Indoor Public Space

is what we make of it.


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Ten Inspiring Indoor Public Space Moments — Pt. 2

Most of the videos in this series are filmed in markets, malls, subway cars or train stations — and there’s a reason for that: there are few public spaces in modern cities that aren’t dedicated either to shopping or shuttling people back and forth between their home and workplace.  Despite these constraints, the people in these videos have found ways to bring these monotonous spaces to life.  Some people are making art, some are exploring the way their bodies move in open space, some are making political statements, but they all have one thing in common: they’re having fun.

Sometimes the best way to have fun is to get out of your house, strap on some rollerskates and move around in quick circles.  Check out this close-up view of a quadskating conga line:

6. Rollerskaters at the Stratford Shopping Centre

Doesn’t that look like fun?  It was filmed at an open rollerskating session at a mall in London that has a very interesting policy about use of space after hours.  To read more about the Stratford Shopping Centre click here.

If you don’t mind looking a little silly, you can even express yourself in a utilitarian space like a grocery store.  You might even make somebody smile.

7. Phil Dancing in the Grocery Store

Phil Villeneuve’s Youtube channel is full of great little videos like this.  He dances in all kinds of indoor public spaces including museums, St. Lawrence Market, shopping malls and botanical gardens.

While one person can provoke a few grins in a grocery store, an incognito opera company in a public market can really turn heads:

8. Toreador at Reading Terminal Market

This “random act of culture” features the Opera Company of Philadelphia and I freaking love it!  It’s great to see the general public reacting to the raw power of ‘high culture.’  Encountering singers of this calibre in regular clothes foregrounds their exceptional talent and makes you realize how startling their artistry really is.

Seeing professionals in action is thrilling, but a similar event that also welcomes amateurs to join in the fun seems like it would be profoundly fulfilling.

9. Paris Choral Society sings Hallelujah

And what a space they’ve chosen to do it in!

The next clip is a political act and a glorious song all at once:

10. Idle No More: 

In this video, participants in the Idle No More movement are shaking up a mall in Minnesota with drums and voices in support of Theresa Spence’s hunger strike in 2012.  More than any of the other videos this scene surges with energy and reminds us of the passion and depth of feeling that we can and should be enjoying when we gather together as human beings.

All ten videos on our list capture unusual and creative acts in public spaces.  In order to break through the humdrum tedium of city living we need indoor spaces that are open to strange behaviour and unexpected activities.  We need spaces where security guards are not trained to ask ‘Do you have a permit for that?’ at the slightest hint of human ingenuity and self-expression.

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Ten Inspiring Indoor Public Space Moments — Pt.1

Human beings are social creatures.  We can socialize with friends and family at home or in a bar but to play our part in society we need opportunities to express ourselves in public.  In order for culture to be open to ordinary people we need public spaces.  Generally these spaces are outside — think of a parade or a march or a busker entertaining a crowd — but people should also be able to express themselves culturally and politically in indoor spaces. Spaces that welcome spontaneity allow us to entertain each other and make strangers laugh, they allow us to voice our concerns about justice and governance, and, most importantly, they let us come together and explore what it means to be human.  This two-part blog post highlights ten videos of people expressing themselves in unexpected ways in indoor public spaces.

On the subway we tend to look at the floor and ignore our fellow citizens, but great things can happen when we flout these (anti-)social conventions.  When we turn these daily encounters on their head, we are reminded that we share our cities with millions of other living, breathing, thinking people, all of whom want to experience new things.  Sometimes these shared moments come in the form of a couple of amateur musicians surprising a whole train of passengers — and each other — after a night out:

1. New York City Sax Battle

A spontaneous jam session is awesome, but an elaborate, carefully-choreographed performance designed for the sole purpose of weirding people out can really leave your head spinning:

2. Improv Everywhere Human Mirror

Improv Everywhere has been orchestrating events that inject huge doses of absurdity into otherwise ordinary urban spaces for many years now.  Their Youtube channel is definitely worth checking out.

But we can do more than just entertain and perplex in indoor public spaces; we can also makes statements about the type of city we hope to live in:

3. Breast-feeding Protest in Costa Rica

Sometimes we can only change the conditions of our daily lives by living the life we hope to live in the face of the social pressures that make it difficult.  If we do so in sufficient numbers, we can begin to change the shape of our society and our cities.  A protest like this recalls the feminist slogan ‘the personal is political.’  These people are doing ordinary daily activities, but, by doing so collectively, they are sharing a meaningful experience and creating new cultural norms.

4. Protest at the Guggenheim Museum

This protest is about labour conditions at the construction site of a Guggenheim spin-off in Abu Dhabi.  What is so interesting about it is that it is both a theatrical display and a political protest.  It creates a strange and eerie experience for museum-goers — not unlike the human mirror — but it is also highlighting a serious political issue.  Two aspects of cultural creation are bound up in a single moment.

For our fifth video, we return to the world of transit.  Listen as an Icelandic band sings an ancient hymn in a train station in Germany:

5. Árstíðir Flood a Train Station with Celestial Harmonies

Listen to those acoustics!  Honestly, this video gives me chills.  Can you imagine walking into that station to board a train and encountering this otherwordly sound!

We hope you enjoyed part one of our two part series.  In part two you can expect to see dancing! singing! rollerskating! and more protesting!