Friday, July 24, 2009

Is Sydney male, female or just stuffed?

Elizabeth Farrelly in the SMH yesterday reflected on gender and urban dynamics with a neat essay on 'male' modernism and 'female' post-modernism: the first works with 'space', the second 'place'. One is fast, the other warm and fuzzy.

However I think she mistakes spin for substance in the following:

A city, that is, not unlike Clover's City of Villages - proffered, as happens, by our first elected female Lord Mayor. Already, you may have noticed, Sydney city is already more centred, street-active, domestic, conservation-minded, art-oriented and jam-packed with talk-spaces. More feminine.

'Street active'? Everything is banned on our streets, from pole posters to portrait painters. Clover and her Council refuse to provide public noticeboards for it 'villages'. There is nothing to do on our streets except hurry from Point A to Point B or get drunk. These may seem small things but they are the gears and levers of local community-building.

'Art oriented'? Only if you are locally apolitical, already a respectable member of the art mafia and willing to subsume your work to the control of an endless, prescriptive, bureaucratic sausage-machine. No art that is risky or new comes from this process. Clover regularly obliterates quality public artwork applied with full permission on privately owned walls. Ask me about how Council crushed the successful Kings Cross Arts Festival.

'City of villages'? This slogan is a bit of a joke when Clover is hellbent on 'normalising' Kings Cross, thus destroying the very thing that makes it different from other 'villages' -- all of which wear the same imposed grey-granite-and-smartpole costume in the name of 'uniformity', the exact opposite of diversity.

Ms Farrelly gets closer to the mark with the following:
You may also have noticed, however, that the council spends $1m of its environmental rates levy on graffiti removal. That consultation has become a talkfest without results. And that the long fought-for laneway bars are drowning under residents' complaints. This is the downside of fem-urbanism; a tendency to tidy-mindedness, circularity and wowserism, the buttons and epaulets of stasis.

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