Category Archives: 06. enclosure of public space

a. summary

kiss-o-drome, by Johan Grimonprez
story written and read by Eduardo Galeano


Most of our communal spaces have turned into advertising billboards. How come that our public places have so intimately been enclosed? Our identity and collective memory, including the politics of media commons, are for a big part shaped by corporate advertising slogans. The antidote here is the emergence of alternatives, such as transition towns, community gardens, electronic “free culture,” from open-source software and Creative Commons licenses to remixes, Web 2.0 and the reclaiming of urban spaces.

“Development” and “progress” are the watchwords — or perhaps more accurately, PR codewords — for the supremacy of corporate needs and market growth over all else. (David Bollier: Think like a Commoner, 2014: 55)

The market colonization of public spaces — and our consciousness — has become so extreme that many gas pumps and hotel elevators are now equipped with video screens that force us to watch or listen to ads. As public schools and universities suffer from budget cutbacks, corporations often step up to “help” by buying advertising space on school buses, highway toll booths, even municipal vehicles. (TLC p. 57) The implications of selling naming rights or digitally imposing logos onto playing fields (an increasingly common practice) may seem trivial to some, but they are symptomatic of a more troubling trend: the “hollowing out” of our social identity. The shared experiences that over time give a city soul are seen as yet another commodity to be bought and sold. At a more subtle level, national franchises and branding have the same effect on how we experience our own culture; they quietly eliminate all that is distinctive, idiosyncratic and charming. The irregular textures of a specific place and its public life are flattened out to maximize commercial appeal.(David Bollier: Think like a Commoner, 2014: 56)

g. man building his own island out of plastic bottles


Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Bravo TV; Cancun, Mexico 
2011, 4 min 16 sec

If you can’t afford to buy your own tropical island paradise, why not build your own? That is exactly what Richie Sowa did back in 1998, from over a quarter million plastic bottles. His Spiral Island, destroyed years later by a hurricane, sported a two-story house, solar oven, self-composting toilet and multiple beaches. Better yet, he has started building another one. His ultimate goal? To build an even bigger island and finally float out to sea, travelling the world from the comfort of his own private paradise. The original Spiral Island was – as its successor will be- built upon a floating collection used plastic bottles, all netted together to support a bamboo and plywood structure. Located in Mexico, the original mesured 20 by 16 meters, supported full-sized mangroves to provide shade and could be moved from one place to another thanks to a simple motorized system.

h. Kester Brewin on pirates and the commons


TEDxExeter, USA
1975, 2 min 13 sec

Kester Brewin teaches mathematics in South East London and is also a freelance writer, poet and consultant for BBC education. He writes regularly on education and technology for the national educational press, and has published a number of highly acclaimed books on the philosophy of religion. His latest book Mutiny! Why We Love Pirates and How They Can Save Us is a groundbreaking re-examination of the culture of piracy, which seeks to understand our continued fascination with these characters whose skull and crossed bones motif appears on everything from baby-bottles to skateboards, yet are still pursued and condemned worldwide for theft and exploitation. Drawing on pirates from history, film and literature, Kester’s work explores how our relationship to ‘the commons’ is central to an improved environmental, political and cultural consciousness, and also tries to work out why his son has been invited to countless pirate parties, but none (yet) with an aggravated robbery theme. His poetry has appeared in magazines around the world and he is currently preparing his debut novel for publication.

j. Istanbul’s Gezi Park Protest


AFP News Agency, Istanbul, Turkey
2014, 1 min 58 sec

One year after a small campaign to save an Istanbul park from redevelopment precipitated a estimated 3 million-strong nationwide protest, one student who took part in the early demonstrations recalls the good times — and the bad.

h. The Yes Men: Dow Chemical Spokesman


BBC World, Democracy Now
2003, 5 min 51 sec

On December 3, 2004, the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, Andy Bichlbaum appeared on BBC World as ‘Jude Finisterra’, a Dow Chemical spokesman. Dow is the owner of Union Carbide, responsible for the chemical disaster which killed thousands and left over 120,000 requiring lifelong care.

