Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lesbian National Parks and Services

Lesbian National Parks and Services / Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan

Lesbian National Parks and Services was founded in 1997 to insert a lesbian presence into the landscape. In full uniform as Lesbian Rangers, Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan patrol parklands, challenging the general public's ideas of tourism, recreation, and the "natural" environment. Equipped with informative brochures and well-researched knowledge, they are a visible homosexual presence in spaces where concepts of history and biology exclude all but a very few.

Lesbian National Parks and Services: A Force of Nature (Video Clip 7.2 MB)

This mock-u-mentary follows the intrepid Lesbian Rangers through Jr. Lesbian Ranger training camp, research missions, deep-sea rescue, and field work around the globe. Premiered at the Sydney (Australia) Gay/Lesbian Film Festival.

Watch another LNPS promotional video here.

Lesbian National Parks and Services: Field Guide to North America
By Ranger Shawna Dempsey and Ranger Lorri Millan
Illustrated by Daniel Barrow
Pedlar Press (2002)

Whether you are a veteran outdoors-woman or a novice bushwacker, this is the comprehensive lesbiancraft manual you have been waiting for! After extensive tours-of-duty around the globe and in the field, the world-famous Lesbian Rangers have compiled their exhaustive findings in this richly illustrated book. A practical field guide, the Lesbian Rangers describe Flora, Fauna, and Lesbian Survival Skills in intimate detail. Discover how to start a fire and keep it going, what and whom to eat, and the secrets of lesbian psychology.

Read excerpts from the Field Guide here.

Lesbian National Parks and Services: Field Guide to North America / Reviewed by Anne Borden / The Danforth Review

Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan's Field Guide is a witty, indelibly Canadian exploration of a variety of species, including, of course, our own. It is designed to mimic the field guides of the 1950s and 1960s, with rounded corners, pen-and-ink illustrations and a lilting, Audubon parlance. Through their double-voiced narration, the authors urge readers to protect not only the Atlantic Ridley Sea Turtle and other rare creatures, but the endangered beauty and diversity of queer culture, which is constantly under threat due to "unnatural disasters such as religious fundamentalism and assimilation."

The Lesbian Rangers were conceived by Dempsey and Millan as part of a residency through the Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Center, in which they donned uniforms and established an onsite information centre for the preservation of "lesbian wildlife." The reaction from guests at the provincial park was overwhelmingly positive, in part because of Dempsey and Millan's adept humour, steeped in double-entendre that manages to fall far short of mockery, and never stoops to mean-spiritedness. "Busy Hands, Happy Heart" goes the Rangers' motto, but this work ethic expands beyond the work of preserving North American wildlife to advocating for LGBT visibility and establishing the important role that queers play in society, in a voice that alternates between authoritative fact and radical cheek.

Read the full review here.

Interview with Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan / The Danforth Review

As collaborators since 1989, Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan have created a prolific body of performance art, print publications, video and film. Their most recent text, the Lesbian National Parks and Services Field Guide to North America (2002, Pedlar Press) is a thought-provoking, uproarious send-up of the field guide genre. It looks and feels like a field guide from the 1950's, from the light sheen of its pages and the cover lamination, to its rounded corners and romantic illustrations. But within its pages lies an examination of the diversity of sexual practices among animals and plants, and a radical critique of sexism in science and sexual conservatism in the broader culture.

Shawna and Lorri spoke with Anne Borden (The Danforth Review) via telephone in early February 2003. Read the full interview here.

Junior Lesbian Ranger Handbook

Everything you need to get started on life's bushpath. This handy guide covers knot-tying, how to move an insensible lesbian and more! Also includes a full-colour embroidered Junior Lesbian Ranger patch.

Recent Projects

Lesbian Rangers / Reorientation 2005 / University of Winnipeg

Consideration Liberation Army / The Revolution Begins June 21, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Labor Histories

The Howling Mob Society

The Howling Mob Society (HMS) is a collaboration of artists, activists and historians committed to unearthing stories neglected by mainstream history. HMS brings increased visibility to the radical history of Pittsburgh, PA through grassroots artistic practice. Our current focus is The Great Railroad Strike of 1877, a national uprising that saw some of its most dramatic moments in Pittsburgh.

Ten New Historical Markers Commemorate The Great Railroad Strike of 1877

The Howling Mob Society has created ten historical markers, detailing events and significant locations from The Great Strike, and mounted them throughout the Strip District, Downtown, Polish Hill and Lawrenceville. Visit the map link to find out where the signs are located.

