"The dissolution of the urban form has been a permanent anxiety for modern urban planning." – Mirko Zardini
Seemingly common activities such as walking, playing, recycling, and gardening are pushed beyond their usual definition by the international architects, artists, and collectives featured in the exhibition. Their actions push against accepted norms of behaviour in cities, at times even challenging legal limitations. The individuals and groups employ a range of approaches but share a conviction that the traditional processes of top-down civic planning are insufficient, and new approaches and tools must be developed from the ground level upwards. Their experimental interactions with the urban environment show the potential influence personal involvement can have in shaping the city, and challenge fellow residents to participate.
Actions: What You Can Do With the City presents 99 actions that instigate positive change in contemporary cities around the world. Featured are projects related to the production of food and urban agriculture; the planning and creation of public spaces to strengthen community interactions; the recycling of abandoned buildings for new purposes; the appropriation of urban sites into terrain for play, such as soccer, climbing, skateboarding, or parkour; the alternate use of roads for walking or rail lines as park space; the design of clothing to circumvent urban barriers against loitering or resting on benches; among others. The exhibition places particular emphasis on the activists’ tools, which comprise unusual materials ranging from large-scale inflatables and fruit-collecting dresses to seed-bomb rocket launchers and wheelbarrow-bicycle hybrids. Included are masks disguising children as horses, or sneakers customised for sliding along railings.
The exhibition is curated by Mirko Zardini, CCA Director and Chief Curator and Giovanna Borasi, CCA Curator of Contemporary Architecture with Lev Bratishenko, Meredith Carruthers, Daria Der Kaloustian, and Peter Sealy. The installation design is by Andrea Sala, Milan, and the graphic design, including the display brochures, is executed by Project Projects, New York.
Actions: What You Can Do With the City is accompanied by a 240-page publication co-published by the CCA and SUN, Amsterdam. Designed by Novak, Amsterdam, the soft-cover book includes 70 colour and black and white illustrations, and features a folded poster as cover wrap. It features 30 original essays, which include personal observations by a range of activists alongside scholarly reflections on the positive impact these individual initiatives have on the city. The texts are interspersed with 34 specific actions drawn from the exhibition.
The exhibition is also accompanied by the website www.cca-actions.org, which presents a toolkit to inspire actions in the city. Created by Bluesponge, Montréal, the website is a browseable database of all actions from the exhibition and challenges users to respond by posting their own thoughts or initiatives on how to improve the city through individual action.