Gentrification and the Everyday
Part 3: Everyday Life
Occupation, as I talked about in the previous part, is an expression of the Everyday and an important part of Everyday Life involves the active occupation of space, for example in the way the HomeShop has come to occupy its new site. The consequences of occupation threaten institutionalisation, which may lead to gentrification in its imposition of permanent change on an area.
On the other hand institutionalisation protects HomeShop’s work from over-ephemerality or instant dispersal. The positive side of this comes from an example of activism, as Isaac Mao points out:
“… In China, many dissidents and activists are opening up their personal information. Why? Because previously they just wanted to close it down to protect themselves without being tracked by the government. Someone might want people to know his position so he can do things secretly. But now many are opening up this information because they see the social power. Once they’ve opened up their position, home phone, and travel plans, more people in the cloud know where they are at the same time as the authorities. He is protected even as he is tracked.”
By announcing oneself, one can be established as present and accounted for – an occupation. An action that changes that situation registers an aberration in the system, drawing attention to itself and highlighting a potential problem. Of course this works both ways – all sides can make use of the technology that enables this announcement. For the activist above, the 3G account that allows for instant updating of their location, also allows for the tracking of their mobile phone. The significance depends on ones role in the system.
Another approach to occupation from artist Wang Jianwei:
“[I do] not need to worry about the authorities any more. These were challenges in the past in China, but they were very simple and obvious challenges. Now the challenges are not necessarily to do with the authorities. An example is when you look at a grass patch. The government might say you have to grow grass there, or you cannot grow grass there. Rather than following one of these orders or going against them, I will move into the dirt and focus my attention on that.”
Although occupation is only one aspect of Everyday Life, it is a major effect upon it. As the Everyday is realised as Everyday Life it becomes productive material in the interruption of gentrification and as such a political tool. Speaking for myself, I am wary of direct political activity. I feel that by becoming too resolved, it becomes too easy to subvert and re-route. But for me the ambiguous nature of the Everyday and its realisation in Everyday Life represent one way around this.
The Everyday is somehow a slippery subject, it is easy to miss and easy to inadvertently transform away from itself, in the process of transformation losing its qualities as everyday and approaching spectacle, gentrification. As Michael Eddy says:
“… worked into an elaborate, remote staging of culture as spectacle, leaving no room for an everyday experience that isn’t accounted for within the master plan of branded experience.”
This manipulability one way or the other, this insubstantial but ever present nature, suggests to me that Everyday Life can be seen as an almost dangerous commodity: on the one hand it is controllable (in that it is affected by everything); but on the other it is uncontrollable (in that it is simply the effect glancing off of other effects, after the effect and hence only influenced by the effect but at every stage potentially diverging from that effect). This teetering is the process of becoming something else (that I mentioned at the end of part two).
And I think this is where it is ultimately political. When politics reaches ground level and lies in the process of becoming, unformed, potentiality (referring to Agamben). It is the law and the formation of society written into and by our actions, our habits, our un-thought.
But really it’s just everyday life.