Participatory Art as a Social Practice of Commoning to Reinvent the Right to the City

Abstract

The right to the city is a concept that helps rethink spatial–social dynamics, which has recently reinvigorated the field of organization studies. Following Lefebvre and considering the failure of both the market and the state, other scholars pinpoint the need to rethink social–spatial and geographical–historical relations. They do so by theorizing the city as a host for urban commons. Collective and non-commodified, these spatial–social experiences need to be constantly reproduced and preserved through commoning practices in the struggle against spatial injustice. A case study shows that a civil society organization (CSO) uses participatory art to (re)produce urban commons at the level of a local community and to redress partially spatial injustice. We theorize participatory art-making as a social practice of commoning, i.e., a process of organizing for the commons—collective art-based activities to serve a community—and of the common—to (re)produce a community while performing them. Such commoning practices are not only about sharing urban resources but also about using and experiencing differently urban spaces. By making participatory artworks in public spaces and co-designing street furniture with residents of poor areas, TDA helps to better cope with the tensions between residents and local authorities and between amateurs and professional artists. By negotiating the long-term implementation of these creative artworks in the public space with public authorities, TDA has fostered the empowerment of inhabitants as they have experienced citizens’ reappropriation of some public spaces in Marseille.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Authors’ translation.

  2. 2.

    Visa vert is a charter written by the municipality of Marseille. When approved and signed, it allows the inhabitants to and plant out some public spaces at their own expense to make them greener.

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Correspondence to Philippe Eynaud.

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Eynaud, P., Juan, M. & Mourey, D. Participatory Art as a Social Practice of Commoning to Reinvent the Right to the City. Voluntas 29, 621–636 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-018-0006-y

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Keywords

  • Urban commons
  • Right to the city
  • Civil society
  • Participatory art
  • Spatial turn
  • Collective empowerment