Politics of Space

Hong Kong

«There is a Politics of Space because Space is Political.» (Henry Lefebvre)

As a global city Hong Kong is comparable to Zurich with respect to their neo-liberal policies and the resulting economic, social, urban and cultural policy strategies. The dispositive under which these two cities are rebuilt, are similar. The adjustment to a Global City is reflected in the cityscape as well as in the social restructuring of the society, as well as in the resistances and counter-movements that are generated by it. This tension is the starting point of the project «Politics of Space».

Hong Kong is characterized by a globally-oriented investors architecture. Areas close to the city centre as Sham Shui Po or Wan Chai are radically restructured. Old neighborhoods disappear and are replaced by new architectures dominated by the capitalist economy. This modification also affects the public spaces that can hardly be described as such any more. There are spaces for consumption aiming to an affluent middle and upper class, acting in an exclusive and sterile way, in which the diversity and vibrancy of the Chinese everyday life is almost impossible to find. In addition to this capitalist-oriented production of space, there are still rooms that could be described as democratic. Here, a – new? – democratic consciousness is showing up, proclaiming a right to the city, similar to European towns.

The project «Politics of Space» aims to compare these two different spaces and focuses in depth on the democratically motivated production of space. The word «democratic» refers among others to Richard Sennett. It describes the «ideal» of urban space as open, heterogeneous, democratic – not so much in a political, but a societal sense. All dwellers of a city should be able to meet freely and be equally involved in the production of (public) space. Capitalist-organized spaces, however, exclude certain social classes or groups, either directly through access controls, legislation, monitoring, security services, house rules or through symbolic exclusion.

The term «production of space» used here refers to the theory of space by Henri Lefebvre and to the three spatial aspects that are involved in every production of space: the sensually perceptible, the mental and the social aspect, respectively the physical, mental and social space. The project examines democratic spaces in Zurich and Hong Kong and focuses – in analogy to the three spatial dimensions – on the following questions: How are democratic spaces organized, what physical shape, form do they have? How are they perceived? What representations (discourses, images) are in play? Which social groups act in these rooms and how? Apply are different methods and approaches: interviews, participant observation, ethnographic photography, film, artistic intervention…

Project team

  • Jürgen Krusche, cultural scientist, artist, Zurich University of the Arts, Institute for Contemporary Art Reserach
  • Heidy Baggenstos, Andreas Rudolf, artists, Zurich Universtiy of the Arts, Master Fine Arts
  • SONG Yun Long, filmmaker
  • SIU King Chung, Polytechnic University Hong Kong, School of Design