THE PUBLIC REALM

 

Where the public realm is increasingly withdrawn, pissing in a public square or picnicking in a car park becomes politically poignant. The holding of picnics and birthday parties on sites formerly designated as public but now converted in to parking lots - or simply closed to the public – reminds of what was and promotes reflection on urban processes.

Such acts by urban activists in Zagreb suggest that the narrowing of public space can be met with self-initiated and self-organised actions that return collective participation and reinforce the notion that public space should be accessible, inclusive and free.

Another intervention in Zagreb has been the midday urinating in its highly regulated and monitored Marko’s Square. Literal piss-artist Sinisa Labrovic aimed to “soften the exclusivity of the place” and highlight the power relations behind Croatia’s Law on Public Gathering. It is believed that artistic confrontations like these are necessary to shake the status quo, crystallise existing dissent and highlight sites of conflict, power and weakness.

Conflict resolution requires a platform not a cloak. If the application of psychotherapy to social phenomena can be accepted, an analogy can be drawn between group therapy and the public realm – a true platform for the socially therapeutic application of love, empathy, humour, wisdom, creativity and dissent.