The events that unfolded in July of 1877 marked a unique moment in the history of the United States. Exceptional as it was, however, what has come to be known as the Great Railroad Strike goes largely unmentioned in mainstream accounts of Pittsburgh history. Common people were pushed to the breaking point and struck out in resistance, however they did not have the opportunity to preserve their stories for posterity. Those who had the means to record the strike quickly revealed their sympathetic relationship to the business leaders of the day and set the tone for how 1877 would be remembered. Their bias can be seen in published accounts of the riots, which use racist and xenophobic language to blame immigrants and transient laborers for the property damage and looting that took place. Considerably less attention is paid to the conditions that incited the riot in the first place; the fact that one quarter of the cities entire population participated in the uprising; or the lives lost at the hands of the state militia and National Guard.

In a culture that tells its history through the stories of great men and war heroes, a movement without iconic leaders quietly falls to the wayside. Telling the story of a decentralized social insurrection requires a different approach to history making. It requires that individuals outside the traditional power structure stand up and take responsibility for setting the record straight. The Howling Mob Society seeks to do just that.

Thanks Dara Greenwald and Just Seeds!!!

Don't Mourn / Sarah Kanouse / Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies (Volume 3, Number 3)


Dust rises in sheets from the hard-pounded ground, hesitates for a moment, and disperses on the dry wind. Hulking steel and concrete structures, their functions lost to Free Trade, rust ominously. A few second-generation industries — mostly recycling and storage concerns — have set up shop in some of the scattered outbuildings, and a trickle of dirty pick-ups checks in and out at the guard post, though the automatic gate seems permanently open. They take little notice of the car, my videographer, or me, a young woman with a battered, vinyl-sided suitcase and a HAM antenna cut to a commercial FM frequency.

I’ve been making pilgrimages to sites like this for a few years now to bear witness to the unmarked relics of old and not-so-old labor struggles in my home state, a place known for a solid union backbone that’s been much bent in recent years. Maybe it was always bent: the struggles I commemorate were not always the heroic or victorious ones but also the shameful episodes: armed conflicts between white strikers and black workers brought from faraway and tricked into taking their places, big unions selling out their struggling locals with a wink and a nod. Sometimes struggles that were victorious and heroic on one level were shameful and disquieting at another. I come to mourn but I don’t want it to stop at that.

The premise is simple: I make radio monuments, monuments composed of radio waves. I squat in the dust for two minutes to broadcast a mournful, distorted version of the Internationale over a commercial radio station to the usually empty immediate vicinity. Without a radio to listen in, it looks like a moment of silence, with luggage. In the name of the events that took place here, I bathe the site in radio waves in a slight, invisible, ephemeral memorial that doesn’t make heroes of the fallen, doesn’t fix the narrative, doesn’t pretend that the story — of the strike, the massacre, the battle, the labor movement, or capitalism — ended any differently or better.

Pana, Illinois

I do not make the bronze plaques, stone monuments or epic murals often sought by labor groups for their permanence and aura of legitimacy. I am not inspiring or instructing but remembering these events and their sometimes ambivalent outcomes. “Public memory” is more often performed than it is read, a difference that Diana Taylor has identified between the “archival” knowledge of history and the “repertoire” of embodied understanding. “Performed, embodied practices make the “past” available as a political resource in the present.... [A] performance may be about something that helps us understand the past, and it may reactivate issues or scenarios from the past by staging them in the present.” Uttering, singing, dancing, visiting, eating or drinking in a ritual fashion, imbued with symbolic meaning, is how individuals access the accumulated experience of a culture such that what has happened in times past to others feels as real, as palpable, as understandable as what has happened in their own lives.

Battle of the Viaduct

To my ears memorial is silent, and I have two minutes of silence in which to think — think about what I am doing, think about what happened here and about what is still happening here and in other places like it. The metal box, its whirring fan faintly audible even in the wind, is reorganizing a sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum, encoding it to carry my Internationale, more dirge-like than martial, to the unsuspecting receivers of passing cars. The disturbance to the commercial frequency I am jamming is so localized that car radios may flicker with only a few notes of a strange, sad march before resolving again to a steady, static-free mix of Top-40 and commercials. I have no way of knowing for sure how far my signal travels or if anyone is listening, yet the temporary and quixotic interruption of frequency-modulation-as-usual resonates in satisfying ways with the battles I am marking. The symbolic value of reclaiming the electromagnetic commons collides with the fact that the transmissions are local, dissipate, and are drowned out, just as the battles won or lost have been made mute by the onward march of capital and time.

The Labor Trail

The Labor Trail is the product of a joint effort to showcase the many generations of dramatic struggles and working-class life in the Chicago area's rich and turbulent past. The Trail's neighborhood tours invite you to get acquainted with the events, places, and people - often unsung - who have made the city what it is today. In addition, the statewide map is just a starting point for further exploration of Illinois' labor heritage. We invite you to report new themes for research and investigation on both the city and state level.

Labor Trail Map / Interactive Labor Trail

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Frente 3 de Fevereiro

Frente 3 de Fevereiro is a research and artistic intervention group concerned with racism in Brazilian society. The group’s goal is to create a new understanding and contextualize the fragmented information the general population receives via mass media. The group’s artistic interventions create new forms of protest pertaining to racial issues.

