By Catherine Poitras Auger
In my previous post, I choose to write about the Concordia Green House, located in the Hall building downtown. I will attempt at critically describing the space using some of the concepts we discussed in class, namely the binary of private VS public spaces, and the concept of détournement.
In the same way that Gill Valentine does not want to talk in terms of public VS private space because public spaces are often regulated and privately owned, the Green House exists thanks to the CSU, the Concordia Student Union, who finances and partially manages the space. The Green House funding is dependent upon the union, and it has happened in the past that it was at risk of being removed. The last time this happened was only a year ago. The Green House and other student groups had to hold a joined campaign against a referendum question that was asked by a group of students of the John Molson School of Business. If students were to answer yes to the referendum question, it would have meant for the Green House to have to either find other sources of revenues in a very short amount of time, or to close doors, which would have been the most likely outcome. I recall this from personal memory since I participated in the joined solidarity effort for supporting our student groups. This economic dependency of the Green House on an entity that might one day remove its funding is a downside of the space. It is not fully an independent, self-managed entity.
The Green House is located inside a building that belongs to Concordia University. In order to get there, a person has to navigate all the way to the 12th floor, and then take the stairs to get to the 13th floor of the building. If the person is not a student at the university, she/he might be asked to leave the premises by a security guard before she/he can get to the 13th floor. This issue is a major one in terms of accessibility. However, since not everybody is legally allowed to walk in the university, the Green House can also be seen as a tentative to subvert these rules, and to rethink the university’s space. It allows for non-student to re-appropriate an urban space that has been rendered private, and it provides a setting that encourages independent, self-learning projects for both students and non-students. The idea of re-appropriating a space, also called détournement, was exploited by the Situationists, who were a group of anti-capitalist artists and intellectuals. The Green House claims to be an anti-capitalist space, and it fuels projects that encourage people to become gardeners themselves and to re-appropriate the city space, such as the ongoing DIY Balcony Garden Project.
Photoshop work by Catherine Poitras Auger, 2015