Odlingar och demokrati

Christel Lundberg, MA-uppsats, ”Odlingar och demokrati”

In English further down//
Christel Lundberg i samarbete med Sabina Jallow och dokumenterat av Åke Hedström.
Koloniträdgården på S: t Knuts torg var en konstinstallation
som gjordes 2003 på ett centralt torg i Malmö. Den var
installerad på S:t Knuts torg maj-december 2003, hade en storlek
på 120 kvadratmeter, bestod av 4 ton material. Koloniträdgården
byggdes av återvinningsmaterial. Arbetskraften kom från frivilliga
Visionen var att föra odlingen närmare stadens invånare på en
offentlig plats, som alla kan få dela kollektivt.
Odling är ett bra fungerande och konkret plattform för politiska diskussioner, på grund av dess ambivalenta relation till naturen. Det är både antropocentriskt som ekocentriskt; det är både ett sätt at tkontrollera naturen som det är en möjlighet för oss att förstå och bli en del av naturen. Och politiskt, när vi blir markägare, är detta i sig själv en övergång från altruism till egoism, eller när blir markägande etiskt som miljömässigt problematisk? Vi ber inte att folk ska dra slutgiltiga slutsatser om marknadsekonomins påverkan på samhället, men det är en uppmaning till medborgare, inte bara i Malmö utan över hela världen att reagera och agera på den ökade dominansen av abstrakta ekonomin som når alla länder genom globaliseringen. ”Koloniträdgården på S:t Knuts torg” var ett icke-vålds bidrag till denna diskussion. ”Koloniträdgården på S:t Knuts torg” var en påminnelse att vi behöver offentliga platser som inte är kommersiella och som inviterar alla medborgare. Om vi inte använder dem blir de lagringsplatser för kommunen eller värre, parkeringsplatser. Denna centrala koloniträdgård användes dag som natt den heta säsongen 2003. Den användes till små konserter, sociala möten, som viloplats, för politiska möten, idrott, solbadande, föreläsningar, odling, människor skördade och planterade, vattnade och brydde sig om den. På nätterna användes den av ungdomar som en plats där de kunde träffas och prata i en mer ”privat atmosfär” än offentliga platser brukar vara. Med en manskör och en tänd julgran tog vi farväl av koloniträdgården i december och trädgården monterades ned och materialet återfördes till återvinningsföretaget.///

The Allotment Garden at St. Knut’s Square was an art installation made in 2003 in a central square in Malmo. It was installed at St. Knut’s Square from May to December 2003, had a size of 120 square meters, consisting of four tons of material. The Allotment Garden was built of recyclable materials. The labor force came from voluntary citizens of Malmö.
The vision was to bring cultivating closer to citizens in a public place, all of whichwe can share collectively.
Cultivation is a good workable and concrete platform for political discussions, because of its ambivalent relationship to nature. It is both anthropocentric and ecocentric: it is both a way to control nature as it is an opportunity for us to understand and be a part of nature. And politically, when we become landowners, this is in itself a shift from altruism to egoism, or when is land ownership ethically and environmentally problematic? We do not ask people to draw final conclusions about the market economy impact on society, but it is a call to citizens, not only in Malmö but all over the world to react and respond to the increasing domination of the economy that reaches all the countries through globalization. ”Allotment Garden at St. Knut’s Square” was a non-violent contribution to this discussion. ”Allotment Garden at St. Knut’s Square” was a reminder that we need public places that are not commercial and which invite all citizens. If we do not use them, they become repositories for the municipality or worse, parkinglots. This central allotment was used day and night the hot season of 2003. It was used for small concerts, social meetings, resting place for political meetings, sports, sunbathing, lectures, culture, people harvested and planted, watered and cared about it. At night it was used by young people as a place where they could meet and talk in a more ”private atmosphere” than public places tend to be.
With a male choir and a lit Christmas tree, we took leave of allotment garden in december and the garden was dismantled and the material was returned to the recycling company.

Democracy in Urban Planning, by Christel Lundberg
Much activist art take place outdoors, in public spaces, in street activities, etc. Of this reason we´re as activist artists often connected to the subject of planning processes and finds ourselves putting our noses deep down in comprehension plans etc. And since many activist art activities are reactions against exploition plans we´ll soon finds out the irritating fact tha urban planning isn´t a democratic process, despite it´s a process inside a democratic system. Especially this is the case in central planning, which ought to be translatable to ”the planning of central parts of cities, regions and nations”. But instead it´s a definition which means ”centralized planning”. It´s scary to realize that citizens have nothing to say, only used as cosmetic, when there´s need to pretend democracy.There´s a complex relationship between urban or regional planning and participatory democracy which demands research, but this is too often neglected in the every day urban planning processes.

But how do we then, as artists apply critical analysis of democracy in our activist projects?
As artists ”Public Globality Gardens” made an ”image” of this power-relation when creating an art-installation of a full-scale allotment garden at a central square in Malmö, Sweden. This research of democracy in real life, made four questions especially significant. ”How to rule the vision in relation to the people living in the area?”, ”How to take care of citizens knowledge of an area?” , ”Who´s the speaker of the citizens?” and at last ”Who has the code of entry and who hasn´t and how are we going to deal with that?”.

How to rule the vision? Often we think about this relation as something we have to choose between, and the choice has serious implications. It is a strongly hierarchical view, where citizens may get the position in planning in the districts and allowed to participate in less important decisions.

How to take care of citizens knowledge? Citizens are not stupid and ignorant but they are often treated as though. The issue is that there ”is no time and no money” to deal with deep knowledge of the citizens. It is not a question about more potted flowers, but an investigation which is in need of professionals with different methods of how to deal with people in this kind of process. How to make people telling what they are not expected to say. It is often better to provide for a situation which is not expected.