New strategies are required to think and to act in a constantly changing reality permeated by cultural transformations on a diverse scale. Frente 3 de Fevereiro connects with the artistic legacy of generations that thought out new ways to interact with urban space in light of the history of the Afro-Brazilian struggle and resistance.

We Are Zumbi: A Cartography of Racism to the Urban Youth - Chapters 1 & 2 (English - PDF)

About Cartography

Frente 3 de Fevereiro was founded by artists, a filmmaker, a graphic designer, musicians, a historian, a sociologist, a dancer, a lawyer, a set designer and actors. It was born out of this group’s mobilization after a real occurrence: on February 3rd, 2004 when a young black man, Flávio Sant’Ana, was mistaken by a thief and murdered by the São Paulo military police.

To us, the murder of Flávio, a young, recently graduated dentist, was more than a mere fact: it was an exemplary case, a denunciation of social contradiction. The idea of idealized racial democracy in Brazil is perpetuated, affirming a discourse that this is a mixed-race country, which is therefore automatically “free” of racism. On the other hand, Flávio’s death brings forth the daily racial profiling of a young black man as a “suspect”, as a “threat.” Therefore, Flávio Sant’Ana’s murder reveals racial democracy as a deliberate attempt to deny perverse social practices punctuated by legacy of slavery.

Following this event, the group began to observe how the media narrated the story, and we noticed that most of the time, the racial factor easily disappeared in the news, describing the murder as “yet another case of violence.” That was our catch: how to racialize this occurrence? How to expose the racism behind the police’s violent action legitimized by a society that is equally racist and violent?

We performed several actions: we built a horizontal monument in the exact spot where Flávio was murdered—a plate on the floor observing the occurrence in remembrance; we pasted posters throughout the city claiming: “Who polices the police? Police racism.”

Thus we began our cartography trying to decompose the historical thread that has been rendered “natural” through new social practices. But how are these practices structured? What are the limits of the slave legacy in our quotidian experience? How can we break free from this logic by inscribing other forms of sociability?

Cartography is to us more than a map. It is writing understood in a larger sense, a stance before the world. We are cartographers when we recognize and organize that which instigates us to act, giving us hearing, a voice and form to our anxieties and desires, poetically expressing and inscribing onto reality that which moves us.

It is not enough to unveil the past in the present. It is necessary to invent new ways of reading and writing our desires, therefore inventing new forms of sociability. Once we own our daily practices, believing in what we feel, we abandon a place of constant reactions to what is socially reproduced. That way, we recognize our historical legacy and move to an active place where we produce new practices, a new logic, and new maxims, always yet to be invented.

“Everything that voices the movements of desire, everything that serves to coin expressive material, is welcomed. All entry points are good, so long as there are multiple exits. That way the cartographer uses a variety of sources, not only written or theoretical [...]. The cartographer is a true cultural cannibal: always expropriating, appropriating devouring and giving birth, trans-valuing. The cartographer is always seeking elements/nourishment to compose his/her cartographies.”

Zumbi Somos Nós: Cartografia do Racismo para o Jovem Urbano
(We are Zumbi: A Cartography of Racism for Urban Youth) is not a treatise about racism in Brazil. On the contrary, it is an attempt to create a device for dialogue through our paths, doubts and desires. We are Zumbi presents a sketch of our itinerary, the organization of a gaze attentive to quotidian experience, constructed through diverse layers of understanding: our actions, poetic manifestos, text fragments, interviews with scholars, research, newspaper articles, etc.

The group’s artistic actions synthesize different “areas” from this cartography. Our focus on urban space re-signifies quotidian elements through a symbolic “detour.” The power of direct action without institutional mediation, and the creation of poetic situations open to the subjectivity of possibilities to build a different future.

NOVEMBER 13 - 20 : 2007

Political art that is refreshingly amoral

A migratory installation of artists, activists, and militant researchers: in art spaces, parks, and a museum; around a university, under a bridge, and on the train.

These events will bring together artists and activists from throughout Latin America and Los Angeles to create public discussions and performances in Santa Monica, Westwood, Hollywood, Downtown, and on the way to Tijuana.

Participants include: the Internacional Errorista (founders of the errorist movement); Argentine militant performance group Etcétera; Brazilian antiracist art group Frente 3 de Fevereiro; activist sound art collective Ultra-red; BijaRi, an interventionist design+performance+VJ collective from São Paulo; Argentine art and environmental organization Ala Plástica; La Lleca, an artist social intervention based in the prison system in Mexico City; Guatemalan performance artists Regina José Galindo and María Adela Díaz; Ecuadorian performance artist Jenny Jaramillo; and Los Angeles performance ensemble Butchlalis de Panochtitlan. Participants also include leading feminist artists Mónica Mayer, from Mexico City; Kirsten Dufour, from Copenhagen, and Suzanne Lacy, from L.A.; the Mothers of East Los Angeles; the former Eastside Artistas; anthropologist Pilar Riaño-Alcalá; Boyle Heights community garden Proyecto Jardín; editors of the magazines Make/shift and LOUDmouth; Xicana/Indigenous filmmakers collective Womyn Image Makers; the creators of just space(s); The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest; and architect Teddy Cruz.

