Friday, February 17, 2012

The production of space

Space is a funny thing. You would think it was something that just was, in general. Something that just was, in order for other things to move through. The precondition for things, moving and the intersection of the two.

This view of space makes a phrase like "the production of space" seem somewhat absurd. How can you produce something that is already there? How can you produce something that is needed for things to be in the first place? Indeed, for the first place to be at all?

We can get out of this headscratcher in two ways. The first is the IKEA solution - just think about all the ways you, somehow, can transform your living area into a giant storage facility in disguise. With a lot of anger, assembly time and frustration that there is one screw missing - space happens.

It would be rude to call it effortlessly. But space happens - because we made it happen. Produced it.

The second way space is produced is socially. The clearest example of this is when a theatre is built, and a stage is defined. Only certain people can occupy that space at certain times, and at these times the people occupying that space take on a very certain meaning.

Remember what Shakespeare said about the world? All the world is a stage! And all those places we visit every day follow suit, as stages. Or, rather, as produced spaces, with certain meanings at certain times. Schools, factories, work places, public places - all produced spaces, constructed with more or less intention to them. They are more than just space in general, and follow different rules then, say, an abandoned parking lot.

Which, incidentally, is also a produced space, with its own rules.

Whis is, of course, not a radical thought. Anyone who behaves differently in a bar and in a library know this, and it would be rather radical to not know it. Though I will refrain from speculating on whether it is worse to bar-behave in a library or the other way around.

What has made (and makes) the Occupy movement so effective is its brutal remixing of public space. We all know how public space is, and we all know that despite its name it more often then not is all but public. By breaking unwritten (and sometimes written) rules, they bring to light the conditions under which we make use of our not so-public spaces, and forces us to ask ourselves - who owns the city? Who is this public whose space it is?

The biggest crime of Occupy is not the destruction of space, but the production of it. And it is my hope that it will continue to produce open, public and most of all new spaces.

It would be a rude awakening indeed to find that there are no possible new spaces. Let's make sure this does not happen, shall we?

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