In the past decade, urban design and planning have increasingly focused on integrating the user in the design and development of urban spaces. I have written an article on the becoming of urban space where I argue that the design object and the solidity of design is vanishing to allow design processes and urban potentials to unfold instead.
Have these design processes and the participation objective become a nightmare? A recent volume entitled The Nightmare of Participation argues that participation has become a nightmare we as political subjects need to wake up from. Jeremey Beaudry writes in the postscript:
"In the nightmare of participation, political subjects become caught in the logic of an iconic participation, a representative participation that has been exaggerated to the point of hollowness. The power of this participation is the power of the mesmerizing icon: It sustains the nightmare that we cannot wake up from, and it compels us to go on playing our assigned roles. Why has participation become a nightmare? The history is longer than we can tell here. Start looking a few decades back, to the 1980s, when the Western political model of participation as a legitimizing force emerged—a significant step in the evolution of late capitalism’s political theater. It is participation as instrumentalized political practice. Participation becomes a scripted scenario of liberal democracy, into which you insert the necessary actors, props, lighting, cameras, and mechanized monsters. Wake up!”
What I find interesting about Jeremey Beaudry’s strong statements here is the the metaphors of role playing and script. However, if “participation becomes a scripted scenario of liberal democracy, into which you insert the necessary actors, props, lighting, cameras, and mechanized monsters” the solution may not be to wake up. Rather, this awareness of the role playing games should point to the fact that The Performative City has become a reality and the political subject as well as the realist/idealist understanding of the city is now history and a script that can be staged in various forms.
Rather, we must keep acting on the urban scene - not as political subjects but exactly as performers using various tactics and roles to subvert rigid political strategies informed by the government.
- - - And by the way, did the political subject ever exist, or was it merely a stage in the becoming of the performative city? - - -