Panel: The Art of Software Cities
“The architecture of tomorrow will be a means of modifying present conceptions of time and space. It will be both a means of knowledge and a means of action. Architectural complexes will be modifiable. Their appearance will change totally or partially in accordance with the will of their inhabitants.” (Ivan Chtcheglov, ‘Formulary for a New Urbanism’, 1953). ‘The Hacienda’ is a mobile, inflatable, pop-up public space with a domestic interior, and a flexible stack of equipment and software that can transform it into a creche, a sports stadium, a meeting hall or a dance/performance space. It is the outcome of a 3 year conversation convened by artist group ‘The People Speak’ as part of the large scale regeneration process of the Craylands Estate, an impoverished suburb of Basildon, in Essex, about 60 miles East of London. The story of ‘The Hacienda’ is an account of how the bureaucratic imaginary of a public/private partnership of developers, ‘non-profit’ housing associations, and local government is articulated through software, services, signage, community events and spaces in negotiating and sanctioning the creation of hybrid public/private places. Analysing the roles of the various groups involved in the project: residents, property developers, children, community representatives, artists, professional service providers, politicians and government bureaucrats, reveals how they interfaced to each other through meetings, surveys, community publications and events, architectural plans, and social policy decisions. This talk will present the tools and performative techniques employed by The People Speak to re-mediate those relationships in fun and engaging ways through the production of new community interfaces as public media events, leading to re-negotiations of those relationships, and the production of ‘The Hacienda’: a platform for the development of public interfaces. Focusing on the failures of communication and the friction generated by individuals, groups and institutions breaking down and reforming around mediated representations of themselves as a community should help to stimulate a wider discussion of the potential of platforms for public interfaces, and the pitfalls of reifying community relationships as art in software.
- Saul Albert is a researcher/artist from London whose work grew out of the intersection of ‘net art, DIY culture and the Free Software movement in the 90’s and continues to develop forms of participatory culture, technology and governance. In 2006 he co-founded (with Michael Weinkove) The People Speak: a participatory public art, media and technology collective that creates ‘tools for the world to take over itself’). He is currently a PhD candidate at Queen Mary University of London on the Media and Arts Technology Programme.