Urban Intervention

Photo credit: Ayeesha Islam

Photo credit: Ayeesha Islam

The primary function of any place is to encourage social interaction.

The Situationists, rightly believed that space has the ability to shape interactions and create new “situations” or experiences. While city planners have to focus on creating cities that are efficient, orderly and functional, places of social interaction are increasingly either commodified (coffee shops, restaurants, malls etc) or controlled by access.

Because of its focus on productivity and economic prosperity, George Simmel in his seminal work, “The Metropolis and Mental Life”,  explains how  cities tend to reduce every interaction to its most quantitative level. Emotional or intellectual investment in any relationship is based upon the perceived “return” in terms of value, one might receive.

Photo credit: Marwa Chihab

Photo credit: Marwa Chihab

This “calculating exactness of practical life” in the metropolis, along with  the constant bombardment of the senses that occurs in the city, leads to what Simmel calls “the blase attitude” – the ultimate renunciation of response to stimulus.

In many cities across the world, this attitude has led to a disengagement with the local environment. People in cities tend to come across as indifferent, uncaring and wholly focussed on personal well being and self centered progress.  In an effort to counter this trend, city authorities  now  use art and cultural activities as means to revitalize urban life

Thus, the urban intervention.

Photo credit: Amina Waya

Photo credit: Amina Waya

George Yúdice, Professor of Latin American Studies and Interim Chair at the Department of Modern Languages and Literature at the University of Miami,  defines the term as referring to “public or participatory art through which publics constitute themselves and experience something extraordinary in the process.”

Here at the lab,  students are currently developing intervention ideas for the city of Dubai. The ultimate aim is to ignite new conversations about the city and develop a deeper appreciation for its uniqueness and its complexity. Students are using a combination of multimedia and social media to creates new experience for the residents of Dubai.

Stay tuned for more.

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