TRÁNSITOry PÚBLICO is presented in collaboration with the Political Equator II.

Download Tránsito(ry) Público / Public(o) Transit(orio) Poster (PDF)

Download The Political Equator II Poster (PDF)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Pocho Research Society

The Pocho Research Society is a collective of artists, activists and rasquache historians who reside in Los Angeles.

Dedicated to the systematic investigation of space, memory and displacement, the PRS understands history as a battleground of the present, a location where hidden and forgotten selves hijack and disrupt the oppression of our moment.


Operation Invisible Monument

Public monuments are undeniably important sites in the projection and erection of hegemonic constructs. They often monumentalize heroic, romantic and militaristic versions of history and thereby deny density and complexity. Los Angeles is a rich and fertile terrain for the investigation of bulldozed and forgotten stories

In Operation Invisible Monument, the Pocho Research Society (PRS) confronts the construction of history through the public monument. Anonymous members installed mock historic plaques at four locations. These monuments entitled Tropical America, El Otro Ellis, The Displacement of the Displaced and The Triumph of the Tagger, commemorate moments in Los Angeles history that have not been officially recognized. In the first of several actions, the PRS identified strategic sites in an effort to pay homage to historic erasure. By inserting plaques, the PRS hopes to interrupt historical amnesia, trigger memory and interrogate the present in order to see the world with fresh eyes rather than the diesel haze of a media-blurred present. The result, ideally, is a reconstruction or destruction of the hegemonic world view responsible for the erection of the site's original monuments.

SITES: Tropical America / Displacement of the Displaced / El Otro Ellis / Triumph of the Tagger

Echoes in the Echo: A Series of Public Interventions About Gentrification In and Around Echo Park

Echoes in the Echo is a series of public interventions that will explore History and memory in and around Echo Park. This phase of the project commemorates a few of many queer Latina/o spaces that were a "home" to many for periods of up to a couple of decades and have since changed ownership and now cater to a new, straighter, younger and whiter clientele. This project takes place while the city, itself, is at a crossroads in its own history. Dramatic increases in real estate prices coupled with commercially driven development projects facilitated by elected officials are two of a multitude of forces that push many working class communities out of the city "core." Waves of new 'immigrants' (albeit from the Midwest) have in the process displaced longstanding cultural spaces created over several decades. Within this massive “land grab” questions like ‘where do drag queens, closeted quebradita dancers and gay cholos go once they been pushed out?’ arise. How and who defines a space? Is a space defined by its present incarnations or does its past ruthlessly resurface like dust in unswept corners?

Artist Leaves Mark on Former Latino Gay Bars (89.3 KPCC)

There's no shortage of opinion in the Southland about what constitutes a landmark. Earlier this week, in the dead of night, one Los Angeles artist cemented her own historical plaques to commemorate the Latino gay bars she says have been gentrified out of the Silver Lake area. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez went along and filed this report.

Operation Invisible Monument @ The October Surprise

SITES: The DeCenter / The Popular Resource Center / The Vex


Operation Invisible Monument / The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, Issue#3

Sandra de la Loza Statement & Biography

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The House That Herman Built

For over thirty-five years Herman Joshua Wallace has been in solitary confinement in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Solitary Confinement, or Closed Cell Restriction (CCR) at Angola consists of spending a minimum of 23 hours a day in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell. Five years ago the activist/artist Jackie Sumell asked Herman a very simple question: "What kind of house does a man who has lived in a 6'x9' box for over thirty years dream of?" The answer to this question has manifested in a remarkable project called THE HOUSE THAT HERMAN BUILT.

You may download a PDF of the project, or watch a sample of the CAD video fly-through.

Project History / Statement / Press / Documentation / Get Involved

Jackie Sumell / Herman Wallace The House That Herman Built
Architecture and Design Project Space / Artists Space / NYC
October 12 - December 8, 2007

Download 24" X 36" poster (1.5MB PDF)

Mr. 76759 Designs His Dream House / The New York Times / March 11, 2007

Minor improvements still occur to him, but Herman Wallace has more or less finished his dream house. It's got a yellow kitchen, a hobby shop and custom-made pecan cabinets. It should be noted that no actual house exists, but this is understandable. Mr. Wallace has been in solitary confinement at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola for the last 34 years. [continue...]

ANGOLA 3 / The National Coalition to Free the Angola 3

The National Coalition to Free the Angola 3 was formed in 1998 to find justice for three innocent and wrongfully convicted men locked down at Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary, for nearly three decades.

