on listening to dialogues for social sustainability in public spaces



You attended a fantastic conference last week, hosted by the Transforming Cultures Research Centre, University of Technology of Sydney.
Three exciting days of extremely interesting topics being delivered around issues of social sustainability in the landscape, delving in re-defining how different cultures inhabit urban landscapes around the world.
One of the presenters, Setha Low, a New York based cross-disciplinary researcher, published a number of books and articles on the complexity faced by urban developers when tackling the issues of multifaceted usage of public green spaces. Using as examples a number of parks in New York, the talk introduced the necessity of approaching community consultation with ‘critical methodology’ in order to present an adequate and clear picture of the multilayered interactions with urban parks.
This practice is echoed by the work done by a joint partnership of UTS and the NSW Department of Water and Conservation who initiated a social study of the Georges River National Park, the Parklands, Culture and Communities project which ‘looks at how cultural diversity shapes people’s understandings and use of the Georges River & nearby open spaces in Sydney’s south west’.

From your artistic investigation point of view, the symposium was golden material and a fantastic opportunity to get to know how different disciplines approach the reality of multicultural cities in terms of environmental relationships. Aspects of belonging, legitimacy and intimate relationships with geography were covered with examples from China, India, Northern America and Australia.

From your point of view though, was interesting to notice how several papers were addressing issues of environmental belonging in terms of recreational uses, very few tackled the issues of botanical interactions.
Exceptions were the presentation by Heather Goodall, Wild mangroves, wildflowers & wild fennel: botanical politics on a multicultural river, who in her abstract states ‘human cultures of the area have shaped plant uses as much as plant growth and behaviours have shaped human responses’.

While awaiting for the papers to be published in the Transforming Cultures website you exert readers to read the article by the Associate Professor, who in 2004 co-authored RECOGNISING CULTURAL DIVERSITY: THE GEORGES RIVER PROJECT IN SOUTH-WESTERN SYDNEY

About info

Diego Bonetto is a multimedia artist living and practicing in Sydney, Australia, and is a key member of artists' collectives SquatSpace and the BigFAGPress. -The SquatSpace collective has been producing ground-breaking events and projects since 2000. The group has been curated in a number of shows both in Australia and overseas. The current initiatives, the Redfern-Waterloo Tour of beauty (www.squatspace.com/redfern) tackle issues of social representation and the politics of space generated by gentrification. -The BigFagPress (BFP) is a publishing facility housed in Wooloomooloo, Sydney. The BFP is a salvaged 4-tonnes Off-set proof press. The press allows for the creation of countless artworks by keen printmakers and self-started publishers. www.bigfagpress.org Diego has also been working with WeedyConnection, an environmental art campaign. The project involves an online resource (www.weedyconnection.com), short documentary films, cooking shows, blogs, installations, prints, facebook interventions and various site-specific installations in the form of self-guided tours. WeedyConnection tackle the anthropocentric view of what environment should look like. Based on research and data provided by disciplines as far apart as biology, anthropology, paloenthology, social ecology and ethno botany it formulates ethical questions about cultural representation in times of environmental urgency.
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