism among cultural operators in Milan are deeply explored, addressing the following questions:

- How cultural workers organise their interests and how do they use their creativity for social mobilisation?
- Are culture and social innovation also products of the mobilisation? To what extent the creative action performed by cultural operators transforms or expands into cultural and creative products?
- To what extent these movements are co-opted to offer an image of city as creative, active and politically tolerant? Who appropriates the cultural products that may result from these actions? Who will benefit?
- How the available cultural resources within these groups are used in the protest against neo-liberal urban policies? Which resources are mobilised in order to activate other groups and activists both local and not-local? What is the role of new technologies? How they are used by such activists?