You can purchase the book, The House That Herman Built, by contacting the National Coalition to Free the Angola Three's Coordinator, Marina Drummer, Books are $20 dollar MINIMUM donation, including shipping.

Artist's Statement

- Angola is an 18,000 acre former slave-breeding plantation with an annual operating budget of $105,000,000.

- It was officially established as the Louisiana State Penitentiary in 1901.

- There is a 1,500 cattle beef herd, which is sold for profit, to the open market through Prison Enterprises.

- Prison Enterprises also manages the for profit license tag shop, metal fabrication facility, mattress, broom and mop factories housed on Angola.

- Every physically able prisoner is required to work for 2- 20 cents an hour a minimum of 40 hours a week.

- LSP is the largest employer in West Feliciana Parish, providing more jobs than the nuclear power plant and paper mill combined.

- A new $10,000,000 Death Row facility was completed in April 2007.

- The 11,300 seat arena which houses the annual Angola Prison Rodeo, was completed in 2002, with prison labor.

- 2 New Chapels have been built on Angola in the last 2 years with profit from the Angola Rodeo and prison labor.

- 28,987 Religious Materials, and 8,424 Bibles were distributed in 2005.

- Approximately 400 religious services and programs are offered each month throughout LSP.

- Brent Miller rifle range was recently renovated and provides employees of Angola with training in firearms, tactical response, chemical agents, electronic capture shields, and restraints.(Brent Miller is the prison guard Herman and Albert are accused of killing)

- Prison View Golf Course, is open to the public inside Angola. 24 hour reservations are required and tee off is $20 (including cart rental).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Just Space(s)

Photo: Best Not to Be Here? / Marie Cieri

Just Space(s)
September 26 – November 18, 2007
LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions)
Organized by Ava Bromberg and Nicholas Brown

OPENING RECEPTION: Wednesday, September 26, 7-9pm


Everyday we confront spaces that don't work - from our neighborhoods and parks, to our prisons, pipelines and borders. In this exhibition and programming series, artists, scholars and activists reveal how these spaces function - and dysfunction - making way for thought and action to create just societies and spaces.

The projects in this exhibition reflect the renewed recognition that space matters to cutting edge activist practices and to artists and scholars whose work pursues similar goals of social justice. A spatial frame offers new insights into understanding not only how injustices are produced, but also how spatial consciousness can advance the pursuit of social justice, informing concrete claims and the practices that make these claims visible. Understanding that space - like justice - is never simply handed out or given, that both are socially produced, differentiated, experienced and contested on constantly shifting social, political, economic, and geographical terrains, means that justice - if it is to be concretely achieved, experienced, and reproduced - must be engaged on spatial as well as social terms.

By transforming LACE, in part, into an active learning environment, Just Space(s) seeks to provide visitors with tools to consider alternatives to reactionary and essentializing political discourse that tends to dominate and frame our conceptions of justice - and constrain our abilities to imagine and implement it. The exhibition presents some of the most innovative and efficacious contemporary artistic, activist, and scholarly work engaging social and spatial analyses. In addition, a library/infoshop and symposia and event series extend the scope and scale of the main exhibition. Taken in whole or in part, Just Space(s) aims not merely to show what is unjust about our world, but to inspire visitors to consider what the active production of just space(s) might look like. It asks a crucial question: How do we move from injustice to justice exactly where we stand - in our neighborhoods and our institutions, at the level of the body, the home, the street corner, the city, the region, the network, the supranational trade agreement and every space within, between, and beyond? While much theorizing about - and active experimentation with - the role and potential of a spatial justice framework remains undone, this exhibition and its public programming contribute to the articulation of a powerful concept/tool that links critical theory and ethical practice.

Just Space(s) builds upon the recent publication of a special volume of Critical Planning (UCLA Journal of Urban Planning, Volume 14, Summer 2007) on the theme of spatial justice, which also serves as a companion to the exhibition. Click here to download PDFs of selected essays from the special volume, including Editorial Note: Why Spatial Justice? (3.7MB PDF) by Ava Bromberg, Gregory D. Morrow, and Deirdre Pfeiffer, and a spatial justice bibliography (2MB PDF). Visit the Critical Planning website for more information and to purchase a copy of the journal.

