Creative Placemaking, Or a Violently Anti-Working-Class Vision of the Urban Pastoral

Celebrating Jane Jacobs, James Gulliver Hancock, 2016

Creative placemaking, like its predecessors, new public art and collaborative art, is the soft power weapon of choice for many property developers and councils.  Artists are increasingly complicit: willingly enlisted as the pioneers, the missionaries and the “foot soldiers” of gentrification; the harbingers of redundancy, displacement, social cleansing, colonialism and racism.  Their aesthetic and participatory practices celebrate the empty and falsely unifying notions of “people,” “place”, “community” and “the public”, reinforcing the depoliticising functionalism prescribed by the vested interests of corporate, financial and state power.  Placemaking can be conceived of as the ideology of domination “creatively” played out in “public spaces”: a conceit that ignores Lefebvre’s assertion that space is socially produced, contested and conflictual to neutralise existing people and communities before excluding them.  Placemaking, I argue, replaces socially produced experiences of the city and home with a homogenous, compliant and falsely neutral notion of place as a middle-class ideal – the urban pastoral.

The High Line, New York City