Hi Gretta,

I live in Providence, RI, and public space seems meagre here, but pretty well distributed in all parts of the city; maybe the fact it's the smallest state makes that easier, I'm not sure.
There are parks in the wealthier areas, but there are parks everywhere, too small and really insufficient. There are also Audubon parks and nature preserves - a lot of them. The issue here isn't this division, but one of schooling - Providence also has (according to a Johns Hopkins survey) the worst public schooling in the country, large on the West Side, which is the poorest area. Of course. How this will translate into online learning, when many people might not have home connections, other than cellphones - I don't know; it's terrible. On the plus side, RI also has the highest percentage of testing per capita, and what up to now seems a reasonable program of social isolation.

(I just worry about generalizing about public spaces - another example, when I lived in Brooklyn, Prospect Park was used by everyone, as was Central Park. Things like basketball courts were also distributed everywhere.)

Best, Alan

On Thu, May 14, 2020 at 10:15 AM Gretta Louw via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour@lists.netbehaviour.org> wrote:
Hi everyone,

Hope you’re all continuing to hang in there during these wildly unsettling times and finding ways to prioritise wellbeing.

I have a project coming up in Munich this summer (the one thing that is not cancelled!) and since the topics I’m engaging with have been regularly brought up on Netbehaviour I wanted to share some material with you all and see if anyone has some input for me, too…

The project is a commission for a rather admirable annual series of ephemeral artworks in public space in Munich, Germany. My initial proposal was to do a kind of anti-advertising advertising campaign using billboards in public space to dig into the erosion of public space through commercialisation and privatisation. But since the lockdowns have hit (and the accompanying collapse of commercialisation in daily life) I’ve shifted to thinking more about the ways that public space are used when capitalism is suspended, which also leads to thinking about more hopeful speculations on the public space and green space we would want in a more ideal future.

Basically, if shopping malls and high streets are closed, the parks are full. The problem, obviously, isn’t that there’s too many people but rather that there’s too little public space. This shift reveals more starkly truths we already knew about the socially stratified access to space. The less private space you own, the more you need public space. The more you need public space, often, the less access you have to it. In the last few months we’ve seen ‘hoarding’ (or, as the Germans charmingly call it, ‘hamstering’) of basics like toilet paper, flour, and yeast - but the green and leafy neighbourhoods of the wealthy have been hoarding public space for centuries.

I’ve got a collection of links here for people who might be interested. 

I’d really appreciate it if anyone has some other links to articles they think I should read - perhaps we can build a bit of a shared library of resources about public space, the commons and how it relates to post-Corona living. And I’d appreciate it even more if you’d briefly share your thoughts about how the use of public space has changed, or what ‘message in a bottle’ you’d like to send to the public about how to reimagine or reclaim public space. Both online and offline! Although I must admit that I am currently working from the understanding that all truly public space is offline.

Would love to hear from you!

All my best,
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