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'No Room to Move' by Josephine Berry Slater and Anthony Iles

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[THIS WEEK] No Room To Move has bleak analysis and occasional flashes of wit, writes James Pallister

Since setting up in 1994, Mute Magazine has dealt with ‘culture and politics after the net’. Over the years its quarterly publication of essays and artwork has tackled hacking, electronic artwork, famine and surveillance.

Increasingly its online presence has provided a lively forum for long form writing on architecture and the city, with pieces on Zaha Hadid’s Evelyn Grace Academy and Patrick Keiller’s film Robinson in Ruins, recently reviewed in this column.

In recent years it has turned its steely eye to the role artists, NGOs, and governmental development agencies have played in shaping our cities, or as July 2009’s issue of the magazine’s editorial put it: how ‘planners, developers, and their entrepreneurial service arm have debased the meaning of “creativity” to a shallow pretext for the further looting of cities and public wealth’.

In No Room to Move, a book published by Mute, authors Josephine Berry Slater and Anthony Isles, pick up from this statement. Five artist interviews follow an essay that traces the development of the ‘creative city’ as a nascent idea embedded in post-war development plans. The focus is on late 90s property developer-led gentrification in areas like London’s Hoxton and New York’s Lower East Side and the realisation that ‘culture alone can’t kick-start gentrification, let alone a national economy’. But as the authors point out, ‘It is increasingly used as a place-holder for “real” economic activity’.

As well as the sometimes bleak analysis, there’s some welcome flashes of wit. These lance the more absurd sides of ‘hypercultural life’: a state of affairs where ‘even down-at-heel seaside refreshment stalls disguise a shit instant coffee as the more cosmopolitan cappuccino’.

No Room to Move: Radical Art and the Regenerate City features interviews with Alberto Duman, Freee, Nils Norman, Laura Oldfield Ford and Roman Vasseur

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