When the artist group ”Public Globality Gardens” constructed an allotment garden at a central square in Malmö, it was not for the reason that the garden was the aestetical solution for this area, in the contrary, it was to stipulate that this area do have a problem and this art-installation was a position, a not expected one, for the citizens living i the neighbourhood, to fill with whatever they wanted to. ”The allotment garden at S:t Knuts square” was located in Malmö, during the cultivation period May-December in 2003. Since there isn´t much profit in market trade nowadays the square is not used as a market place any more and actually not used in any manner at all. It is a dead urban stone desert. Around the square lives many people, looking down on this empty square suffering from something to happen there. The closest neighbor is the two-laned through route. In this surroundings the allotment garden was built upon the paved market-place with a range of 120 square meters and a height of 1,5 meter. As a ecological remark recycled materials were used for the installation, and the garden rested on 300 loading pallets of different sizes. The installation of this garden really filled a ”black hole” in this district. The artists cultivated together with those living around. A senior and former boxer pre-cultivated leek and harvested potatoes named ”Birgitta”, a danish sort, which we got from the Nordic Gene Bank (a research centre which is preserving old local seeds) and a five year old boy who planted tomatoes and squash in the garden and helped us watering the garden.

When developing a sustainable city-planning process it´s important to get a feeling for the area. This ”feeling” is not delivered or provided for you instantly, it takes time. One implication of participatory democracy is the need of more cooperators in this process. ”The Allotment Garden at S:t Knuts Square” was a cooperative project with different professions working together with NGOs and those living around in the districts.

”The Allotment Garden at S:t Knuts Square” was a reminder that we need public spaces which are not commercial and invites all citizens. If we do not use them they will become storing places for the public administrations or worse, parking lots. This central allotment was used day and night the hot season of 2003. It was used for small concerts, social meetings, as a resting-place, for political meetings, for sports, sun bathing, lectures, cultivating, people harvested and planted, watered and cared about it. In the nights it was used by young people as a place to meet and talk in a more ”private atmosphere” than public spaces use to be.

Does a collective urban garden work? Since the allotment was located at a central public space, the usually private characteristics of gardens had to work together with the fact that everybody were invited to this garden and could do whatever they wanted to do. A common question we had to answer was: Don´t everybody want to vandalize this garden? On the contrary, it was hard to teach people that they were allowed to use the allotment and to harvest herbs, vegetables and rhubarb. Urban life will step by step be improved if we consider urban spaces ”in between” as possibilities for environmental improvement. Who´s the speaker of the citizens?

Well, it´s not traditionally the politicians and often not those who carry out the visions, e.g. planners, architects. The problem is often that the visions are missing and the belief in pragmatic rules the planning situation. And for that reason the planners, architects are themselves fighting for their situation. There are visions in the society, but they need more space. Public Globality Gardens has become a voice in Malmö. They are living in the area och participate themselves in the discussion with e.g., local organizations, multi-cultural citizens, individual actors. And it is a voice with visions. It is a habit not to listen to citizens because often they´re not a collective voice, but different people with private interests. This attitude,unfortunately, cause often no problem. But since artist groups are working with the aim to make a collective voice of citizens perspective and give the individual interests a larger perspective, it make demands on the politicians to listen. Who has the code of entry and who hasn´t and how are we going to deal with that?

Since there are demands that citizens must get more participatory power in the planning processes the outcome has become a misunderstanding of democracy. It´s not only dangerous when small organizations or agents act on their un-democratic own egoistic interest and not for a good thing for the collective. These forces are the same which is in the frontiers blocking visions. It is not those only who have the correct code and language which we have to listen to, it is as many as possible. And this listening has little to do with democracy processes. It´s more like an understanding of a situation and a platform for the visionary agents in the planning processes to take care of. Un-expected spaces and contexts and with different medias gives a possibility to create new understandings which might be an invitation for former excluded groups to take part in the democratic planning processes. The society and region cannot be sustainable if some groups don´t want to join or feel excluded. We have to understand why they are not interested or why they feel excluded and we have to try to solve these problems. Everybody don´t have to participate, but it´s important that representants from different groups participate. If we only have seniors and middle-aged white citizens in the group we receive a senior-middleaged white answer.

Cultivation is a good-working and concrete platform for political discussions, because it is a ambiguous act on nature. It is both anthropocentric and ecocentric; it is both means to control nature as it is a possibility for us to understand and be a part of nature. And politically, when we become landowners, is this in itself a transition from altruism to egoism; or when does the property of landowning become ethical and environmental troublesome. Well, we are not asking people to draw final conclusions of the market economies influence on society, but it is a demand for citizens, not only in Malmö, but all over the world, to react and act upon the increasing domination of financial capital that reaches all countries through globalization. ”The Allotment Garden at S:t Knuts square” was a non-violent contribution to this discussion. It is better to ask: ”What are the problems?” instead of: ”We know you have this or that problem, we have this solution, what do you think, and you have three weeks to make your opinion about this pre-fabricated solution?” The first positions creates political aware citizens, the latter creates non-political citizens. Since it is not only a local question if a green area in Malmö or Copenhagen is exploited or not, but in every sense has regional and global effects and implications. Globally it affects citizens in other areas because of the concrete situation that we´ll have less oxygen supply with the decrease of green areas, and in spite of that the loss of one individual green area doesn´t have huge affect on citizens, what is our reaction if we are summing-up all of the exploited green areas? Maybe we will panic. The global implication of the closing-down of one individual area in Malmö will be that if nobody have a larger view and reacts and acts on this the commercial interests will rule the planning situation and we as citizens become the audience of this tragedy. As artist working in this concrete milieu we are trying to provide a larger view of different local wishes or demands.