I cannot let go of graffiti on a subway train idealizing life in this post-industrial urban setting. But I’m going to, in favour of non-local quantum flashmobs. Sure, I was at the block party and we were attracting influential people; in other words, you heard there was a party going on, you heard that call and you went to find it. You know you’re living in the chic part of town. It couldn’t be more than a block away. If you’re lucky it’ll be your building.
This is a time when the inner cities have long been evacuated, the move to the suburbs had reversed. People are starting to come back and this party you’re looking for is one of the reasons for renewed interest in city centres. These were the first periods in which in cities once again became fit for human inhabitation. Imagine that. The smell of dirt had finally been removed. The poor couldn’t have sold up shop in less of a hurry.
Take New York the 1980s where hip-hop and Wall Street mixed with cocaine and large amounts of money. Investors looking to out-cool each other splashed out on graffiti art and drew who they wanted to their own parties.
Since then the influx of money through capitalist systems has allowed the bridge to once again be built. We’ve currently repopulated the property markets within our cities, however the larger picture is that we cycle in and out of these areas. My question now is ‘what will reverse it next, and push the ‘haves’ out and create a vacuüm for the ‘have nots.’ How and why did this first start?’
It was pollution that drove the rich away last time. Factories and coal filled the cities and pushed people out, then time seemingly sped up with the beginning of the information revolution. Now we suffer from the urgent need to spend less time doing everything, just to squeeze out a few extra minutes of social networking. This is drawing them back. How long will it last? Aren’t we going to be pushed away from our offices like we were from our factories. Offices personify everything we hated in the industrialised process, only before it was mechanical noise, now it is human hum and electronic radiation. And while we have to be close to others, we will never escape contagion.
Information factories will become the new push factor for the rich. It will all be about escaping wi-fi networks, microwaving radiation and the humming cloud. The kind of pollution we eventually find out to be cancerous or worse. It turns out be something which pushes rather than the draw of clean and free air. Those who escape the contemporary draw of the inner city convenience, the country calls. Its voice beckons them towards country walks, kitchen gardens and potting sheds. No longer does the West’s suburban belt invoke images disease and industrial pollution. But what of the impossibility we face in imagining electronic pollution or the media monopoly and autocratic future in which big business and its corporations are all-powerful and the only way to escape the information and marketing pollution is to head for tower blocks in Beijing because no countryside continues to exist. Move outside the city, move away from pillaged art collections and high-speed data networks which form overlapping wi-fi clouds et cetera et cetera.
Of course none of this change will affect the current situation, Parties will only ever be underground. Urban culture outside of the city centre? How powerful can it be? Areas are regional lives and not universal to the subcultures which exist within a large urban landscape. We also have to bear in mind that there are a number of different contextual elements which did not exist before. The most important of which being the Internet, and there is necessarily a circular or introspective nature perhaps some kind of movie and elements here that lasted in the cloud. That’s this bubble of electric pollution that we would be talking about. Our cities are going to start driving people out. Shopping malls are becoming the hubs of community life. Sit down on designer sofas and recharge not your batteries, but your phone’s. Absorb the free wi-fi. A new city centre, a place where these kind of things can happen. It substitutes face-to-face human contact, but does nothing to give you space.
A few are starting to point to a catalyst, a perfect example is flash mobs. Whilst we can no longer organise parties or demonstrations in city centres because of the effect we already discussed, the easiest way to organise this kind of spontaneous human contact is to do it through the Internet and then meet with our organisation. This is typically underground and replaces the party scene, not in cities like London, but elsewhere, where such high levels of entropy would otherwise never be found, we are beginning to witness a kind of transient ephemeral party. One that definitely exists here as it must elsewhere. What it will spawn in terms of art is entirely up to us.