Download Just Space(s) Press Release & Events Schedule

LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions)
6522 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Wed-Sun 12-6pm, Fri 12-9pm
323.957.1777 /


Photo: The Corrections Documentary Project / Ashley Hunt


The Corrections Documentary Project (Ashley Hunt) /// Million Dollar Blocks (Spatial Information Design Lab) /// Up the Ridge (Appalshop's Holler to the Hood)

Photo: Political Equator / Teddy Cruz


The Black Sea Files (Ursula Biemann) /// Political Equator (Teddy Cruz) /// disOrientation Guide (Counter-Cartographies Collective) /// Spatial Justice for Ayn Hawd (Sabine Horlitz and Oliver Clemens) /// Searching for Our Destination (Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri ) /// Water Station Maps and Warning Posters (Humane Borders and No More Deaths) /// Host Not Found: A Traveling Monument of the Suppression of Search (Markus Miessen and Patricia Reed)

Photo: Principles of Unity / Right to the City Alliance


The Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Economic Justice (Strategic Actions for a Just Economy) /// Listening, Collaboration, Solidarity (CampBaltimore) /// UTOPIA-dystopia (Los Angeles Poverty Department) /// Principles of Unity (Right to the City Alliance) /// RFK in EKY (Appalshop and John Malpede) /// Spatializing Labor Campaigns (Service Employees International Union)

Photo: Syracuse City Hunger Project Maps / Syracuse Community Geography


Syracuse City Hunger Project Maps (Syracuse Community Geography) /// LATWIDNO - Land access to which is denied no one (Sarah Lewison and Erin McGonigle) /// Invisible5 (Amy Balkin, Tim Halbur, and Kim Stringfellow) /// Public Green (Lize Mogel) /// Public Access 101 - Malibu Public Beaches (Los Angeles Urban Rangers) /// Best Not to Be Here? (Marie Cieri)

Photo: However Unspectacular: A New Suburbanism / The Center for Urban Pedagogy


However Unspectacular: A New Suburbanism (The Center for Urban Pedagogy) /// Detroit's Underdevelopment (Adrian Blackwell) /// The New Yorkers' Guide to Military Recruitment in the 5 Boroughs (Friends of William Blake) /// A People's Guide to Los Angeles (Laura Pulido)

Photo: Dakota Commemorative March / Waziyatawin Angela Wilson and David Miller


A Century of Genocide in the Americas: The Residential School Experience (Rosemary Gibbons and Dax Thomas - Boarding School Healing Project) /// Dakota Commemorative March (Waziyatawin Angela Wilson and David Miller) /// Secret Military Landscapes and the Pentagon's "Black World" (Trevor Paglen) /// Spiral Lands (Andrea Geyer)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Spatial Justice

Critical Planning: A Journal of the UCLA Department of Urban Planning / Spatial Justice, Volume 14, Summer 2007

Purchase a copy of Spatial Justice, Volume 14 of the Critical Planning Journal and help support Just Space(s), an upcoming exhibition and symposia in Los Angeles also on the theme of spatial justice.

Table of Contents / Volume 14 (52KB PDF)

What Makes Justice Spatial? What Makes Spaces Just? / Three Interviews on the Concept of Spatial Justice (3.3MB PDF) // Critical Spatial Practice Reading Group: Nicholas Brown, Ryan Griffis, Kevin Hamilton, Sharon Irish, and Sarah Kanouse

Spatial Justice for Ayn Hawd / Thoughts on an Alternative Master Plan for a Palestinian Village (2.6MB PDF) // Sabine Horlitz and Oliver Clemens

Listening, Collaboration, Solidarity (3.4MB PDF) // Scott Berzofsky, Christopher Gladora, David Sloan, and Nicholas Wisniewski

Sculpting the Social Geography of Lower Manhattan: Artists and AIDS Activists in the 1980s and 1990s (2MB PDF) // Tamar Carroll

Editorial Note: Why Spatial Justice? (3.7MB PDF) // Ava Bromberg, Gregory D. Morrow, and Deirdre Pfeiffer

This volume proceeds from the notion that justice is, and should be, a principal goal of urban planning in all its institutional and grassroots forms. Yet why speak of spatial justice instead of social justice? What do critical spatial thinking and practices contribute to the pursuit of justice?

Over the past three decades, activists seeking a more fair distribution of the benefits and burdens of society have increasingly turned from conceptions of (economic) equality to broader coalitions of justice. This appeal for a “just” society has been a powerful rallying point for a wide range of social justice movements – economic justice, racial justice, environmental justice, etc. – that collectively frame justice in both material (re-distributive policies) and non-material terms (liberty, happiness, opportunity, security, etc.). John Rawls (1971) most clearly articulated this paradigm with his two principles of justice: 1) that everyone should have an equal right to have equal basic liberties within a total system that ensures liberty for all, and 2) that social and economic inequalities, where necessary, should be arranged to benefit the least advantaged among us. Indeed, most post-war western democracies through the early-to-mid 1970s pursued Keynesian economic policies that operated within these principles – shifting resources from “have” to “have not” regions in an attempt to ensure the least advantaged would have an equal opportunity to succeed.

The economic crises of the 1970s, however, began to weaken these principles; global trade practices, the offloading of responsibilities to macro and micro-level institutions (the EU, WTO, World Bank, NAFTA, etc. at one extreme and common interest communities, business improvement districts, neighborhood associations, etc. at the other), and a concentration of investments in the most globally competitive urban agglomerations have collectively ushered in a new paradigm of neoliberal Darwinism. The predictable decline of rust-belt and rural regions is replicated at the micro level between have and have not neighborhoods, and at the macro level between have and have not global regions. The result is an intensification of a distinct pattern of geographic disparity.

