There is a collective desire amongst the stakeholders who lay claim to the future Ultimo Pedestrian Network. While UTS, TAFE, the ABC, the Powerhouse Museum and the Haymarket Chamber of Commerce have various institutional agendas, they have all expressed an interest in “activation”. Interrogating the meaning of activation, we came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as public space. By this we mean that no spaces exist in the city in which individuals are free to act however they choose. Even if there were such spaces, inhibition constrains action. Instead, we find a multitude of publically-accessible areas which constitute the extended territory of neighbouring institutions, and which are subject to their influence, even control. The activities which occur within this territory can be understood as a series of transactions which determine the protocol. We identified five categories of transaction: commerce, surveillance, media distribution, way-finding and recreation.
The aim of the studio was to explore the notion of activation within the UPN’s catchment, through the deployment of 1:1 scale, temporary installations. The theme of the studio, Tactical Play, invited students to conceive of these installations through the notion of game play. “Guerrilla tactics” implies the manipulation of visible infrastructure (cctv, lighting, signage, surface), while “gorilla tactics”* are visible only to those who look (networks, flows, broadcasts, transient events).
Students were asked:
- What is the game?
- What are its rules?
- Who participates? Who plays and who observes?
- What is the outcome of the game?
Students began by defining physical limits to the UPN catchment, and then mapped:
- Ground surfaces
- Wi-Fi networks
- Food outlets
- Surveillance cameras
- Security personnel routes
- Mugging incidents
- Maps were then overlaid to identify moments of transactional intensity and uncover:
- The nature of the networks and communities which comprise the UPN catchment.
- Pedestrian use of the catchment at various times of day.
- The nature of safety and surveillance within the catchment.
- Border zones and smaller districts within the greater catchment.
- How the various institutions relate to each other.
This sequential investigation has resulted in six research questions about the nature of activation, embodied in six temporary installation projects.
* In the Selective Attention Test by Simon & Chabris (video, 1999), some viewers concentrating on two teams passing basketballs fail to see a gorilla which wanders into their midst.