[Thesis]. Manchester, UK: The University of Manchester; 2013.
AbstractBeyond Targets: articulating the role of art in regenerationJulie Crawshaw:
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Manchester, 2012An anthropological study of urban
practice, this thesis contributes a nuanced understanding of the role of visual art
in regeneration. Inspired by the experiential philosophy of Dewey (1934), we have
traced the effects mobilised by art as part of urban transformation. The literature
of cultural policy and ‘culture-led regeneration’ (Vickery, 2007), discusses art as
physical artworks, in support of development; or as socially-engaged practice, in
support of social renewal. Through tracing the movements of all the actors involved,
our research goes beyond explanation in support of policy targets. We have described
what happens in practice, on its own terms. To account for a range of professional
perspectives, the research included four empirical studies at different proximities
to practice: an exploratory study embedded in art practice; eighteen in-depth interviews
with a range of art and regeneration professionals; sixteen in-depth interviews with
practitioners of an Urban Regeneration Company (URC) case study; and a six-month ethnography
of the same URC case. Accounting for the agency of humans and non-humans (Latour,
2007a), our explications took close account of the effects produced by the associations
of urban relationships, between: engineers, planners, construction workers, and artists;
as well as plans and drawings, objects, materials, concepts, ideas and natural elements.
Through tracing actors at the ‘microscopic’ (Geertz, 1973) scale, we did not observe
art as ‘works’, but the way art works as a driver for re-imagining the urban.In practice,
we see regeneration not as buildings or communities, but as a continuous process of
re-shaping human-physical relationships. As part of this relational network, art ‘mediates’
(Hennion, 1997) participation, collaboration and reflection on the ambitions of regeneration:
producing new ideas for urban possibilities. The effects are produced through the
continuous associations between ‘inner’ (human) and ‘outer’ (physical) materials.
These material associations meld to create a neutral platform for professionals to
shift from their usual remit; to re-consider the ‘big picture’ from a new perspective.
Regeneration is an active part of the political landscape. As a catalyst for urban
imagination, rather than deliver policy objectives, art re-shapes them. Through tracing
practice this research contributes new understandings to the study of art and regeneration.
By revealing urban networks through tracing art, rather than explaining regeneration
as physical or social, we have made a contribution to urban studies by describing
the micro movements of regeneration as a relational practice. As a contribution to
art studies, through tracing how art works in regeneration, we have produced nuanced
descriptions of how art ‘mediates’ action and reflection in and on urban practice.
As a contribution to policy and practice, we have articulated the role of visual art
in regeneration as: mediating emergent imaginings; re-shaping rather than delivering
objectives. As a tool for the policies of the time, ‘regeneration’ has a shelf-life.
As an articulation of the role of art as a catalyst for collaboration in support of
positive urban transformation, the findings of this study continue to be relevant.