FAQ > Below is a list of FAQ - in progress - we will continue to update this page. > What were your motivations for setting up This Is Not A Gateway?
This is the most difficult to answer as there were and remain numerous and pressing motivations. In 2001, the aim was twofold; firstly it was clear neo-liberal globalisation and new technologies were changing just about everything around us and there didn’t seem to be anywhere independent where one could go to critically discuss, debate or challenge these changes. Secondly, through our interests, outside of work and beyond the academies we respectively attended, we were aware of numerous individuals and organisations engaged in critical practices, mostly arts based that existed however didn’t have a platform to come together on.
It became increasingly apparent, while cities were expanding, ‘gateways’ into official discourses were narrowing (see Keys to the City) . Conferences where urban policy was constructed and subsequently rolled out were and continue to remain isolated from the overwhelming majority of people who live or will live in cities. Theses spaces remain the enclave of an almost entirely white, middle aged, upper middle class, sponsored or bureaucratic man. University departments interested in studying the material conditions of cities were often sponsored by multinational-corporations and/or held ransom to increasingly expensive (and forever-on-an-aeroplane) academics or their teaching ranks were growing in numbers with people seduced or funded by the ever brighter lights and heights of ‘progress’, the nebulous proposition of ‘creative industries’ and cities as centres of innovation and dynamic hubs. Many previously critical university departments were quickly overcome or seduced.
Somewhere along the way despite the rapid rise of inequalities, ‘cities’ somehow became shorthand for ‘cool’ and/or ‘profitable’. There wasn’t a public or private institution not dedicating some or all of their resources to studying or promoting ‘cities’. In fact entire new organisations were established for these very purposes right across the globe. At the same time, the middle classes, started to stay in city centres rather than undertake the customary ‘white flight’ to the suburbs or countryside. This demographic, seeing itself as different (edgier, urbane?) to previous generations dedicated itself to securing positions for themselves across the range of intuitions so they could undertake the best endeavour at ‘suburbanising the city’ – moulding cities in their interests.
And yet, a vast body of knowledge exists and is being expanded by vigorous, unexpected and heterogeneous agents, and cells of new knowledge are continuously surfacing. Unsurprisingly, this knowledge is generated and shared most often ‘from the ground up’ by those that inhabit the city, those that work alongside them and those thinkers within governments, think tanks or private companies that have not been seduced into only promoting and enabling the notion of ‘erase, stretch, relinquish’. The sites propagating new knowledge are most often outside of ‘the urban industry’, and the agents of these new possibilities and practices seem to come together around shared notions of complexity, texture, rigour and potentiality. We wondered, is it not time for a re-understanding and re-formulation of the disciplines and, above all, of the participants involved in making space? Is it not time for urbanism to undergo a transformation similar to that of sociology opened up through cultural studies, or art history re-examined in the light of visual cultures? This is not a moment to bemoan or to react against the current structures that are thought limiting and limited, but an opportunity to produce new conditions.
Our discussions with those working both within and outside spatial practices made it clear that the out-of-step between official knowledge and on-the-ground realities was causing burning frustration for many. Personal and professional experience in a diversity of arenas brought us in contact with sites of relevant, critical knowledge and practice. These sites are often independent but also include clusters of research groups and leaders within innovative companies pushing out beyond their institutions. We were constantly working alongside people with remarkable ideas and projects that we thought colleagues in other fields should know about. These were not binaries, but missed opportunities resulting from a perceived isolation from each other. It was clear to us that a platform was needed – one that would circulate these multiple fields and sites of knowledge. Encouraged by colleagues and associates, we set out to create a platform that would demonstrate the potential of coming together.