Ownership explores how property relations are constructed through legal and bureaucratic mechanisms. While land dispossession and housing exclusion are urgent topics that design disciplines are confronting, the CCA challenges the institution of private property by investigating its records and devices. This research is presented through a novel format: at once a repository of documents, drawings, and ephemera, as well as a social media endeavour to engage with thinkers and designers who are conceiving of more equitable ownership models. The Ownership project critically examines how property rights have been defined, legitimized, and sustained and presents alternatives for the future.
“The layman, it is said, conceives of ownership as a relationship of a person to a thing, whilst the lawyer knows that proprietary interests are always concerned with relationships between persons as to the use or exploitation of things.”1 How can we reconfigure these relationships, so that reciprocity with land, nature, and community become the rule instead? We begin by examining documents—laws, property surveys, deeds, ads—recognizing that within their paper-thin materiality they hold immense influence as tools of mediation and that as banal records of bureaucracy they are powerful technologies of the state and its agencies2. Starting from objects in the CCA Collection, we reflect on the authority of such documents as products of design and on the conventions and boundaries they establish.
This project is part of Catching Up With Life, a year-long investigation into shifting societal norms and their implications on the built environment. In line with our ongoing conversations about consumerism, obsessions, and digital omnipresence, Ownership will unfold through Are.na, a member-supported knowledge building platform. As a new venue for CCA curatorial work, we hope to open a different space of discourse and engagement with our content. By drawing connections between the CCA Collection and other historic archives, this mediatic study aims to recontextualize ephemera as a method for challenging the idea of private property as absolute. At the same time, we hope Ownership becomes a resource to contextualize contemporary resistance to unjust structures of enclosure, exclusion, and exploitation. Please join us in this experiment to discover new readings of property and ownership.
Curated by Irene Chin with Bipasha Sultana and Ismaël Mallé
1 J.W. Harris, Property and Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 119.
2 Cornelia Vismann, Files: Law and Media Technology (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008); Ben Kafka, The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork (New York: Zone Books, 2012).
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