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Public art projects in exposed social housing areas - dilemmas and potentials

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskrift/Konferencebidrag i tidsskrift /Bidrag til avisTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review

  • Birgit Eriksson
  • Anne Scott Sørensen, Syddansk Universitet, Institut for Kulturvidenskaber, Kulturstudier, SDU, Danmark
Western European cultural policies increasingly target marginalized and socially deprived communities. In Denmark, this happens in the political and discursive context of the so-called “ghetto act” – a set of laws and amendments from 2018 aimed at radically changing low-income public housing neighborhoods, designated as “ghettos” or “tough ghettos” on the basis of five criteria, including the percentage of “non-Western” immigrants and descendants. Consequential, several Danish public housing neighborhoods right now undergo drastic renovation and demolition and simultaneously face increasing stigmatization.
Formally independent of but parallel to this, we witness an interest in the residents of the same neighborhoods from cultural governing bodies and institutions, and an initiation of a variety of publicly funded projects in arts and culture. These are part of a general strategy to reach new audiences/user groups by recognizing and underpinning art manifestations outside the formal art institutions and closer to the citizens. But they are also part of a more specific betterment agenda based on the assumption that the deprived social housing areas and their residents can be “elevated” through art (Kunstfonden 2019) and that engagement in cultural projects can counteract isolation and prevent the formation of “parallel societies” (Minister of culture Mette Bock, 2019).
The article builds upon research carried out in the project “Citizen-near art in deprived social housing areas” (2019-21) by Anne Mette W. Nielsen, Mia Falch Yates and the authors. The project is part of an overall research program on “Art and social communities”, funded by The Danish Arts Foundation and Arts Council Norway. In the research project we study art projects in the following four Danish social housing areas: Gellerup in Aarhus, Stengårdsvej in Esbjerg, Værebro Park in Gladsaxe and Vollsmose in Odense. The research includes observations, interviews and document analysis of policy documents, project applications, minutes from public meetings and more (Eriksson, Nielsen, Sørensen and Yates, in press).
Based on our research, we introduce the history and emotional geographies of the areas and the social and cultural policies targeting them to constitute a triple exposure of social inequality, stigmatization and intervention. We further suggest a typology of art projects with each their way of establishing socio-aesthetic relations in the present cultural and political context: 1) permanent physical interventions, 2) temporary (re)makings of the neighborhood, 3) creative skills and agency, and 4) co-inhabitations. In the article, we present cases from each of the four types and outline how they relate to the socio-economic agendas. Finally we discuss the aesthetic, social and political potentials and dilemmas of the various types of public art projects in social housing areas.
TidsskriftJournal of Aesthetics & Culture
StatusAfsendt - 2021

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