Floating Agora by Raquel de Anda / Gan Golan / Ron Morrison
Identify a public space
“Utopia lies at the horizon; When I draw nearer by two steps, it retreats two steps. If I proceed ten steps forward, it swiftly slips ten steps ahead. No matter how far I go, I can never reach it. What, then, is the purpose of utopia? It is to cause us to advance.”
Located on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, Four Freedoms Park commemorates the vision of a world founded upon freedom of speech and expression, worship, and freedom from want, and fear. These visions are mirrored across the Hudson River where The United Nations Headquarters proudly represents the coming together of 193 member states working collectively to promote human rights, foster social development and ensure the environmental protection of our planet. It is meant to be the largest democratic body on earth. But in reality, the weight of corporate and government domination has rendered these iconic sites static monuments to inertia, depleted of the very essence that once inspired them.
Our site is a place that lies nowhere, for spaces of mass, popular Free Speech are no longer allowed to exist in New York City. As a result, our proposal must exist as a democracy-in-exile, a hyper-democratic space that on one hand facilitates the rapid growth of citizen-driven networks, but on the other is outlawed, fated to float between places, both real and imagined. For free speech to return to the city, a journey is required.
The Floating Agora is a travelling, hyper-connected micro-city designed to facilitate mass, democratic Social Movements. An imaginary space, its’ design is drawn from two real world sources: the networked social architecture of recent popular uprisings, and the physical architecture of people’s occupations across the world, from Tahrir Square and Gezi Park, to Zucotti Park and Occupy DC.
Democracy is a collective process of striving towards utopia. This space takes us on that journey. As we arrive at the departure gate, we leave behind the old, failing world, moving towards visions of a new, yet-to-be-defined future, one that must be co-created. A floating vessel awaits.
Once aboard, key elements of previous democratic uprisings emanate from the platform. Popular assemblies allow for all voices to be heard while small clusters self-organize according to what inspires them most, laying the groundwork for action. Taken together, the vessel acts as a platform for engaging the power of our social imagination. An environment specifically designed for super-connectivity and the merging of worlds is echoed throughout, filtering out from the center and calling out over the waters of the Hudson.
Four Freedoms park serves as Galleano’s “Utopia on the horizon” an undefined space of dreams wherein participants reflect, re-imagine and move towards the world they desire. Four Freedoms and the United Nations stand in opposition to one another, the old world, and the new, with the Floating Agora helping us traverse the distance in between.
Our intervention will coincide with the 2014 UN Climate Summit, which will attract hundreds of thousands of citizens to NYC to intersect the dysfunctional UN process, and push forward global action on Climate Change. This will make available massive labor power and donated materials that make some version of this project feasible through very low cost.
Practically speaking however, this space can only exist in our minds. Therefore, if you can imagine it, it is already built. No expenses required.
Raquel de Anda is an Independent Curator, Art Writer and Creative Director working between Mexico and the States. Moving beyond gallery walls, crossing borders and organizing with creatives are of continuous interest. Raquel is currently a graduate student in Design and Urban Ecologies at Parsons, The New School for Design.
Gan Golan is a NY Times bestselling author & artist who came to NY after getting his dream job on Wall Street: occupying it! He has put his Masters in City Planning (MIT) to good use, abandoning academia for the front lines of urban social movements across the US and beyond.
Ron Morrison is a curious amalgam: both amateur cartographer and print media enthusiast, June Jordan devotee and lover of lab coats. He sees design as a medium for creating knowledge and deconstructing power. He is currently a graduate student in the Design and Urban Ecologies at Parsons the New School.