Corporate urban furniture, space, and money

November 12, 2016

Artistic research for the project Hacking Urban Furniture at ZK/U, Berlin-Moabit
WALL advertising display on Straße des 17. Juni, Berlin, image: sia

WALL advertising display on Straße des 17. Juni, Berlin, image: sia

The basic idea is a Marx-inspired socio-economic analysis of spatial patterns of corporate urban furniture; albeit in a more empirico-practical or artistic research way. The idea is to try to break down the financial figures of corporate urban furniture to the single instances of the street furniture typology in Berlin. This could be pursued either through a systematic top-down theoretical approach or by something like a ‚financial biography‘ of single urban furniture pieces in a bottom-up fashion. The aim of the research is to think about a way – theoretically and artistically – to attach appropriate ‚price-tags‘ on the masses of corporate street furniture colonizing urban space. I’ll think along the lines of Keller Easterling’s Extrastatecraft1 approach: corporate street furniture as infrastructure in the sense of an agency involved in designing urban space. How does corporate street furniture program urban space, and who is programming?

The proposed method is to research and map the financial revenue of an urban furniture corporation onto their system of urban furniture in order to make visible their way of comodifying public urban space. The furniture is seen as a system of furniture-objects – as opposed to as a single object – in order to find a way to map their financial numbers in a differentiated manner: what are the elements and features of urban furniture systems that a corporation wants to put out in the city because they generate money, and what are the ones that it has to put out there as recompensation for the right to commodifiy parts of the public urban space? Or seen the other way around: How many dog stations do we get in exchange for giving a share of our attention to a mega advertising screen televising it’s message into public space, and do we want dog stations?

For this objective the project has two main tasks to address: (1) a plausible mapping of the corporation’s income and expenses onto their system of urban furniture, preferably type-wise and instance-wise. The main work here is the research into the buisness numbers and the price structure of ads placed via the corporation’s urban furniture system. Where hard numbers cannot be obtained, which is to be suspected given the secretive nature of buisness relations, the project can work with assumptions as it’s focus is on the system, not on the correctness of it’s quantitative evaluation. The second task is to (2) to come up with a model of the impact of urban furniture – seen still from the system’s perspective – on public space. The work here consists in building a metric to measure the spatial impact of ads vis-à-vis the additional functions they add to public space. The idea here is to employ a space syntax-inspired topological analysis of the distribution of the elements of the corporation’s urban furniture system within the city.

  1. Keller Easterling, Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space (London/New York: Verso, 2014). []