Creativity as Hope

Labor and movement are intricately connected–people move for their jobs, or in some cases leave the country when work is no longer available. Austerity, civil war, and economic recession are just a few of the reasons why people may leave home to seek work. People want the fulfillment of labor–I am reminded of this heartbreaking story of a young Greek man who killed himself because he saw no future in Greece’s economy.

“There was just an emptiness in front of him,” Mr. Giannaros said between wrenching sobs in a brief telephone conversation. “The emptiness of the future they have taken away from us.”

His son had finished university studies and, unable to find work in a country where more than half the young are jobless, was helping Mr. Giannaros at the hospital.

In this current political moment, anti-refuge and anti-migrant sentiment are skyrocketing. It’s important that we remember that this isn’t just a European problem and that we hear anti-immigrant rhetoric every day in the United States. (Looking at you, Donald Trump) A lot of this is tied to movement and labor; ie, they’re coming here to take our jobs. 

Thinking about the connection between movement and labor, and how movement for labor can often displace people, as we discussed while reading Lloyd’s NeoBohemia, I wanted to talk about a creative work that celebrated movement. For my last post, I thought I would do something a bit more cheery.

I was thinking about how the reading mentioned Glasgow as a city that underwent a cultural revival, only made possible by pushing other people out. I started thinking about what a creative revival that included all members of a community would look like, and was reminded of Superkilen, a very cool park in Copenhagen. Superflex is an art collective based out of Copenhagen that created the park by working with community members to represent the different heritages of the neighborhood.

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Sunset at Superkilen.

The neighborhood that the park is is a largely immigrant area, and prior to the park, many central Copenhagen-ers didn’t spend much time there. The park was envisioned as a way to celebrate the diversity in Copenhagen, and also create a public space in which people from different socio-economic backgrounds could connect. From their mission statement for Superkilen:

“The people living in the immediate vicinity of the park relate to more than 50 different nationalities. Instead of using the designated city objects/furnitures used for parks and public spaces, people from the area was asked to nominate specific city objects such as benches, bins, trees, playgrounds, manhole covers and signage from other countries. These objects were chosen from a country of the inhabitant’s national origin or from somewhere else encountered through traveling. The objects were either produced in a 1:1 copy or bought and transported to the site.”

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Me falling over myself with joy at Superkilen.

One of my favorite aspects of the park is the soil from Palestine. Many Palestinians cannot return to their homeland, and dream of standing on Palestinian soil again. Superkilen worked with Palestinian immigrants to incorporate this into the park, and literally brought back soil from Palestine.

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Aerial view of Superkilen’s Red Square. The park is divided into three concept areas–the Red Square, Black Market, and Green Park.

The park is an imagining of the ways creativity can be used to foster a sense of community not predicated on capital, but on connections. During my time in Copenhagen, it was one of my favorite places to go, and you really did see people from all over the world spending time together, whether it be skateboarding, biking, playing on the jungle gym, or playing with their children. The park is not a perfect solution to the problem of intolerance, and there are of course thoughtful critiques to be made. But, in this time of xenophobia and fear, thinking of Superkilen makes me hopeful for the positive forces of creativity.

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Not from Superkilen, but a message from an exhibit in Denmark that feels relevant.

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