This text is a brief introduction to Park Fiction, it’s practices, politics, theory and terminology – and how these (or some of these) are being actualized in the current struggles for the Right to the City in Hamburg: the reference to Henri Lefebvre’s thinking, spatialisation of social struggles, introducing elements of art and playful elements into emancipatory politics, Production of Desires.
Park Fiction organises Collective Productions of Desires for a park in Hamburg’s red light district, St.Pauli, since 1995.
Today the neighbourhood park has been realized. Designed by the residents, it is located with a view over the harbour, in a significant and beautiful place, that the city’s government wanted to sell to private investors. A costly building was planned here originally, but the neighbourhood stopped the development in 1997. After ten years of struggles the park was inaugurated in 2005.
Production of Desires in the Urban Field
The plans were stopped by a clever Network in the community. Instead of just protesting against the governments plans, this network organised a Parallel Planning Process in the community, creating Platforms of Exchange between people from different cultural fields: musicians, priests, a headmistress, a cook, café owners, bar-men, a psychologist, children, squatters, artists – Interventionist Residents.
Instead of doing activism proper, Park Fiction made the struggle as well as the planning process work as a Platform of Exchange & Production. Lectures, talks, discussions, exhibitions and film-screenings employed the Local Knowledge, people started to make-each-other-more-clever.
Special tools were developed to make planning more accessible: the Plasticine Office, the Archive of Desires, questionnaires and maps, the Garden Library and the Action Kit (a portable planning studio with an unfoldable panorama view of the Elbe-River, for house visits), a telephone Hotline with answering machine for people who get inspired late at night.
Park Fiction organised the planning process like a game. Consequently, instead of handing out textual leaflets explaining how to access the process, Park Fiction gave out a Game board showing all the possibilities to become part of the project.
Margit Czenki shot her film Park Fiction – Desire Will Leave the House and Take to the Streets on Super 8 and 16mm film in 1998, to capture the different voices and the moment, when art and politics made each other more clever.
Construction of the park started years later, after Park Fiction was invited to Documenta11. Ideas were developed into buildable designs by the residents and Park Fiction in collaboration with landscape architects. The Teagarden Island or Palm tree Island (based on a drawing by a boy called Yusuf made in 1997) features artificial palm trees (you can hang your hammock between them and enjoy the view over the harbour) and is surrounded by an elegant 40 meter long bench.
There are three Open Air Solariums and a Flying Carpet, a wave shaped piece of lawn bordered by an Alhambra-inspired mosaic, designed by Sabine Stöwesand. A flat steel palm tree is copied from the carousel on Hamburg’s funfair.
The Bamboo Grove of the Humble Politician and the Dog Garden (featuring the long desired poodle-shaped-box tree) were realised in 2005 along with the Boule Field Abolition du Travail Aliené (idea by Bernd Ehemann), the tenant gardens, and the Tulip Patterned Tartan field by Nesrin Biguen. The tulip pattern is a secret reference to the tulip era in 16th century Turkey, a time cherished in collective memory for it’s flourishing of the arts, tolerance, lack of military ambition and exchange with the west.)
The Woman Pirates Fountain and the Strawberry shaped Tree house, however, have not been financed yet. This is mentioned as an example, for the damage that happens to desires, if you succeed to be In Bed wit Bureaucracy.
The plans for a Park Fiction Archive of Independent Urbanism, floating in the air in rugged El-Lissitzky-style in a container, mounted on pillars, were thwarted by local authorities. It is now housed in the new rooftop of the Golden Pudel Klub.
As a start, Park Fiction organized an international congress in 2003, inviting Sarai from Delhi, Maclovio Rojas from Tijuana, Ala Plastica from La Plata, and Isola Art Center / OUT-Office for Urban Transformation from Milan, the Schwabinggrad Ballett and LIGNA from Hamburg – groups that manage to create Unlikely Encounters in Urban Space.
The Park was inaugurated in 2005 with a Picnic Against Gentrification.
Between 2000 and 2010, rents in St.Pauli rise as dramatically as the investor’s towers. The Action-Network against Gentrification It’s Raining Caviar is formed. Caviar’s campaign starts with a party and a series of talks in the Park Fiction.
The park’s political meaning is actualized by other events: The Euromayday starts it’s annual parade in the park. On board: mobile Production of Desires against commercial beach clubs at the river. The protest is successful – the beach clubs are stopped.
Irene Budde, Olaf Sobczak and Steffen Jörg produce the documentary Empire St.Pauli – On Pearl Chains and Banning Orders. The filmmakers choose political and contested locations for their screenings. When the film is shown in Park Fiction in Summer 2009, 1300 viewers turn up. Late at night, after the screening, a spontaneous demonstration starts, protesting against gentrification of St.Pauli. The event marks one of the beginnings of the Hamburg Right to the City movement.
The growing Right to the City movement relates to the urban thinking of Henri Lefebvre, whose theory influenced Park Fiction in the mid nineties. Starting in 2009, Hamburg’s Right to the City Network rechtaufstadt.net connects different spatial struggles (by now over 40 initiatives
joined the network). It thus echoes Lefebvre’s idea, that space is produced by social interaction, movements and imagination.
Suddenly, tenants work together with artists and squatters, radical leftists with allotment gardeners, raver join forces with people fighting for sustainable energy, guerrilla gardeners cooperate with neighbours who want to set up a community run production centre with a fab lab.
Is the Hamburg Network an example, how emancipatory movements can operate outside the narrow frame of party politics? How people can get a foothold on the slippery terrain of post-fordism, by connecting spatial struggles?