Date: April 16th, 2012
Cate: actividades, places

Speech in CISR St Petersburg 16.05.12

The development, humanization and “reanimation” of public city space through artistic methods.

The speech will take place here :

Since the beginning of the 21st century, and thanks to authors like Richard Florida or John Howkins, the idea that creativity is fundamental to the success of a city has been widely accepted. However the implementation of this idea has taken many forms. The existence of a “creative class” creates a new situation for class war (especially seen in gentrification) while the results of creativity (such as night life, more extreme forms of art, political activism) are often not welcome to authorities. Cities want the creativity but at the same time desire to control it.

As Gerard de Lacaze-Duthiers wrote in 1935 “Between art and authority lies an abyss. They are representations of different worlds, diametrically opposed”.

We will explore this abyss together through, on the one hand, examples of projects who have fought for the presence of artists in the urban fabric and, on the other, individual artists and groups who have worked with the city as their primary material. We will see the importance of the presence of artists to a healthy urban environment and how the function of the artist as an agent in social processes is every more relevant.

During the time I was director of Hangar (from 2006 to 2010, located in Can Ricart, Barcelona), I was deeply involved in the exemplary fight for spaces of creation and memory that was generated around the former cloth factory. Previously I had been involved in the Fadaiat project in the Straits of Gibraltar and other citizen media projects like Hangar is an artistic production centre located in Can Ricart, an old factory complex in the industrial area of Barcelona. This area, Poble Nou, has been subjected to a violent urban transformation, displacing artists and small businesses. Pro-artist activism turned into a fullscale involvement in the processes of urban transformation and the role of art therein. Some victories – preventing the destruction of the building, working on artist solidarity (through Open Studios and regular meetings), initiating the Fabricas de Creación project with the Barcelona City Council and the Catalan network of Artist Production Centres (xarxaprod) – cannot offset the many losses and the profound disillusionment.

Over the last few years I have been involved in the Wikiplaza project – an investigation of grassroot medialabs in urban spaces, rethinking public space as multiple layers of participation – and in 2011 I was invited to participate as visiting expert for the Second Chance European project in Ljubljana dedicated to the transformation of a former tobacco factory in the city centre. Most recently, in Montréal, I have been closely following the pied carré project, fighting for a neighbourhood urbanism where creativity and social justice are the central concerns.

Links :

pied carré (Montréal) –
can ricart (Barcelona) – –
xarxaprod (Catalunya) –
fabriques de creació (Barcelona) –
wikiplaza (Sevilla) –


Lecture by Pedro Soler: Between creativity and control: the role of the artists in the city space. from Lilia on Vimeo.

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