As part of the ongoing campus initiative Global Urban Humanities: Engaging the Humanities and Environmental Design, the Arts Research Center co-sponsored Reimagining the Urban: Bay Area Connections Across the Arts and Public Space on September 30, 2013. Participants have been asked to submit a blog post "on a keyword you see debated in the Bay Area arts, policy, and planning landscape." This posting is by Martha Herrera-Lasso, a first year PhD student in Performance Studies at UC Berkeley.
Raquel Gutiérrez invites us to map the room around us: who is here and how long did it take us all to get to 2150 Allston Way. For a moment, we acknowledged the morning’s journey that brought us to this place, and maybe even the bridges we had to cross to get here.
Throughout the day bridges came up again and again in the form of projects, conversation, opportunities, performances and partnerships. Deborah Cullinan invited us to think of alleys as bridges, as spaces of circulation; she spoke of creating art bridges and using them to prepare new generations for what is growing around them. She reminded us that the word and is an important bridge, a word that provides circulation in our conversation and our evolution. A concept Brad McCrea returned to when touching upon the constant search for the balance between Conservation and Development in his work.
Elvin Padilla spoke not only of the importance of bridging social work to the reality of real estate, of collaboration with unlikely allies and the complex negotiations that come from these partnerships, but he invited us to deal with the anxieties that arise from the act of crossing bridges. “Fear no art” and “Fear no tech” are indications that we need trust in order to cross, that it is important not only for us to build bridges, but to acknowledge the fears they provoke. Finally, he asks us to look at the long-term design: will the bridge be able to take the weight in the years to come?
Ava Roy and Lauren Dietrich Chávez offer a performance space in which to experience bridge crossing hoping to recreate this experience in our everyday lives. Through the element of surprise, We Players create bridges within known spaces that take us into enchanted realms, where, as one of their audience members expressed, “Alcatraz is now Denmark.” But these interventions also aim to create bridges between the historic and the current in the spaces we inhabit, bridging new time and place within known spaces.
Finally, as Linda Rugg asked, what does it mean that a bridge is open or closed? How does this force us to navigate in new ways? Susan Schwartzenberg takes us to the imagined bridge – the mid-bridge that is the pier, which stops you half way, immerses you in the bay, invites you to listen, to be within it. Within it and not above or below it – because this is the danger of the bridge: it can isolate us from what lies below and what lies above it. It creates, as Brad McCrea expressed, a static relationship with what we cross over. Bridges generate movement and allow for new forms of circulation, but bridges also speak of separation. So in this continuous building of bridges, let us keep in mind how they connect and separate, where they began and how they carry our weight into the future, how the acts of building and crossing change us, and what views new bridges unintentionally obstruct while they open our eyes and bodies to these new, enchanted realms.