Creative disturbances in urban space

Butcher, Melissa (2012). Creative disturbances in urban space. In: Butcher, Melissa; Clark, Nigel; Smith, Joe and Tyszczuk, Renata eds. ATLAS: Geography, Architecture and Change in an Interdependent World. London: Blackdog Publishing.



Inattention or indifference is a necessary means of navigation in the city to avoid being overwhelmed by ambient noise and temporal acceleration. But paradoxically, it is also a means by which we have come to ignore the ethical, the slow, the serendipitous and un-reciprocated gift. In response, industrialised space has become marked by protest as part of a repertoire of tactics to catch the eye, the attention of the passer-by, to offer alternative thoughts on the use of space and the power relations that underpin it; or simply to reinforce that someone ‘was here’, to not be submerged into urban homogeneity, to be recognised as existing. Adding to work on urban practices such as graffiti and place hacking, this essay examines the use of craft, in particular, yarn bombing, as a means to redefine and reappropriate urban space.

I would like to argue that there are two kinds of disturbances on display in yarn bombing’s creative intervention. First, it is the result of seemingly unproductive work, for which nothing is paid. It is a gift to the city for which no reciprocity is asked, undermining a system of exchange that demands something in return. Second, it is assumed ‘women’s work’, that is, normally practiced in the domestic space of home, but now carried out and on display in public space raising at times uncomfortable, and humorous, contradictions in the marrying of the feminine with the activist.

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