Cities with maps (the size of phonebooks)
23 September 2008
Through my interest in cities, more specifically in the politics of space, gentrification and urban change I have found myself in one of the world’s great metropolises, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
For me one of the most striking things I found out about when researching a bit about Sao Paulo was the Prestes Maia occupation. This building was an old textiles factory, 22 storeys high squatted from 2003- 2007 by around 2000 people, the largest occupation in Latin America. 468 families made this unused downtown building their home. Although the occupation ended last year, there are many strong relationships formed and much thought that was drawn from here. A squat of this size is something I could not have dreamed ever existed.
Almost out of necessity, due to the size of the population and the squeeze of the city, many Sao Paulo art collectives are making work responding to gentrification or issues surrounding space. I feel I have landed in a huge web of people thinking about similar issues to myself, on the opposite side of the world. Many people here are working using collective practices and are very interested in hearing about SquatSpace and our work in Sydney.
Sao Paulo, a city with its population close to that of the entire country of Australia, with a city map the size of a phone book, I have decided to create a cartography as a case study of the Prestes Maia occupation and all the collectives involved. In some ways this is almost necessary to understand how everyone fits into the network.
In the tradition of process art, where the end product of art and craft, the objet d’art, is not the principal focus my project in Brazil is a visual map of my process of gathering, meeting, collating and associating people and relationships between the numerous active art collectives in Sao Paulo. Process art is concerned with the actual doing; art as a rite, ritual, and performance. Process art often entails an inherent motivation, rationale, and intentionality. Therefore, art is viewed as a creative journey or process, rather than as a deliverable or end product.
In this case I do have an end product, though it serves more as a a visual map of my process of meeting and trying to understand the relationships of this complex and intertwined network of the collectives and the artist community I am meeting in my time in Sao Paulo and their relationship to each other and also the Prestes Maia occupation. This mapping is not because I need to produce an ‘outcome’, but more due to the fact that I need to produce this map to understand my process.
(This project is funded through a Run_Way grant administered through the Australia Council for the Arts)