Miles, Malcolm and Tim Hall, Eds.: Interventions: Advances in Art and Urban Futures.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Jenkins, Barbara
Pub Date: 01/01/2006
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2006 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Wntr, 2006 Source Volume: 15 Source Issue: 2
Topic: NamedWork: Interventions: Advances in Art and Urban Futures (Book)
Persons: Reviewee: Miles, Malcolm; Hall, Tim
Accession Number: 167253625
Full Text: Miles, Malcolm and Tim Hall, Eds. Interventions: Advances in Art and Urban Futures, Vol. 4 Intellect: Bristol England and Portland Oregon, 2005. 180 pp. ISBN: 1-84150-118-2

Interventions gathers an internationally diverse group of artists and academics in an examination of the role of art and culture in urban development and change. The book is divided into three sections. The first, Policies and Strategies, contains the strongest analytical chapters of the book. Tania Carson's chapter on cultural policy in London provides a critical perspective on the transformation of culture into a force for branding, economic regeneration, and social control. Examining the evolution of the city's cultural policies under both the Tories and the Labour government, Carson charges that London's cultural development has encouraged cultural homogeneity rather than diversity or the protection of authentic public space.

Andrew Harris's case study of Mumbai provides interesting insights into the "aestheticization of the built environment" taking place in cities around the globe. He examines the development (or lack thereof) of Mumbai's Lower Parel district into a centre for artists and arts entrepreneurs. Contrasting Lower Parel with the example of the Lower East Side in New York, he points to the cultural and economic differences that resulted in widely varying outcomes in each of these urban centres. In Mumbai, Harris points out, people associate "loft living" with a shakily built extra floor on a shack, rather than exposed brick walls and high ceilings. Framed by the extreme polarizations of Mumbai's society, living in a depressed, redundant industrial area does not hold the bohemian appeal that it does in Europe or North America. Von Borries' and Bottger's chapter on their game "BurgerMeister" provides a similar contrast in the case of East Germany, where the lure of a suburban home with a garden is proving more attractive to East Germans than living in a renovated factory.

The second section, Projects, examines five internationally diverse public art projects. These chapters include a description of a joint project between three Baltic/North Sea communities in England, Latvia, and Sweden, as well as works in England, Scotland and Lithuania. The numerous descriptions of art interventions outlined in these chapters will be inspirational for arts practitioners interested in the actual machinations of public art projects. The section wraps up with a discussion by Laurie Palmer, a member of the Chicago artists' group HaHa, on the role instrumentality in arts projects. Borrowing from Theodor Adorno, Palmer argues that rather than trying to achieve pre-determined goals, public art projects should have an element of unpredictability that allows for creative tension and debate.

The third and final section of the book, Evaluations, addresses the question of how public art projects should be evaluated. In a chapter by Bennett et al, for example, evaluations of four European arts projects are examined. The authors provide some valuable insights into the factors contributing to the success of each of these projects, concluding that while quantitative indicators such as attendance or revenue generated often comprise the dominant evaluation of a project's success, attention to anecdotal evidence is critical for assessing the actual social impact of a project on its audience.

Interventions contributes to the ongoing analysis and critique of the role of culture and art in urban regeneration and economic development. It is a useful addition to the current debate in cultural policy circles over the contradictions and challenges created when art and culture become agents for attracting tourists or generating economic development. The international, comparative focus of the book is another important contribution to the literature. In some chapters, however, a lack of analytical rigour means that the actual link between public art and these broader issues remains rather vague. Owing to their descriptive nature, for example, many of the chapters in the final two sections of the book, although interesting, lack sufficient critical analysis to be useful to many cultural policy researchers. This does not necessarily detract from the overall usefulness of the book, however, which will appeal as much to arts practitioners as to academic audiences. Overall, the merit of Interventions is that it provides both interesting case studies and relevant comparative analysis of the relationship between public art and urban regeneration.

Barbara Jenkins

Associate Professor

Department of Communication Studies

Wilffid Laurier University

Waterloo, Ontario
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.