This paper offers reflections on Maraya: a six‑year social engagement focused on connections between urban waterfronts in Vancouver and Dubai. Looking at the shared histories of two megaprojects (Dubai Marina, Dubai, and False Creek, Vancouver) — or more to the point creative responses to these — this paper discusses relationships between creative practice and urban development, critical research and social engagement. Situating contemporary artists among a globally mobile elite, which includes developers, architects, designers, and urban planners, Maraya has attempted to question the role of contemporary art and new media in responding to twenty‑first century city building. Through gallery exhibitions, public fora, publications, and a custom‑built online platform, Maraya has attempted to provide opportunities and imagery with which to re‑imagine the cities ‘we want’—i.e., alternatives to top‑down urban planning. What patterns of neighbourliness can we collectively produce that to fight the deracinating sweep of contemporary urban planning and developing. This paper will reflect on the history of Maraya’s critical engagement and locate this alongside its creative installations, including an interactive artwork proposed for ISEA2013. To this end, it will draw on global mobilities discourse and critical discussions of a renovated cultural studies approach capable of bridging the tensions between indigenous and diasporic identity formations (Clifford, 2013). This paper proposes to offer a retrospective analysis of the strategies, their successes and pitfalls, Maraya has brought to bear on issues of global urbanization and so‑called fluidity of an international exchange of ideas and capital. Using the Maraya project as a case study, this paper will provide an overview of relatively long‑term engagement with emergent global publics. It will also theorize the relationship between creative practice and contemporary urban development politics.
- Gwen Lowry, Emily Carr University, CA