Rejecting the rules of the established art world, some of the most prominent icons of urban subculture have risen to international acclaim. Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring come to mind. Particularly graffitists’ work lends itself to consumer transfer because the two-dimensional format fits established, quantifiable norms. Underdogs of society––sometimes self-declared––launch their hauntingly original, passionate pursuits out-of-sight, typically in defiance of the law. Some rise to stardom within the counterculture by word-of-mouth, eventually exposed by curators and other talent scouts close to the ‘scene’, though this leap from the illegal to legality can take a heavy toll on the artist: fame and fortune may be closely tied to arrests, lawsuits and other animosities.
The Kantian, anarchist spirit pervaded the performative Love Parades with millions of participants, publicly mocking established, bourgeois society in a counter-culture celebration of hip-hop, gay and lesbian life-styles. Held annually in urban centers around the world as an open-air electronic dance music festival and parade until 2010, Love Parade originated in West Berlin, just months before the fall of the wall in 1989. The timing alone speaks volumes of the free spirit that had entered the divided city on both sides of the wall.
Love Parade was loved and hated by city officials because the crowds typically numbered hundred-thousands to millions, wreaking havoc on city parks and public facilities during a boundless, enthusiastic propulsion of joy and world peace. San Francisco’s five LoveFests (LovEvolution 2009) organized between 2004 and 2009 were Love Parade’s American sister events, paralleled by dozens of others in cities around the world including Sydney, Mexico City, Santiago and Caracas. A crowd rush at the 2010 festival in Duisburg, Germany caused the death of 21 revelers and injured hundreds, leading to permanent termination by the organizers. Ergo, free-flowing (anarchist) organizational patterns ultimately collapse in panic situations due to the instinctive actions by the individual.
How do societies function and organize themselves? This question increasingly occupies the public and all sectors from government to economy to academic circles, including artists. Our digitally connected, crowd-sourced society engages in redefining place particularly in urban culture. All statistics and global population trends confirm urbanity is the prescribed lifestyle of the future. Urban centers are closely tied to economic conditions and market driven forces, resulting in the type of situations the creative class thrives on. Abandoned or inequitable real estate conundrums inspire artists to investigate and take action outside of prescribed administrative routines, because they do not sit at the table with wealth or power.
Pockets of creative spirit emerge from unexpected corners to invite and invent new models for revitalizing public space. Case in point: members of the artist collaborative Elsewhere of Greensboro, NC visited friends in Berlin a few years back and climbed the fence to Spreepark, a prime green space that had been an amusement park, but closed to the public in 2001 following an international drug-related incident. As a result, a financial institution owns the land, the former owner has been fulfilling his prison-sentence, and the courts ruled that the rides could not be operated to make a profit. At the short end of the deal have been abutting neighborhoods and the citizens of Berlin, now without access to an important park and riverfront property.
Elsewhere’s breach of security, an sheer act of defiance during a magical, snowy winter’s night led to a brilliant plan: to reactivate Spreepark as a cultural venue, a Kulturpark, in a “proposal to re-activate Spreepark as a site for cultural imagination and exchange." The Kulturpark model proposes responsible cultural life and creative ecology for the 21st Century. The project explored physical, social, and collaborative movement. Kulturpark suggested "a future for the park as an evolving constellation of our shared past and presence.”
The Kulturpark program for Spreepark promised much: in June 2012, visionaries participated in a three-week creative camp to develop their projects, shared a collaborative process, exchanged skills, and explored sustainable approaches to urban transformation. Programming included a series of public workshops and conversations, hosted both in Spreepark and around its perimeters. Mentoring took place by involving teams of university students in an international exchange program. The students served as visionary crews to engage and contribute to the dialogue. They, as well as the professional artists from the Berlin region, also installed works. The program fostered interdisciplinary relationships between Berlin-based creatives and student groups for learning skills, modeling systems, and broadening possibilities. Kulturpark took place in conjunction with the Berlin Biennial, which also focused on the topic of anarchy and community-driven change, instigated by the political change during the Arab Spring. The events offered a public, interactive experience of the park that explored and proposed possibilities for a permanent preservation and transformation of this site into a public culture park.
Is the concept of anarchism in art replacing the notion of the creative avant-garde, particularly if the latter is heavily driven by market-forces? To investigate the question of “planning unplanned” the research platform www.urban-matters.org was established at the university of Vienna in spring 2011 by the artist-architect team of Babara Holub and Christine Hohenbüchler. Holub’s outlet Transparadiso has been organizing free-form participatory public art happenings for many years and published essays on questions of anarchy, including her “On Direct Urbanism and the Art of Parallel Strategies”. Exploring non-conformist art-making practices is a key urban matters objective of critical inquiry, supported by a special project initiative to invite a non-institutional entity with a strong political interest in questioning existing structures. Their projects are shared as features for putting forward concrete approaches towards reconsidering existing systems of values and for change.
After all, making and leaving marks is a basic human need––an urge that has been documented, ever since our Paleolithic ancestors entered the caves of Lascaux. While the players or artists may change over time, an argument can be made for community-driven art-making, because it offers a vivid platform for grassroots tactics in action that fosters cultural progress. •••
 transparadiso. "On Direct Urbanism and the Art of Parallel Strategies", Open, 2007 (Number 12). 137-144.