The Envoy of Mischief 

My most current work is a response to a combination of both the omnipresent prevalence of construction within the city and a recent lecture Saskia Sassan gave at the Living Cities Forum (26/7/18) at Deakin Edge, Federation Square in Melbourne. Saskia Sassan is a Dutch born American sociologist who coined the term Global City. At this forum She asked the question 'who owns the city' and spoke of how cities have a visible and invisible side. The invisible side she was referring to was the buying up of properties in cities by global firms.  

Since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 there has been a Surge in large scale corporate redevelopment of cities. She outlined the impacts of this on a city as:

A.foreign corporate buying of properties.

B. buying of buildings to replace them therefore increase in the extent of construction.

c.the spread of mega projects where vast footprints “kill much of the urban tissue”… little streets squares the spaces in between. 

d. what was once small and or public is becoming large and private.

For video below please turn up sound on the site. Thank you.

So how does one lone individual carnivalesque protest respond to the weight of this force?      

I created this rat character to mimic and critique this, to make visible the invisible.

 

The collective noun for rats is a mischief. So I created the Envoy of Mischief who appeared from the cracks in the city. She taught herself the language of the city so she is fluent in the language of construction and real estate. She has her own website ratrealestate.com where you can buy your very own Zone. Rather than realestate though she is selling a revolutionary dream. ( like all great deals it comes a long list of terms and conditions applying) She is selling the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ). An idea coined by Hakim Bey, an American anarchist author, based on the notion of the pirate utopias of the 18th century. 

In TAZ.The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism he describes the zone as 

“ an uprising which does not engage directly with the state, a guerilla operation which liberates an area ( of land, of  time, of imagination ) and then dissolves itself to reform elsewhere/ elsewhen, before the state can crush it” (p99) 

This description sits eloquently with The Envoy's act of poetic terrorism in the way the artist creates a Zone, claiming it as a TAZ,  then packs it away to move onto the next space that I will claim through my performative action.

One individual Zone at a time. The Envoy of Mischief dreams that ultimately all the zones purchased will combine to cover all of melbourne. 

I began this incursion at Federation Square as the threat to this public space from the Apple Corporation resonated with the Envoy's mission. The fact that the city 'square' of Melbourne may have the Apple icon dominating the space is an example of the change in cities that Saskia Sassan spoke of.

In this work, through the website ratrealestate.com the public were invited to put in an application for a location for their own Temporary Autonomous Zone. The rat would then secure the zone in the requested location and the applicant would then be sent a Certificate to verify their secured Zone. Some of the zones requested included outside State Parliament of Victoria, The Melbourne Stock Exchange and outside Melbourne Town Hall.

 

By engaging with the public in this way I found myself at a variety of different sites that I may not have been to without this engagement. At some of these sites I encountered security and the police. For example, at the Melbourne Stock Exchange at the base of the Rialto Tower I was asked to leave (very politely) by security and at the State Parliament of Victoria the police came to check on what I was doing.

 

Both of these encounters were very benign yet they make visible the invisible boundaries of 'acceptable' use of public space. In the Rat's performative claim to space in these sites, the representations of space are resisted and could be said to  be made more expansive in these moments. I also consider these interactions as disruptions to the 'smooth consensual surface' of public space that Chantal Mouffe writes of in regard to the 'agonistic model' of public space. At these moments where security steps in to remove the rat, the hegemonic powers within that space are revealed.  

 

This final incursion has been a fitting end to my research question as the securing of the Temporary Autonomous Zone throughout Melbourne provides an apt metaphor for the space I am attempting to create in all my incursions. As I make a performative claim to space in the city I am hoping to transform that space into something outside of the everyday. An imagined space that offers up a potential for something outside of what we already know, even the site of possible revolution.

This is the rat at the Melbourne Stock exchange foyer with security.

This is the Rat outside State Parliament of Victoria on the day that Federal Parliament changed Prime Ministers like bath towels.

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