Contested Site #3 was a co-production with John Elliot, an archivist at Limerick City Museum. It was an engagement with the material conditions of a space in the city centre that is referenced in many of the official plans and vision documents as an ideal public space (LCCC, 2013).The walk-and-talk aspect of the action began at Arthur’s Quay Park and followed a riverside walk (diagram to the right).
Over the course of 25 minutes John and I passed through 9 gates, each one locked or unlocked at different times of the day by various agents or security groups (images below). No central schedule of these times exists. There is very little public engagement with either the space or its enclosure. This public realm space is held up as ideal in the vision plans for the city; it is in the city centre, full of pleasant, open spaces to sit, away from all roads, and yet there are rarely more than a few people using it at any one time.
Antisocial behaviour, a nebulous term that can be used to cover a wide range of activities, is frequently cited as justification for policing and regulation decisions in Limerick city. The terms ‘undesirables’ and ‘antisocial behaviour’ are often linked, in general discourse and in press reporting (Limerick Leader, 2013). There is a spoken and unspoken acceptance that the actions and presence of undesirables (which can mean anything from homeless people to youth groups, travellers, asylum seekers, drug users, street drinkers etc.) must be discouraged. Informal congregations are likely to draw the attention of the police, who can cite various by-laws that prohibit a range of activities as determined by the local authority.
Steven Flusty confers the term ‘crusty space’ on public space that ‘cannot be accessed due to obstructions such as walls, gates and checkpoints’ (1994: 17). This is a typical feature of what he describes as an ‘erosion of spatial justice’ (ibid: 15), where various tactics are employed ‘to intercept, repel or filter would-be users’ (ibid: 16). This results in what he calls ‘paranoid space’ (ibid: 7). Paranoid space describes a particular distribution of the sensible, the regulation and partition of spaces to determine modes of access and occupation. This paranoid space can be detected in the way that people occupy, or fail to occupy, public spaces in Limerick city. Following the first step of engagement with the concrete and material reality of public space in Limerick through CS3, I identified Limerick 2030: An Economic and Spatial Plan for Limerick [L2030] (LCCC, 2013) as a primary object of analysis for Step 2 of the action, resulting in the argument that the plan operates as an apparatus to reproduce and further the economisation of space in the city centre.
Flusty, S., 1994, Building paranoia: the proliferation of interdictory space and the erosion of spatial justice, West Hollywood, CA.: Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design.
Limerick City and County Council, 2013, Limerick 2030 An Economic and Spatial Plan for Limerick, Available https://www.limerick.ie/sites/default/files/limerick_2030_executive_summary.pdf [Accessed January 21st 2020].
The Limerick Leader, 2013, Sacked after row with centre tenant, in The Limerick Leader, 2 Aug 2013, Available at https://www.limerickleader.ie/news/local-news/107899/Sacked-after-row-with-centre-tenant.html [Accessed July 28th, 2020].