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  • Feb 03, 2008
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Utopias: Revisioning Saskatoon Core Neighbourhoods
Clark Ferguson
Site and Subject: Research, investigation and proposals for the Riversdale district of Saskatoon

Planet S Magazine

Ferguson began from a simple place — by asking residents what they would change about their neighbourhood — anything at all, with no finger pointing or complaining, but also no limits. This began with posters distributed to encourage participation, but “man in the street” interviews were also needed to increase participation: Riversdale / Pleasant Hill, King George, Caswell Hill, and Meadow Green were the sites Ferguson focused upon. The much-maligned Barry Hotel was a flashpoint, and the whispers of the City’s plan to simply raze the place to ground were already about. But the Barry was an interesting example of the NIMBY notion in reverse — exemplifying the attitudes of some Saskatonians from other, “better” neighbourhoods, many of whom believe “bad things are tolerated in these areas, even if not consciously accepted.”

Ferguson holds up a mirror to this kind of attitude, responding to the desired changes he was given by participants by taking images of these things as they appear in other areas of the city, and using various technologies to integrate them into the “final” image. Of note, one of the suggestions for what is needed stepped apart from the usual requests (grocery stores, other social amenities associated with gentrification, or “a place to sit down”) — the suggestion for a brothel in an area with a significant number of sex trade workers.

Throughout Utopias, the invisibility of the artist is key: the billboard displaying the project, which will be mounted on the facade of AKA / paved, is 50 ft. by 60 ft., and will be divided up into a number of images of each of the participants’ personal “utopias” — and will carry contact info, to allow passersby to participate. Importantly, it’s driven by neighbourhood residents and neither static nor fixed, as it will change as the project progresses — just as a neighbourhood itself should grow and change as designed by its members, not the politicians or property-flipping scum we’ve come to accept too quickly as a factor of our economic boom.

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