Through an interdisciplinary research at the nexus of Asian Studies, Art Studies and Urban Studies, I examine the complexities of the reciprocal relationship between the city and urban creativities. The forms of urban creativity are extremely varied and they bring forward new manifestations, agencies, motivations and aesthetics. In order to examine the interdependence of these variables with the site, place and space, I propose a comparative approach based on site-responsiveness, which also takes into account the local, regional, national and global discourses and trends.
As Robin Visser (2010) maintains, in mainland China, the post socialist urban aesthetics, functions as a new realm to envision, experience and assess the city. While doing so, it enables new forms of civic agencies to emerge, especially in Beijing and in Shanghai. In Hong Kong, however, the emergence and spread of urban creativity is interrelated with the discourses of post-colonialism in its specific forms of de/recolonization and mainlandization that are strongly reflected also in the realms of contemporary art, public art and cultural policies, also before and after the Occupy Movement in 2014. In Tokyo, the aftershock of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster made Japanese artists to question what they could do and what kind of art could be meaningful. Despite that during recent years, legislation regarding public space and its usage has gradually tightened in Tokyo, the echoes of the new artistic concern was echoed in street art too.
The socio-spatial practices regarding the usage of urban public space along with the global trends in alternative art practices are reflected in the urban creativity -- and vice versa. New strategies and aesthetics are continuously developed because of the varying needs of artists, urbanites and cities to interact through arts in the public space. As a result, urban creativity is not only responding to the transformations in the city but they are actively reshaping the cityscapes. In order to analyze in detail the particularities and differences not only between different nations but also between different cities and neighborhoods, a more multidimensional analysis than Miwon Kwon’s (2002) site-specificity is needed. To examine the myriad manifestations, we need to take into account, for instance, the visual features, styles, forms, languages, nationality/ethnicity and intentions of the creators as well as the varying ways of mediation across the borders.
During my stay at IIAS, I am working on my monograph, Seeds for Hope: the power of aesthetics for urban creativity in Hong Kong. The study analyses the varied forms of un/authorized urban creativity that have emerged in Hong Kong since the 1990s and how they interconnect with the changing socio-political and cultural contexts. The main research questions include: what kind of aesthetic strategies and methods are employed, how transcultural these manifestations are, and how they engage with the global reverberations of reclaiming the cities. Besides the monograph, I am also co-editing with Dr. Meiqin Wang an edited volume which addresses similar issues but with focus on mainland China and on the multiple interrelations and effects of urbanization to official propaganda, contemporary art, public interventions, films and documentaries. The edited volume will be submitted to the Asian Cities series of the Amsterdam University Press.
For more about my activities and publications, see my University of Helsinki webpage here: http://www.mv.helsinki.fi/home/mkvaljak/