It is out of this painful transition to the “new economy” (economic restructuring, globalization, flexible accumulation, etc.) that many of the current global justice movements emerged. Yet, these justice movements have largely retained the Rawlsian conception of a universal justice, illustrating the conflicting nature of Rawlsian justice that has guided much of recent efforts: while its intent seeks to ensure equality and fairness, as a normative ideal, it leaves social and spatial difference out of the equation. It also fails to discuss where such shared notions of justice would be established and activated.

By the 1990s, faith in this normative justice began to wane as activists recognized not only the new geographies of injustice but also that the circumstances of different social groups mattered – that a one-size-fits-all justice (as conceived by the well-educated, largely white elite) did not necessarily serve everyone equally (as Young (1990) and Harvey (1996) so vividly conveyed). Indeed, we now understand that the distribution of material wealth, opportunity, health outcomes, educational attainment, job creation, and virtually all of the metrics of quality of life are not distributed equally across space – that one-size-fits-all justice does not account for growing regional disparities (which are also strongly correlated with race and ethnicity).

A few key texts – for example, Harvey (1973), Lefebvre (1974), and Soja (1989) – especially challenged social scientists to question the long-accepted treatment of space (or territory) as fixed, unproblematic and inconsequential. Instead, seeking justice means understanding the dialectical relationship between not only the economic and social conditions of different groups, but also the geography of injustice – that is, how the social production of space, in turn, impacts social groups and their opportunities. The earliest use of the terms “territorial justice,” “spatial justice” or “socio-spatial justice” – for example, Davies (1968), Reynaud (1981), and Pirie (1983) – linked geographic distribution to concepts of fairness, but few scholars interested in social justice have thus far explicitly treated space as socially (re)produced. Among the notable exceptions are Flusty (1994), Soja (2000) and Dikec (2001). Much works remains, particularly in theorizing what spatial justice means and how it can be usefully deployed as a framework for critical practice. Yet, a growing body of literature is beginning to contribute to the concept; some additional references are included in the further reading section.

As the texts in this volume reflect, the renewed recognition that space matters offers new insights not only to understanding how injustices are produced through space, but also how spatial analyses of injustice can advance the fight for social justice, informing concrete claims and the activist practices that make these claims visible. Understanding that space – like justice – is never simply handed out or given, that both are socially produced, experienced and contested on constantly shifting social, political, economic, and geographical terrains, means that justice – if it is to be concretely achieved, experienced, and reproduced – must be engaged on spatial as well as social terms.

Thus, those vested with the power to produce the physical spaces we inhabit through development, investment, planning (and their antitheses) – as well as through grassroots embodied activisms – are likewise vested with the power to perpetuate injustices and/or create just spaces. If, as Lefebvre (1974) suggests, space is not just “out there” but is produced and reproduced by social relations, it is incumbent upon planning practitioners, theorists, community organizers and residents alike to take a critical position about their own roles in perpetuating or mitigating spatial injustice. What a just space looks like is necessarily left open, but must be rooted in the active negotiations of multiple publics, in search of productive ways to build solidarities across difference. This space – both process and product – is by definition public in the broadest sense; the opportunity to participate in inscribing its meaning is accessible to all. As Deutsche (1996: 269) eloquently states: “how we define public space is intimately connected with ideas about what it means to be human, the nature of society, and the kind of political community we want.” Justice is therefore not abstract, and not solely something “handed down” or doled out by the state; it is rather a shared responsibility of engaged actors in the socio-spatial systems they inhabit and (re)produce.

One idea not directly addressed by the contributors to this volume is how diverse struggles, being inherently connected through the fact that we live, experience, and reproduce justice and injustice in space, may be furthered by alliances and solidarities across different scales and scopes. The power of connecting “issue based” social movements (environmental, economic, racial, gender, labor, etc.) within and across geographical scales (from the local to the global) to organize collective action has yet to be fully explored in practice. Perhaps mobilizations at multiple and simultaneous scales can create sustained levels of visibility and greater pressure for change that broaden a base of popular support. Such attempts may yet produce ever more effective political and practical strategies, and inspire the extension of functional networks. A burgeoning national movement around “The Right to the City,” which began in late January with a convening of representatives from “over thirty community-based social movements and resource organizations from eight metropolitan areas” in Los Angeles, provides an excellent example of one such attempt. The objectives for the initial meeting – “to build collective capacity for local urban struggles to become a national movement around the right to the city; to provide a frame and structure…for regional organizing and for connecting intellectuals to the work being done; and to build a national network / alliance that will allow organizations to learn from one another, that will create a national debate on issues affecting urban communities…and [to] to coordinate a national program” – illustrate the goal of casting a wider net, to incorporate multiple issues as well as intellectual work to further shared struggle. (Right to the City, Notes from the inaugural convening 2007: 1) This is but one of many examples to follow closely in the years to come.

