Persuasive vistas, political visions: public art and design in the re-making of Germany's Ruhr
Paper short abstract:
My paper addresses ethnographic research undertaken on the role of public art and urban design as cultural catalysts of change for the post-industrial transformation of the Ruhr region of Germany.
Paper long abstract:
In my paper, I present findings from 10 months of field research undertaken in the Ruhr region of Germany regarding the role of public art and landscape design as catalysts for its urban transformation into a post-industrial society. In my paper I examine the contradictory nature of various artistic interventions into the urban fabric. Such interventions, I argue, paradoxically entail both a critique and embodiment of the neoliberal ideologies embedded in the regional authority's embrace of "creative industries" as a panacea for the levels of high unemployment and socio-spatial segregation in this shrinking region. On the one hand, for instance, conversation with protagonists and observations at their events make clear that these artists position themselves against the commercialization and privatization of urban public space. On the other hand, however, the kind of social relations and performative roles that characterize their collaborative artistic projects require an indi
vidualized and entrepreneurial subjectivity at odds from the kind of participatory culture of solidarity that marked social relations and selfhood in the Ruhr's industrial workplaces. Thus, this ethnographic account of the shifting nature of artistic practice in Germany's former industrial heartland shows how such practices both cultivate the kinds of social relations characteristic of neoliberalism (as distinct from the welfare state), yet at the same time attempt to cultivate a critical understanding and new forms of democratic participation within post-industrial urban space.
Post-industrial revolution? Changes and continuities within urban landscapes