Austerity Urbanism: A Walk Through the Fictional City

As part of a series of projects for Transmission Gallery, The Strickland Distribution is hosting a public walk on Saturday 15th September to investigate contemporary forms of cultural (de)generation. Led by writer & researcher Neil Gray, with contributions from housing & community groups; activists & artists, the walk will take a circular route beginning and ending at the Speirs Wharf canalside ‘cultural quarter’, via the post-industrial and brown-field landscapes of North-West Glasgow.

The writer, Iain Sinclair once said of regeneration that “any puddle will do”, referring to the frequency of waterside regeneration in the UK – no matter how bitter the climate or inauspicious the view.

The canalside Masterplan for the cultural quarter is a neoliberal mixture of soft policy options borrowing from Charles Landry’s ‘creative city’, Richard Florida’s ‘creative class’, Andres Duany’s ‘new urbanism’, and so-called ‘smart growth’ principles. The masterplan is specifically framed in the language of austerity, admitting the partial, fragmentary nature of the regeneration approach in a time of economic crisis.

While apparently less bullish than other large-scale gentrification projects in Glasgow, ultimately ‘smart growth’ is about the extraction of value from land and property, and the increase of a socio-spatial tax base, making the ‘new urbanism’ a strategy for the few at the expense of the many despite its green pretensions and community participation rhetoric.

The new urbanism is a separate, privileged spatial project with limited boundaries. This walk will cross those boundaries exploring the wider spatial relations of the area, revealing the planning blight and social contradictions that are a direct result of an underlying ideology of growth which the new urbanism not only leaves unchallenged but actively supports.

The walk will critically illuminate the ‘arts-led property strategy’; the rent-gap and blight; the continuing crisis in housing, and the commodification of social spaces. Rather than present gentrification as an inevitable process, the walk will explore the possibility that capitalism is increasingly unable to reproduce the most basic conditions of everyday life for a majority of the population, deferring a crisis of productivity to a crisis of urbanism. This walk in the fictional city will examine urban reality against the urban myths of city boosters.

The walk is proposed as an investigative history from below: a critical exploration of gentrification in the context of austerity urbanism. City boosters and planners promote top-down solutions to urban crisis, yet radical social change can only ever come from broad-based pressure from below. This walk aims to provide the means for collaborative exchange, instigating & sustaining wider solidarity & activity between anti-gentrification researchers, activists, community groups & artists. We welcome all those with such an interest.

Saturday, 15th September, (1-5pm): Meet outside Cowcaddens subway entrance at 1pm. Please bring appropriate footwear and clothing. The ground will occasionally be rough.                                                           

Knowledge is Never Neutral: A Series of Strickland Projects with Transmission Gallery

The Strickland Distribution, September 2012 – June 2013 with/at Transmission Gallery

knowledge is never neutral is a series of projects organised by The Strickland Distribution taking place from September 2012 to June 2013 within and outside the gallery space. Taken together, these projects set out to explore the circumstances that surround cultural and knowledge production. We look to situate this production within a wider set of social and historical relations, and to reflect on our practices across these relations. We invite you to join us in these processes.

Creating spaces for participatory dialogue – for listening and being listened to – the projects include a public walk, co-research inquiry, facilitated workshops, film screenings, reading and discussion groups, publication launches and the ongoing documentation and reconsideration of outcomes deriving from these projects.

knowledge is never neutral seeks to foreground histories-from-below, collective learning, and constitutive forms of collaborative practice. In doing so, we explore existing spaces of learning and research for their potential for liberatory education and research praxis. By means of renewed circulation, we will explore the relevance and potential of recent histories of radical forms of (non)-institutionalised inquiry and communication for our contemporary situation. We aim to develop a practice of dialogue and co-research across different constituencies of political struggle, and to forge social relations and links for future practice.

At a time where we are again made aware of the contestation over how to narrate the (recent) past – of attempts to erase particular histories and knowledge and to ‘rewrite’ official archives and ways of remembering – we support the necessity to learn from and engage with past struggles here and elsewhere, asking: What and how can we learn from these?

In the specific lexicon of artist-run/ artist-led/ self-organised practice, this also calls on us to explore the implications for a diversity of cultural expression, and group autonomy through freedom of association and communication. Seeking to explore the potential for present-day translations of ‘co-research’ and politically committed inquiries, we are asking: What kinds of methodologies can, today, produce emancipatory knowledge?

The projects will often involve a collective exploration of position taking and position making both within and beyond the arts. This approach acknowledges that contradictions and irresolvable tensions can, often structurally, exist and endure, and that they are themselves a potent focus for study. This exploration will enable (self)-reflection on the production and circulation of knowledge, emphasising the contingent nature of artistic thought, practice and representation within a broader set of power-filled dynamics.

knowledge is never neutral includes:

A public walk/discussion incorporating Glasgow’s proposed new ‘cultural quarter’ and canal development, combining critical practices of urban geography with collective urban exploration.

A series of screenings/ readings/ discussions of ‘Autonomous’ films which explore the meaning and diversity of the movement from the mid-1960s onwards.

A series of readings/ discussions on contemporary possibilities for co-research and DIY-inquiry, leading to a co-research project which investigates the conditions of cultural labour. [go to co-research page]

Publication launches and workshops to explore histories-from-below: an approach that attends to subjects, forms of agency, struggles and areas often omitted from official historical studies.

A series of workshops exploring curatorial practices elsewhere in Europe which have undertaken critical appraisals of ‘competitive cultural nationalism’, especially countries similarly undergoing nationalist assertions of identity.

The Strickland Distribution is an artist-run group supporting the development of independent research in art-related and non-institutional practices. Art-related includes research forms that directly implement artistic practice as a means of research method. Non-institutional includes forms of grass-roots histories, social enquiries and projects developed outside of academic frameworks and by groups and individuals normally excluded from such environments. The Strickland Distribution operates in the public sphere, seeking to stimulate and contribute to public education, discourse and debate around the topics and themes addressed through its projects.

Key dates

15 September 2012 Austerity Urbanism: A Walk Through the Fictional City – public walk
16, 23 October; 6, 13 November 2012 Co-research: Subjectivities and Conditions of Culture as Labour. Part 1. A series of discussions based on readings
5, 12 December 2012; 9, 16 January 2013 Autonomy screening events
24 November 2012 All Knees and Elbows public event and launch
27 November 2012 until end of February 2013 Co-research project: Subjectivities and Conditions of Culture as Labour. Part 2. Co-research inquiry
26 February 2013 An Economy of Appearances, Part 1: Workshop, Discussion, Launch
9 March 2013 Co-research: Part 3. Political Positioning Beyond the Institution? Public Workshop
30 March 2013 Competitive cultural nationalism workshop
31 May 2013 An Economy of Appearances, Part 2: Workshop, Discussion, Launch

For further information, or