While much theorizing about – and active experimentation with – the role and potential of a spatial justice frame remains undone, we see this volume contributing to the articulation of a very powerful concept. The notion that this and future work can further the active production of just spaces remains at the heart of our interest in it. The specificity it provides may yet be part of what helps us evolve from a society with abstract and faraway aspirations for justice and highly developed modes of reacting to injustices, to a society that arrives at the particular expression of what a just version of our society will be like, and the means to secure it for all. The task is no less than the development of immaterial and concrete conditions that can reproduce justice exactly where we stand, in our neighborhoods and our institutions, at the level of the body, the home, the street corner, the city, the region, the network, the supranational trade agreement and every space within, between, and beyond.

Ava Bromberg
Gregory D. Morrow
Deirdre Pfeiffer

Just Space(s) exhibition and symposia at LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions), September 26 – November 18, 2007.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Military Tour of Southern California

Dan Hirsch speaks to tour particpants at Sage Ranch overlooking the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in the hills between the Simi and San Fernando valleys.

Military Tour of Southern California / Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles

Click here to download a PDF of the tour guide (3.7MB PDF)

On June 10, 2006, PSR-LA offered the first-ever Military Tour of Southern California. This all-day tour took PSR members and supporters to the military sites that have shaped the world and, in some cases, the health of Californians.

Los Angeles is one of the nation's foremost military regions. Weapons are regularly shipped from our shores, from Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station to warships outside Afghanistan and Iraq. U.S. Marines depart from Camp Pendleton to Iraq. Intercontinental ballistic missiles are built in Canoga Park, their engines are tested in the foothills, and test-launched from Santa Barbara's Vandenberg Air Force Base. The missile defense program, and most of our nation's military satellites are manufactured in the South Bay. The eastern half of the San Fernando Valley and entire San Gabriel Valley are EPA Superfund sites due to the military industry's sloppy environmental activities. PSR-LA's bus tour addressed the global security issues associated with these sites as well as the environmental, public health and moral repercussions of military production.

The Dirt on Our Dirt: Roll up, roll up for the military toxicity tour / Los Angeles CityBeat

Military Pollution in California

Building the most powerful military force in human history has profoundly affected American culture, morality and politics.

This unprecedented investment in building missiles, bombs, jets, bullets, rockets, submarines, ships, satellites, bombers, guns and nuclear arms has also profoundly affected the American landscape and environment. The Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges that the Defense Department is the nation's leading polluter.

Indeed, the health of millions are at risk. Over the past twenty years, millions of Californians have consumed water tainted with rocket fuel. During the Cold War, millions of American children were fed radioactive milk, contaminated by the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. Many thousands of military workers got cancer from dealing with exotic chemicals and radioactive materials - and nearby communities were similarly exposed.

Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles believes that the military's historic mission — that of protecting Americans from harm — clearly extends to protecting Americans from the military's own environmental mess.

Southern California's health and environment has been profoundly transformed by military activity. Did you know that the entire San Gabriel Valley is an EPA Superfund site - and the eastern half of the San Fernando Valley is similarly a Superfund site due to military pollution?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Malibu Public Beach Safaris

Malibu Public Beach Safaris
Los Angeles Urban Rangers
Summer 2007

Saturday, Aug. 4, 9:30am-1pm – West Malibu beaches
Sunday, Aug. 5, 9:30am-1pm – East Malibu beaches
Saturday, Aug. 11, 1:30-5pm – East Malibu beaches
Sunday, Aug. 12, 1:30-5pm – West Malibu beaches

Tired of Zuma and Surfrider? Want to find and use the other beaches in Malibu? The twenty miles that are lined with private development? The "Malibu Public Beaches" safaris will show you how to find, park, walk, picnic, and sunbathe on a Malibu beach. Each 3 1/2-hour safari visits two or three beaches and explores natural history, jurisdiction, and the identification of public and private property. Skills-enhancing activities include a public-private boundary hike, an accessway hunt, sign watching, and a public easement potluck.

Safaris in August are free, but are currently full. To sign up for our waiting list, please email us.

Download the "Malibu Public Beaches" guide, an easy-to-use resource for understanding the beaches and accessways. (PDF: 471KB)

Download the "Malibu Beaches Owners Manual," article by Jenny Price, reprinted from LA Observed. (PDF: 368KB)

Read the August 2, 2007 LA Times article "Open season on 'private' beaches" by Jennifer Kim.

Guide to Malibu's hidden beaches / Part I / Jenny Price

Guide to Malibu's Hidden Beaches / Part II / Jenny Price

Guide to Malibu's Hidden Beaches / Part III / Jenny Price