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Curating the Postindustrial Landscape
Urban Occupations Urbaines (UOU) is a mobile organization conceived to facilitate creative responses to unresolved architectural and urban conditions. Projects are conceived as temporary occupations and spatial appropriations for re-imagining open, public, culturally diverse, inclusive, and playful urban spaces.
UOU works as a platform for artistic projects that have the potential to play a key role in the re/conceptualization of public space, the meaning of place, and for bringing certain community struggles into representation. It is in this sense that UOU provokes a deeper inquiry into the spatial resonance and politics of urban revitalization projects by drawing attention to what otherwise might go unseen in the city.
As a theatre practitioner I have always been attracted to the ways in which urban spaces have the potential to stage and spatialize both critical and creative responses to the built environment. Questions about space, the public, and the political efficacy of performative practices guide my work. In broad terms, my doctoral research works across and in between the disciplines of architectural history, performance practices and urban studies, drawing from a mixture of discourses that address the relations between artistic interventions and the built environment, cultural pedagogy and theories of democracy.
Since 2010, the UOU project has been focused on Griffintown, Montreal’s historic working class and industrial district. Griffintown holds an especially privileged place in Montreal’s history – once the crucible of Montreal’s urban development and resonant within Canada’s pre/industrial history. Since the 1970s, however, Griffintown has become an urban site of pastness and abandon. The recent past in Griffintown has seen deep and enduring tensions between the interests of urban renewal and heritage preservation. Presently, Griffintown is an interstitial space within Montreal that allows the patina of local history to be visible; it allows the traces of past ideas about the urban landscape to remain legible; and it does not hide the failures and partial successes of the past, both of which are its legacy to future generations.
As creative, social and spatial practices, public art interventions and performance installations are potential methods for recasting the discourse and analysis of the built environment in an experiential form – creating ruptures in more traditional and established ways of knowing and interpreting the history of spaces and, more specifically, the indeterminate and interstitial spaces of urban fabric.
- Shauna Janssen, Fondatrice et commissaire, Urban Occupations Urbaines