PROJECT | Enabling Suburbs

Posted on 01/09/2011

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Enabling Suburbs is a project instigated by John Armstrong and me, with Jason Haigh and Chiara Camponeschi, that didn’t receive funding. As a group of ‘creatives’ and initiators from various interdisciplinary arts and design backgrounds, we’ve decided to develop some aspects of the project for publication on a new blog. In this way, we hope to share and talk about some of our concerns for the future of our suburbs and communities, drawing on and developing alternative representations as a strategy for change.  We anticipated a critical hybrid art-design project focused on Aspley, an outer suburb of Brisbane, through which we could collaborately explore memes of cultural value and change via our respective national and international practices of curation, visual art, design, architecture, writing, activism and media. Why Aspley? It’s where we live and operate our respective creative enterprises – we deal with this environment every day and felt that our brand of creative and tactical futuring was warranted. Importantly, the project was intended to have an outward and inclusive focus that solicited some degree of community participation. Chiara Camponeschi, who has come to prominence through her work The Enabling City, would play role as a catalyst and in developing our methodology for creative change and for imagining an ‘enabling suburb’.

Importantly, we are informed by The Enabling City as a body of work that intersects with or draws out elements of socially and culturally engaged artistic and design practice – intervention, collaboration, social sculpture, relational aesthetics, participatory design, design fiction, situationist practice, site specificity, psychogeography, placemaking and the like. This work refers to a broad range of place-based creative problem solving strategies which can easily come into dialogue with integrated artistic and design strategies to create a movement of interdisciplinary conversation. The project nods to my work Changescaping – a writing and research project emerging from the Placing project – which aims to draw out emerging and changing ideas about urban environments with a particular emphasis on the role artists, designers, planners, architects and other urbanists can play as changemakers, or changescapers. It also draws on involvement in various design futures undertakings, such as masterclasses addressing redirective practice, design fictions and futuring. The project is speculative in a way that endeavours to engage audiences in thinking, doing and being towards alternative possible futures. If we can’t or don’t imagine them or challenge ourselves to think beyond what is in the here and now, then we can’t manifest those alternatives.

However, the funding for that project didn’t eventuate and we’re now rolling energies into this blog and taking a more laid back approach to developing it. With a view to encouraging a more thoughtful vision of suburban life and culture, we hope to seed ideas (and maybe even memes) for change, opportunity and difference in a hopeful, meaningful and life affirming way.

We’ve made a tentative start and some of the projects, ideas and writings initiated on Placing will migrate to Enabling Suburbs. This website will also present:

1. Documentation of experiments and ideas about enabling suburbs (developing interdisciplinary practice and collaboration for the task of post-suburban imagining or ‘suburban shift’)
2. Critical and cultural writing about contemporary socially engaged practices and projects (developing vocabularies and understanding commonalities)
3. Resources for use by other practitioners (sharing our learnings)

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