Opportunty areas Pt 3: The Artists and The Puppet Masters - A Cautionary Tale

Opportunty areas Pt 3: The Artists and The Puppet Masters - A Cautionary Tale

This is the final part of a three-part series about "opportunity areas".  The first two blog posts in the series, Unearthing socially engaged art’s complicity in the gentrification of Elephant & Castle nd 'There for the taking', focused on three artists who I suggested were complicit in gentrification by working for state-funded initiatives like Creative People and Places and with property developers Delancey in the soon-to-be-demolished shopping centre at Elephant and Castle.  I know quite a few people felt I had been unfair, aggressive, vitriolic, indignant and cynical.  I was at pains to explain that the tale I told was not unique nor unusual.  Socially engaged art is commonly used as a form of placemaking.  The examples I described in the work of Eva Sajovic, Rebecca Davies and Sarah Butler were mundane.  A perhaps crass attempt to illustrate much bigger problems in our lives that are mirrored in art practices.

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Opportunity areas - Part 1: Unearthing socially engaged art’s complicity in the gentrification of Elephant & Castle

Opportunity areas - Part 1: Unearthing socially engaged art’s complicity in the gentrification of Elephant & Castle

Everyone loves an opportunity don’t they?  What about a whole area of opportunities: an Opportunity Area?  Investors love them.  Property developers love them.  Local councils love them.  The State loves them.  Even (some) artists love them.  Opportunities for all!  (Well, not people living in social housing … Oh, and not homeless people … Erm, and not market stall holders … Low income families who bought their own council home? No!)

This blog post explores the art world equivalent of MI5 – the socially engaged artists – the creative secret service for third wave gentrification, who, unlike the pioneering, colonial foot soldiers of first and second wave gentrification, do not necessarily live in gentrifying areas and are paid to infiltrate soon-to-be-decanted communities of social housing tenants, low income home owners, market stall holders and small shopkeepers, even, on occasion, homeless people.

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