Sunday, 20 June 2010

Real Estate: From Antagonism to Utopia

Checking out the latest on Vimeo today I couldn't help chuckling when I saw Jonathan Weston's recent upload called Real Estate. Presented in the form of a standard architectural visualisation the film offers a caricature of the gentrification process in which the messy business of everyday life slowly degenerates into anarchy, leaving the area to be saved by the property developers who install their newly dubbed 'Utopia Apartments' behind gates and high walls protected by private security and CCTV. 

According to this caricature the turning point would be the riots that follow the police clampdown on growing crime. In reality the riots rarely come until after the gates have gone up. Rather the property developers play on the spectre of rising crime and the prospect of unrest to promote gentrification and justify the instillation of the gates. In doing so they foreclose the possibility that an agonistic street culture could flourish without degenerating into a Hobbesian state of nature. The challenge lies in imagining what that agonistic society would look like, despite our being conditioned to view life as a wager between two mutually exclusive states: anarchy or utopia.

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