Rules of Misconduct by Alejandro Sajgalik / Justinien Tribillon / Cécile Trémolières
Identify a public space
Our project “Rules of Misconduct” would take place in the emblematic and (in)famous Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. The Zuccotti Park, created in 1968 as the Liberty Park Plaza, gained worldwide attention when the Occupy movement set there its main encampment in 2011. The eviction of protesters from the park and the legal battles which ensued raised fundamental questions about the role and the status of Privately-Owned Public Spaces (POPS) in New York City.
In reaction to Occupy Wall Street protesters’ “excessive use of space”, an increasing number of POPS owners developed a normative discourse aimed at avoiding further occupations while “guaranteeing the safety and enjoyment of everyone”. These ‘Rules of Conduct’, prescribe behaviors to make sure these ‘public’ spaces are used solely for “passive recreation”. (Re)establishing rules which belong to common sense, these ‘Rules of Conduct’ infantilizes New-Yorkers—”No defecating” (137 East 36th Street Plaza)—or uselessly reminds of existing laws—No “[…] consumption of controlled substance” (Whitney Sculpture Court). As Marc Augé warned, the excess of signs corrodes the experience of actual places.
This wealth of rules is measured against the philosophy of the First Amendment and the nature of public space—especially privately-owned ones. Using the Zuccotti Park as a starting ground for our campaign, our project sarcastically questions the influence private companies owning public space have, by demonstrating the absurdity to be found in the ‘Rules of Conduct’, which seek to secure the passivity of the urbanite.
We propose to set up in Zuccotti Park an array of pastiche notice boards which collect rules from different POPS across the city. Following the Occupy Movement, the list of rules from notice boards have endlessly grown, therefore our installation asks New Yorkers: if a rule is not written down, is it therefore NOT UNAUTHORIZED?
Thus, while the owners’ legal team at 60 Wall Street specified that one cannot engage in “loud boisterous behavior” in their atrium, we assume that the legal department of Brookfields Property (which owns Zuccotti Park) unintentionally supports loud boisterous behavior in the park as they did not specify this was forbidden. Our fake signs therefore state that “IT IS NOT UNAUTHORISED TO ENGAGE IN LOUD BOISTEROUS BEHAVIOR”.
We will install a myriad of new ‘Rules of Misconduct’ across the park, their profusion highlighting their biased nature. Will users laugh? get offended? or perform? The discrete intervention will challenge people as either ideal passive users or active citizens. Our fake notice boards will display the hashtag #RulesofMisconduct allowing participants to react and share their own rules online—all the situations that lawyers and corporations did not think about when establishing their exhaustive (so they hoped) ‘Rules of Conduct’.
The installation invites users to perform, question or interpret behaviors which are not unauthorised, daring corporations to go further into the absurd and include all these new “Rules of Misconduct” onto their notice boards in order to secure their POPS’ users’ passivity.
The logistics requires a small team of people to set up the notice boards in Zuccotti Park—and possibly come back a few times a week as they will probably be taken off. The notice boards will be printed on white cardboard and will imitate the original notices.
A member of the team will be dedicated to animate the twitter campaign, in association with Theatrum Mundi and the American Institute of Architects. Building up together the online presence of the project would help the campaign reach out to a critical number of people.
The project relies on New Yorkers to seize the concept of #RulesofMisconduct and question their local or favorite public spaces and privately-owned public spaces’ ‘Rules of Conduct’; and we rely on Twitter and a significant online presence to foster and curate a genuine momentum.
The plan could rely solely on the $500 budget mentioned in the brief to produce the boards and build up an online presence.
Alejandro Sajgalik is an urban designer and researcher at the intersection of space, politics and technology. The project is in line with his interest in recontextualizing existing urban infrastructure, and in privatised public spaces.
Justinien Tribillon is an urban strategist, trained in political science, planning and urban design. He is particularly interested in the interaction between politics, economics and design in the urban context.
Both Alejandro and Justinien worked closely in researching the spatial and cultural context of New York city, while developing design strategies questioning the role of free speech and public space in the city.
Cécile Trémolières is a London-based scenographer and stage designer. Thanks to her experience of design for performance, she contributed in developing the design intervention and how to reach out to the users of the public space.