Louis Volont – Artistic constitutions of the urban commonwealth

Louis Volont’s Artistic Constitutions of the Urban Commonwealth focusses on creative interventions in the post-Fordist city: those that contribute to capitalist accumulation and those that seek to resist it.

Artists have always contributed to the dynamic buzz of the city. New since the ‘strategic turn in urban governance’ (Swyngedouw), however, is the functional link between the 4 C’s of Creativity, the City, the Commons and Capital. Artistic expressions in the city (guerrilla architecture, graffiti, street art, among others) are of all times, but have been criticized as the latest form of urban transgression, recuperated and exploited by the creative city discourse as initiated by Landry & Bianchini (1995) and popularized by Florida (2002). It is against this backdrop, the neo-liberalization of the urban realm, that the artist’s role in the shaping of space must be rethought.

Increasingly today, scholars, artists, urban planners and activists are looking beyond the public/private dyad to sublocal forms of artistic cooperation, making claims on city space as ‘a commons’. Michael Hardt (2013) sees the (urban) commons as an iterative process: ‘an act of making and reclaiming that which we manage collectively’. Early critiques on functional urbanism focussed on how the urban commons can be reclaimed, yet we dispose of little research on how these commons could be maintained. Hence the need to investigate how art in public space, in its various expressions, can be renegotiated, reclaimed, sustained.

Following Stavrides’ (2016) hypothesis that art is becoming nowadays the propelling force of urban ‘commoning’, this research postulates that the urban art scene needs ‘the urban commons’ in order to generate a lasting, unexploited foothold in the built environment. This PhD project will therefore continually explore various case-studies in Germany (Berlin), the UK (London) and Spain, among whom the guerrilla architects of Recetas Urbanas (Seville) and Todo por la Praxis (Madrid).

Louis Volont
PhD researcher

Prof. dr. Pascal Gielen (University of Antwerp, Faculty of Arts)
Prof. dr. Walter Weyns (University of Antwerp, Faculty of Social Sciences)