"If you meet them in the street, join them" - The role of public art and redesign of public spaces in Zagreb
sociology Institut of social sciences Ivo Pilar Zagreb, Croatia
Sociology Institut of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar Zagreb, Croatia
Neoliberal globalism has created the problematics of redefining public space, its definitions, use and purpose in the former socialist countries as well. "The death of the cities" phenomenon has marked the end of the 20th and the start of the 21st century and is predominantly perceived as a direct consequence of globalization. Public spaces, seen exclusively as economic value, are redesigned as "non-places" limited to a certain part of the population, which takes away their characteristic of something "public" as a possibility for creative, free and critical questioning of city life. The commercialization of public spaces has created an atmosphere of passive consumerism for the high-purchasing-power elite, impenetrable for all the unfit, marginal social groups that disrupt he stylized façade of city "non-places".
If we perceive public space as an "arena of the political", then any public art is consequently a potential expression of the political, an aesthetic manifestation of resistance to the withering away of city life. Public art today represents a complex form of artistic expression, so in theoretical discussions we find different definitions and interpretations.Thus Annalisa Cattani, speaking of this phenomenon, among other things, identifies one type of public art as "Public Art as de-design": it consists of art actions that seam to be superfluous; they create a sort of disturbance, in order to de-structure stereotypes and passive ways of living. Public art goes this way beyond the personal gesture of the artist, transcends pure subjectivity and responds to the urban, social and political structure that defines a given place. In late 2008 Zagreb hosted the third annual "Operation: City" - a three-week-long series of events organized by the Zagreb independent culture scene. This paper is a case study based on interviews with the organizers of the manifestation and the artists who took part in a series of public artistic interventions called "If you meet them in the street, join them". With this research we will try to show how those artists and organizers perceive the role of public art as an instrument of questioning and critique of these changes that take place in "transition city".