Public Space in Limbo
Public space is the mirror of society: it is the stage for our daily cultural exchanges. We meet, eat, play, party, exercise, clash and demonstrate in public space.
The Corona virus is having an effect on all aspects of our lives and this is particularly obvious in public space: our exterior life has come to an almost standstill, we socially distance, our freedom of assembly has been dramatically limited through the ban on gathering, potential new surveillance technology threatens our privacy, the list goes on. However, people’s behaviour in public is also changing: social distancing affects the way we navigate through the streets, we are giving each other a wide berth.
This raises the question, what will the impact of the Corona crisis be on the nature of public space and how it functions, long term and short? How will public space function as a place for spontaneous meetings when every passer-by, new acquaintance or old friend is a potential health threat? Will this impact be temporary or long term? Amongst all the disruption are there any positive consequences? How will designers, artists, property developers, architects, civil servants and healthcare professionals deal with these developments? What strategies will they use?
Particularly now with public space under such pressure, the We Love Public Space Festival offers the perfect opportunity to investigate these issues. It is a chance to discuss the consequences of the Corona crisis and to reflect on the changes and possible futures of public space during times of crisis. But it is also essential to celebrate public space right now and pay tribute to its resilience.
Issues that will be addressed include:
What does public space look like after the virus? What if social distancing becomes our new standard, either consciously or unconsciously. Will there be a new form of touchless greeting or new rituals in our communication, a new urban etiquette?
What can the virtual world contribute to physical public space in times of crisis? Maybe it has already made a contribution? What will the forms of our digital commons be?
Is there a new, active role for art and culture in public space? How can public space function as an alternative or complementary location for museum exhibition spaces?
What is the future of (cultural) events in public space? The WLPS Festival will be a test of this question: how can a cultural event that deals with, and takes place in public space take into account rules such as social distancing?
Until now, the Festival has been a celebratory homage to public space, the core of which is a programme of presentations by, and for, city makers, framed by various activities in public space; excursions, performances and other (cultural) interventions.