On their fake Dow Chemical website, the Yes Men said that Dow Chemical Company had no intention whatsoever of repairing the damage. The real company received considerable backlash, and both the real Dow and the phony Dow denied the statements, but Dow took no real action.

The Yes Men decided to pressure Dow further, so as ‘Finisterra’, Bichlbaum went on the news to claim that Dow planned to liquidate Union Carbide and use the resulting $12 billion to pay for medical care, clean up the site, and fund research into the hazards of other Dow products. After two hours of wide coverage, Dow issued a press release denying the statement, ensuring even greater coverage of the phony news of a cleanup. In Frankfurt, Dow’s share price fell 4.24 percent in 23 minutes, wiping $2 billion off its market value. The shares rebounded in Frankfurt after the BBC issued an on-air correction and apology. In New York, Dow Chemical’s stock were little changed.

After the original interview was revealed as a hoax, Bichlbaum appeared in a follow-up interview on the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 news. During the interview he was asked if he had considered the emotions and reaction of the people of Bhopal when producing the hoax. According to the interviewer, “there were many people in tears” upon having learned of the hoax. Bichlbaum said that, in comparison, what distress he had caused the people was minimal to that for which Dow was responsible. The Yes Men claim on their website that they have been told by contacts in Bhopal that once they had got over their disappointment that it wasn’t real, they were pleased about the stunt and thought it had helped to raise awareness of their plight.

In February 2012, it was widely reported in the 2012 Stratfor e-mail leak that Dow Chemical Company hired private intelligence firm Stratfor to monitor the Yes Men.


k. Theatres Inventing the Commons


Rafau Sieraczek and Giovanni Tusa.
Rome, Italy. 
2013, 13 min 41 sec

“Theatres inventing the common” video is a blend of interviews conducted in September 2012 with the Political Philosopher Antonio Negri and Fulvio Molena, co-organiser of the occupation of Teatro Valle in Rome. The discussions cross-examined the occupations of theaters phenomena together with its potential to (re)invent the Common. Drawing on the recent “occupy movements”, can “occupy culture” be a radical method to reclaim our values? Theatre is surely a place that allows such experiments through which we can imagine different realities and one where we should keep dreaming new modes of being together. Devised by: Rafau Sieraczek and Giovanni Tusa

l. Torre David


Urban-Think Tank; Caracas, Venezuela
2012, 2 min 02 sec

Torre David, a 45-story office tower in Caracas designed by the distinguished Venezuelan architect Enrique Gómez, was almost complete when it was abandoned following the death of its developer, David Brillembourg, in 1993 and the collapse of the Venezuelan economy in 1994. Today, it is the improvised home of a community of more than 750 families, living in an extra-legal and tenuous occupation that some have called a vertical slum.

Urban-Think Tank, spent a year studying the physical and social organization of this ruin-turned-home. Where some only see a failed development project, U-TT has conceived it as a laboratory for the study of the informal. In their Torre David / Grand Horizonte exhibit and in their forthcoming book Torre David: Informal Vertical Communities the architects lay out their vision for practical and sustainable interventions in Torre David and similar informal settlements around the world. They argue that the future of urban development lies in collaboration among architects, private enterprise, and the global population of slum-dwellers. This film is a call to arms to architects and everyone – to see in the informal settlements of the world a potential for innovation and experimentation, with the goal of putting design in the service of a more equitable and sustainable future.

m. Earthship: Haiti Disaster Relief


Michael Reynolds: Earthship Biotecture; Taos, USA
2010, 10 min 29 sec

The Haiti Earthship Project gives an overview of the quick and sustainable disaster relief by the Taos Earthship team in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. People’s lives were affected in positive, uplifting ways as knowledge of sustainable design and construction was transferred to the people of Haiti.