• Curating the City: Activism, Aesthetics, and the Representational Spaces of Democratic Practice
    Michael Rios

Michael Rios, Spontaneous Interventions exhibition, Chicago Cultural Center, 2012, Chicago, IL.

The city as a problem space is an increasing focus of exhibitions at major cultural institutions and museums whether focused on climate change adaptation, uneven growth, or social activism. These shows use aesthetic methods in the assessment of socio-environmental problems, to archive communities of practice, and imagine alternative futures of the city. A particular focus of these exhibitions is urban interventionism that emphasizes the creative and often temporary transgressions of public and private space by individuals and small collectives for a range of purposes. This research closely examines these works by analyzing how art and cultural institutions organize, mediate and structure public discourse about contemporary city-making and citizen engagement to produce new subjectivities about citizenship, the commons, and democratic action.

Michael Rios is associate professor of urban design and past chair of the Community Development Graduate Group at the University of California, Davis. Drawing from architecture, human geography, and urban planning, his research and writing focuses on urbanism, placemaking, and the social practice of planning and design. Critical essays have appeared in Cities and the Politics of Difference (University of Toronto Press, 2016), The Informal American City (MIT Press, 2016), Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary Cities (Routledge, 2010), Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public Space (New Village Press, 2012), and Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism (Metropolis Books, 2008). Rios received his PhD in geography from the Pennsylvania State University and master's of architecture and master's of city planning degrees from the University of California, Berkeley.