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<nettime> Fulfilling the Program
wade tillett on Fri, 31 Aug 2001 04:36:54 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Fulfilling the Program

Fulfilling the Program.
CHA Mixed-Income Design Competition Awards Ceremony
by Wade Tillett
August 27, 2001

"Smoked salmon?"

The waitress must have asked me at least ten times. I don't know, I
couldn't eat, there was just something irksome about people in suits
eating free hors d'oeuvres and drinking donated wine all in the name
of public housing. I couldn't help but think that at the same time the
developers, officials, architects and media are eating smoked salmon
at the awards ceremony for a competition to 'reinvent' public housing,
there are children mere blocks away, within public housing, going

I'm sure it was a scene much like this one when the first projects,
the ones they're tearing down now, were given their awards. The
officials and politicians and architects and developers all patting
each other on the back and saying how they have fixed poor people's
problems this time. Drinking the wine so carefully squeezed from the
grapes of systematic exploitation.

Under the glass ceiling on the top floor of the postmodern Harold
Washington Library, interior glazed window bays surround flower boxes.
And out through the ceiling and walls of glass, you can only see blue
sky rooftops. It has always been in places like this that the rhetoric
of a false morality of public policy is made. Places simultaneously
visible and removed.

This removal is implemented through a carefully constructed political
architecture. An architecture that establishes a political exclusion
while simultaneously justifying and extracting power through a guise
of inclusion and charity. It establishes a justification of
exclusionary decision-making, through its own rhetoric of simulated
discourse and inclusion.

A discourse is created within the predefined program. Architectural
manifestations which all accomplish the *same* program are selected
*as if* the program were being designed, *as if* there was a real hope
for public housing within the choices presented, *as if* the
(non)future of public housing had not already been decided. Thus,
*the* program is accomplished under the guise of selection among
multiple possible programs, when in fact it is only a selection
between multiple manifestations of *the* program. The program of
'morality' inflates for itself a space of discourse *within* the
already determined program for exploitation. In other words, the
competition simulates choice by creating its own discourse *between*
'competing' entries which follow the program, *within which the
ensuing media and public policy are to operate*.

An exclusion occurs through the guise of inclusion. The representation
of public housing residents within the competition jury process (1 of
10 jurors) mirrored the stratagem employed within the broader
political process. A small number of public housing residents are
selected for inclusion *within* the political exclusion in order to
justify the process as a whole. It is essential to the extraction of
power (and land) that the exclusion created not *appear* an oppressive
system forced onto public housing residents. For it is the channel of
contrived consensus and simulated inclusion whereby exclusionary
politics establishes its justification and furthers its power.

And still present beneath the guise of inclusion, but not as overt,
exists a rhetoric of morality, of manifest destiny, that is used both
to justify expansion of interests, and exclusion of participation. By
no mere coincidence this rhetoric simultaneously places blame back on
the public housing residents themselves. This is rather unimaginative
since it was exactly this same facade of morality that was used to
justify the tearing down of the 'slums', the taking of the land, and
the construction of the original public housing developments. Now this
same facade of morality is being used to justify the tearing down the
slums which are public housing, the taking of the land, and the
construction of the 'mixed-income' (private) developments. As the
representative from the mayor's office said of the original public
housing: it was wrong. "We knew it. We knew it when we built it. We
know it now."

The same is true again. We know it. We'll know it as we build it.
We'll know it as we take the land. We'll know it as we take the money.
We'll know it as we take the political appointments, the praise, and
the magazine spread. It is wrong.

When the CHA representative praised the president of the ABLA LAC for
her fight, explaining how now we are all now 'feeding off' of her
desire and fight to have a better life for public housing residents,
there was no applause.

When he remarked on the effort of the architects who competed in this
there was loud applause.

After the long parade of thank yous by various officials, *the* public
housing representative on the jury was brought on stage. Then they
announced the winner and *the* public housing representative gave the
winner the check. And then there were pictures of the 'winning'
architect with *the* public housing representative. And with a few
snaps of the camera, the creation of an aesthetic propaganda of
justification was complete. The politics of false morality are always
enacted as an aesthetic construction, visible and removed. How else to
accomplish theft in broad daylight?

Just outside the 'winter garden', in the hallway, among the quotes
written on the walls was one from Charles Scribner Jr.:

"Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal."

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