Balloons to talk about : Exploring conversational potential of an art intervention

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Relational approaches to urban development have gained ground in academic literature, highlighting diverse perspectives, such as experience, participation, aesthetics, performativity and affection. However, these practices neglect conversation as a connection between local everyday life and urban development. We argue that as art generally provokes discussion, material art acquires potential to question urban development and thus, act as a conversation mediator in public space. To test the hypothesis, we organised an explorative action research study: a data art installation within the annual ‘Oulu Night of the Arts’ in August 2017. The installation illustrated spatiotemporal analysis of everyday life in Åström Park, Oulu, Northern Finland. The art intervention succeeded in engaging diverse social groups online and on-site, although it proved challenging to evoke focused conversations. The induced discussions bore relevance to everyday realities in the locality. If public discourse on urban environment concentrates solely on municipal urban planning projects and visible new constructions, we risk creating a misconception of them being superior to mundane everyday life. The study suggests that even tentative information without specific objectives, when presented in a public data installation, could prove valuable for urban development discourse.
plaNext-Next Generation Planning Vol. 9 (2019) Navigating change: Planning for societal and spatial transformations 45-64
everyday life, interventions in urban development, action research, spatio-temporal design, performative urbanism, new urban aesthetics
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