Play City Life: Henri Lefebvre, Urban Exploration and Re-Imagined Possibilities for Urban Life
McRae, James Donald
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The contemporary Western city is a space of capitalism, realized on a personal level through the lived realities of work and consumption. Elevation of these twin activities is contributing to ongoing social and environmental problems, both within the city and the larger interconnected world. As an alternative, play represents a way to de-emphasize the importance of work and consumption and their pervasive monetary components. Uncommodified, non-commercial play can open up more urban space and time for use value, above the exchange value that capitalism so efficiently emphasizes. Henri Lefebvre’s ideas about the ongoing production of social space, explicated in his spatial triad, alongside his ideas surrounding a resurgent and possibly revolutionary festival are used to explain how play can unsettle current capitalist norms. Urban exploration, an activity that sees people venture into all parts of the city, particularly those where one is not meant to go, is used as a form of play in support of this argument. This pastime interacts with the city in multiple spatial and temporal ways, helping to counteract some of the negative aspects of modern life. By entering various areas with unique perspectives, urban explorers recast working, consuming and forgotten spaces into sites of play and fun. Urban space itself becomes less alienated, more dynamic, and the possibilities within it evermore exciting. Exploration also reveals the uneven nature of contemporary urban space. By revealing certain problems urban exploration might act as a first step towards countering them, in turn encouraging different urban spaces and a diversified more livable city full of opportunities for use, self-expression and growth.