Democratizing Public Space through Art with Michael Rakowitz's paraSITE
Public space and accessibility to residence is one of the major concerns addressed by a lot of architects in the contemporary city. Those ideas are mainly architectural, but in the past years, some artists including Thomas Hirschhorn and Tadashi Kawamata used political and social issues related to these questions in more conceptually-driven creations.
As stated Can Altay in "Transgression in and of the City" : In a time when boundaries in the contemporary city are becoming the norm, the possibility of public space as a challenge to such norms resides in the moments and activities that make those boundaries visible, inhabit them and thus transgress.
This idea of transgression as a key to change the present situation is at the heart of most of the work of Iraqi-American artist; Michael Rakowitz. Through his installations and performances, he rises reflexion on the issues related to city space and property.
In 2004 he initiated the project (P)lot, imagining new fonctions like gardens or outdoor dining for parking lot spaces in city streets. He designed car-shaped tents that could perfectly fit in parking lots in order to, as he wrote, encourage reconsiderations of "legitimate" participation in city life.
In 1998 in another of his projects that is even more subversive, he used parasitic architecture, defined by Chris Taylor as an adaptable, transient and exploitive form of architecture that forces relationships with host buildings in order to complete themselve. The project paraSITE proposes a major reflexion and critical statement towards the use of space engendered by the capitalist logic of the modern city. The artist offered a custom dwelling solution to over thirty homeless people in different cities of the United States by building a shelter that was easy to assemble and that could be attached on the exterior outtake vents of a building’s ventilation system anywhere. He also made a DIY instruction guide showing how to build a paraSITE which was featured in different magazines sold by homeless people in Montreal, Berlin and London.
This Rakowitz’s project inspires by concretely showing how art can have an impact on real life and political issues. A great example of how artistic research can resonate both socially and intellectually, while engaging meaningful discussions on social inequality.