Urban Defibrillator

This Art and Society 2 Course will focus on the city of Richmond.  Students will develop skills to work collaboratively for the purpose of creating work for and with specific communities.  Co-sponsored by the Richmond Arts Center as part of their Neighborhood Public Art Project, this course will address a variety of different strategies for working within communities.   In the course of the semester, students will explore and discuss both specific issues related to Richmond as well as theoretical literature on the ways that art and design can be used to assist communities through the project framework of creating an Urban Defibrillator.

 Creating an Urban Defibrillator

Often in urban environments issues of high crime, poverty, drug abuse, unemployment, and dilapidation are encountered with large-scale studies, surface beautification projects, and crackdowns on so-called unpopular social elements.  Often still, these environments are looked at without accounting for a specific traumatic past.  The trauma associated with ‘blighted urban communities’ is not dissimilar from trauma that a body in physical / social / emotional distress experiences. When a human body suffers particular cardiac trauma a defibrillator is used, not, as often mistaken, to ‘jump start the heart’ but rather to remove all existing ‘irregular electro-rhythm’ in order for the heart to resume it’s own ‘regular electro-rhythm’.

In examining the correlation between the human body and the urban environment this seminar will attempt to see where art, design, and technology can address problems of urban dilapidation, crime and poverty.  Using the medical action of defibrillation as a strategy can we approach these problems as irregular rhythms in an urban environment and propose and implement solutions of restoring regular rhythms to a community that may be undergoing a type of cardiac-arrest.

In order to proceed with this seminar questions need to be both asked and answered collectively by the specific Richmond community we will be working with.  These questions include:

Where is the heart of a community?

What are the ‘irregular rhythms’ that exist?

What course of treatment has been given so far and why has it not worked? What type of mechanism will need to be deployed for this action?

What will the duration of this action be?

Who in the community is the equivalent of the doctor in applying this action?

Is this a solitary act or multiple actions?

The successful implementation of an Urban Defibrillator will rely on the participation of members of the Richmond community as well as trauma specialists, medical personnel, social workers, artists, urban planners, municipal workers, and students to form and implement what particular defibrillative action could take place.

Students will need to reflect on previous manifestations of community based art projects to further contextualize their experience including but not limited to the work of Krystof Wodiczko, the Institute for Applied Technology, ArtMark, Dennis Adams, Mel Chin, Judith Baca, Judith Barry, Antonio Muntatas, Merle Ukeles, Future Farmers, Ted Purves and Suzanne Cockrell, the Institute for Tactical Magic, Claudia Bernardi, and Rick Lowe.

Students from a variety of disciplines are encouraged to participate. Participants should plan on bringing their own experiences and expertise to bear on this topic. Students will be expected to bring their own extensive personal background to bear on this issue and have a willingness to work in a collaborative, multidisciplinary manner.