Urban hacking – in a need for critical urban art

“Urban Hacking” is all kinds of artistic, socially or politically motivated, or even commercialized interventions in urban space, which change this space in an ephemeral or long-term sustainable way. We will elaborate on the various forms of urban interventions, and we will emphasize the need for urban interventions to open up for what we call a sphere of multiplicity rather than a limited spatial imaginary.

Often when urban issues are discussed, whether it is in the media, in a research or planning setting, the rhetoric is more about creating consensus around what is the “right” and what is the “wrong” way to make our cities, which proposes that there are no alternatives. This relates to a limited spatial imaginary that rather than opening up possibilities for positively and creatively mediate power imbalances attached to imaginaries regarding space, merely constructs a dichotomy between power and resistance.

Thus, we will argue that art should foster a conception of space  as a sphere of multiplicity, that opens up for alternatives to the present order by challenging familiar categorizations, such as established views, assigned usage and the spatially constructed order by asking questions such as: What are these places? How do they function? Why are they there? Who can occupy them? Who has the right to speak about them?

Urban art needs to question aspects of the present, and imagining alternatives to the ruling order.

Because, in the end, the city is a public space, and an urban intervention – even a purely artistic one – can never be seen as neutral.

Cecilie Sachs Olsen, urbanist and performance researcher from Norway, currently PhD researcher at Queen Mary University of London (School of Geography), and Sabeth Tödtli, architect and urbanist from Zürich, together co-founded the social-artistic urban laboratory zURBS.