Tuesday, March 28, 2006

spatial tactics


One winter afternoon I was wandering around the Raval neighborhood (in the Historic Quarter of Barcelona) and I came upon a volleyball game taking place in a homemade volleyball court. Immigrants were playing inside an abandoned lot where a building had been razed. The lot was fenced off; the bottom couple of feet were cemented off. How did they get in there? I walked around it to see how they had gotten inside. On one side I found a jagged hole in the lower part of the fence, about 1.5 foot by 1.5 foot. I thought how they must have had to crawl in individually and slip the poles and the net through. Very clever, I thought, and I took this picture from inside that hole. After that day I began to find all sorts of spatial tactics in the city: heated 24-hour ATM nooks and storefronts being used as bedrooms; balconies used to hang clothes and protest signs, left-out construction materials and those big plant pots used as benches; dumpsters used as urinals…

And I began to think of how these spatial tactics not only fulfilled a basic need, but also functioned as little harmless, creative, political resistances, breaking through the city’s image, an international image ultra-protected by the increasing presence of video cameras, policemen, and tour books. Since spatial tactics are usually temporal, mobile, sneaky, spontaneous, small, and semi-hidden, for me they’re also a unique form of resistance because they hard to crack down on, categorize, or put your finger on them. (Like little sparks of truth amongst the ubiquitous stimuli and simulacra.)

I’ll end with a quote. "[Those who create spatial tactics] must vigilantly make use of the cracks that particular conjunctions open in the surveillance of the proprietary powers. It poaches them. It creates surprises in them. It can be where it is least expected. It is a guileful ruse." (The Practice of Everyday Life by Michel de Certeau, 1984)

May you find many spatial tactics then next time you walk outside.

No. I’ll end with a color picture of that abandoned lot, or volleyball court, one year later.

Color photo taken by Eva Megias.
(Published in Tiresias, vol. 1)

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