Riga consortium meeting - reflections

So I went to Riga to take part in a meeting of a group of organizations that have for 10 years worked together thanks to the support of Nordic Culture Point. They have finally decided to move forward and get a bit more funding and work closely on supporting art run initiatives and spaces.

The partners included the impressive Free Riga movement that successfully occupies abandoned spaces in the city and gives them for use to creative and not-so-creative entities. In fact, the meeting happened in one of the sites they manage, and it was indeed a beautiful industrial space with mix use - an impressive bar with a concert hall, offices, art residencies and what not - you can see in the link, it’s massive. Riga is this incredible city with a lot of empty space - it was built for 2 million people, and its 1mln population from the beginning of 90-ties has declined to less than 700.000 and it doesn’t seem to restore. There are some rich people buying properties in the city (Russians for example), but the population is not changing drastically. It was very funny to discuss gentrification with Kurts, who runs this particular space, because to him many things I and an artist from Denmark painted as maladies of late capitalism, he really wished to see in Riga.

Anyway, the rest of the partners are Candyland, Ormston House, The Artist-Run Alliance, LTMKS 17, Top e. V., Syndicate of Creatures, The Alternative Art Guide, Konstfack Totaldobre and Aarhus Center for Visual Art / Juxtapose Art Fair.

What became clear very soon was that the application is going to be: too little money (200.000), too many organizations, and most of them Nordic, which means expensive, and too many ideas partners want to realize. I pointed this out and the next day a lot of the content was already scrapped, but it still remained extremely optimistic. Another problem was that the person that invited me to this meeting as a possible partner didn’t really support my ideas and input in this application, even though Edgeryders would be a great fit if at least part of the focus was on community building, with a purpose of exchange, p2p learning, and archive of practices, history, and experiences of artist-run spaces and initiatives. And that was meant to be one of the pivotal aspects of this application.

Anyway, I will be around the group for a while and see what comes out of it - I certainly met some people who might become valuable collaborators in the future. There’s a possibility that, since the ideas were so many and ambitions of the group so big, I can still make this happen at some point, under more comfortable financial situation, and this would be a great way for us to show the edgeryders skills and tech in collaboration with the art world.

Has Likes

Yes. Gentrification is not all bad… the trick is to ride its wave, staying at the edge of it.

Has Likes

I’ve always assumed that gentrification is mainly considered a negative when it evicts an existing community (usually poor, often immigrant/non-white) with a vibrant and unique cultural life. The criticism is that by and large gentrification takes these unique, poorer locations and fills them with affluent white people, usually with a homogenised, capitalist (White) culture that overwrites the previous cultural landscape (or worse, seeks to reframe existing landmarks/practices as part of the new gentrified area)

Cf. Harlem, NY

Possibly, if you manage to improve the neighbourhood without pushing out the “original” tenants, and bring some new business and value to it - possibly, this could be ideal and increase the social and economical complexity of the space. But do we know cases where this was stopped at that point? I wonder if anyone learned how to ride the wave

That seems a bit of a misreading. I am no expert, but I did read Jacobs. Initially (and for quite some time), gentrification increases diversity. At step 0 you have just poor people in a poor neighborhood. At step 1, you have those, but also some people who are income-poor, but social capital- and time-rich show up, in search of cheap space. These would be the pioneer species of the urban ecosystem, the artists. They have little money, but they are not forced to spend all their waking time flipping burgers to support their families. At step 2, you have the former, plus people like me show up. Little more disposable income, enjoy the diversity (and the cheap spaces). We bring to the neighborhood demand for stuff that was previous not available, like organic food and yoga classes. Promptly, someone shows up to supply these.

At this point, the diversity is maximal. There are some winners, also among the locals that were already there: they gain more diverse social relationships, some more local jobs show up. The biggest winners are those of the locals that were able to afford buying real estate, because the value of their property goes way up.

Inequalities also go up. But, if you buy into the biological metaphors I like so much, this is to be expected. The ecosystem becomes more rich and complex, so it can now support more species: earthworms make the ground more fertile, which leads to grains and trees, which leads to insects who eat the leaves, which leads to birds who eat the insects, and so on. Ok, that’s probably a terrible defense of gentrification, but complexity and inequalities DO go together in many natural systems.

I would have to agree with Alex in the case of the UK. Rather than post a long comment, Imma drop this: https://www.google.com/search?q=lord+loses+westminister+housing&oq=lord+loses+westminister+housing&aqs=chrome..69i57.14735j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Unfortunately it’s the same in Berlin - there is some new, very interesting legislation that the city is passing in order to stop the situation until they figure out the way to preserve what makes the city so attractive to people flocking here, and balance it with some business and investment that it badly needs. I haven’t yet heard of a city that wasn’t a victim of this process (can gentrification be good is a good question - maybe some parts of it, but from what I understand, it’s not a word associated with good things)

I have also read Jacobs, and I am a great admirer of her approach to cities - but what she writes to me is somehow about pre-gentrification, where small shops public squares are in abundance, creating interesting, safe and livable neighbourhoods - but to all classes. Can’t really say that about what happens to them once the capital moves in - concrete is pouring over everything, the kinds of shops that can survive drastically changes, etc.

These two definitions from the internet already stress the problematic aspect of the process - it’s exclusive and it pushes out tastes and classes that slowly do not belong to where they used to thrive.

the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste.
"an area undergoing rapid gentrification"
    the process of making a person or activity more refined or polite.
    "football has undergone gentrification"