The Neighbourhood Imaginary : Considerations of Local Art Production in Unconventional Spaces
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This thesis examines contemporary art projects that are installed in unconventional sites in urban neighbourhoods. Using the conceptual framework of the neighbourhood imaginary, I propose that these local art practices utilize neighbourhood spaces to engage with nation, identity and citizenship practices within the contemporary discourse of globalization. The three art projects I investigate address different aspects of neighbourhood. Cuban artist René Francisco Rodriguez’s (René Francisco) project, El Patio de Nin, foregrounds the citizen in an urban neighbourhood. His project merges creativity and pedagogy with social service, and blurs the boundaries between art and life in order to comment on social conditions and citizenship practices. The Legacy of Joseph Wagenbach (2006), by Toronto artist Iris Häussler, uses a home in an urban neighbourhood as a physical space in which to create an imaginary life to explore aspects of community, human behaviour and social values. The Swamp Ward Window, a Kingston-based curatorial project, takes advantage of the intimacy of the private home and the immediacy of the street to present artworks that explore the interface between public and private and everyday life in the community. Cornelius Castoriadis argues that the social imaginary emerges when the subconscious, the symbolic and action interact, not merely to reflect the outside world, but to create new meanings from which social change is possible. In my analysis, the neighbourhood imaginary resonates with the social imaginary, functioning as a conceptual laboratory for artists to experiment with the different meanings associated with neighbourhood, community and citizenship. I propose that a reengagement with the local, as part of a iii global discourse, provides an opportunity to examine art projects that manifest in neighbourhoods. And, while taking place in different socio-political circumstances, the shared condition of locality, I argue, provides a window through which the three projects envision linkages between aesthetic practices and public life. Finally, in order to critically consider local artistic practices in relation to globalization and the commodification of culture, this thesis engages those discourses of globalization that see culture as integral in new global economies.