Why Public Space?
“Twitter is my city, my favorite city.”
-Ai Weiwei, Foreign Policy Magazine, Sept-Oct 2012
Social media and mobile networks have shaken up social norms from all angles, particularly as new tools for social activism. However, there is much criticism that these lines of communication often hang on a weak thread: a former US national security adviser pushed for Twitter to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, while a journalist at the Washington Post claims that the Twitter Revolution is “a bit of stagecraft cooked up by the government.” We are becoming untethered from a physical world whose vitality requires the immediacy of tactile experience. Public space can spur chance encounters, social exchange, and generate real human empathy in a way that mediated experience cannot.
Is physical public space still relevant to city life? Join the artists of Design Renegade in a conversation that critiques and defends the necessity for public space.
Art + Design in the Public Interest
In 1964, British designer Ken Garland wrote First Things First, a manifesto that dissuades artists and designers from working solely for the economic benefit of corporations and, instead, encourages them to dedicate their work to the public interest:
We, the undersigned, are graphic designers, photographers, and students who have been brought up in a world in which the techniques and apparatus of advertising have persistently been presented to us as the most lucrative, effective and desirable means of using our talents…In common with an increasing number of the general public, we have reached a saturation point at which the high pitched scream of consumer selling is no more than sheer noise.
In April, 1999, Canadian magazine Adbusters revised the manifesto, adding, “There are pursuits more worthy of our problem-solving skills. Unprecedented environmental, social, and cultural crises demand our attention.”
Garland’s rallying call remains central to the goals of many artists and designers who continue today to retool and refine their craft for the benefit of the public. Through interventions, installations, performances, and visual provocations, the artists and designers of Design Renegade draw upon unsuspected opportunities to re-imagine public life in Hong Kong.
Tactical Urbanism and Participatory Design
Design Renegade is a call to arms for the international design community and the people of Hong Kong to become agents of urban change. The exhibition uses tactics such as guerilla interventions, public workshops, open sourcing, and participatory performance to breathe new life into the ordinary.
This quick and interactive process tests design ideas in low-risk scenarios (cheap, temporary, deployable) which engage the public in open dialogues and debates, encouraging community stewardship and bridging public-private partnerships between artists, city governments, local business owners and residents. These tactics solicit feedback from a broad range of participants, informing longer-term planning strategies.