Islands of LA is an evolving study and engagement with the history, desire and potential for meaningful connection in urban public space. This ideal is pursued by exploring the seemingly absurd use of traffic islands as terrains for peaceable assembly and speech among friends and strangers that is both creative and critically minded. This use is not unprecedented: a rigorous site analysis reveals a global history of the use of traffic islands for gathering and expression, in spite of the difficulties of the space. Extending this tradition through events, interactive maps, and an archive of stories, Islands of LA invites us to explore the desire, the fear, and the possibility for connection and voice in the urban landscape. The current focus is on the notion of peaceable or public assembly.
Islands of LA was conceived of as a project to investigate the use and availability of the marginalized yet highly visible public spaces of traffic islands. Islands of LA views the traffic islands as everyday spaces and venues with a complex history and environment. The project explores the dynamics of these spaces through various ways including experimenting with the use of them. The exploration and usage of these spaces examines questions about public land use, law, urbanism, art and other topics specific to traffic islands. The project began on 9/16/07 and was conceived of by Ari Kletzky.
As Islands of LA expands beyond Los Angeles, “LA” will take on other meanings such as: Local Association and Legal absurdity. Los Angeles becomes Lawful Assembly...for Public Safety. In this case, the public is viewed as protected by the use and availability of islands of publicly owned, public space for peaceable assembly, which has a history of functioning as a collective activity that served as a check and balance on representative democracy and functioned to create a rich public and street life in cities in the United States prior to the end of the 19th century.
At that time, ordinances on the regulation by time and place and the requirements of permits where overtuned by State Supreme Courts. Instead, revised civil law or criminal law governed public assembly. Thus, you could assemble but at the moment you were no longer "peaceable" you could be arrested. Pockets of public space that provide for assembly in the built environment offer structurally important nodes in the social-urban networ and ensure our urban environments are democratic cities rather than urbs or agglomerations of homes and their requisite infrastructure. Suprisingly, spaces already exist where you can gather at any time without a fee or permit as long as you adhere to certain guidelines such as not blocking the pedestrian right of way. These pockets includes our sidewalks, which are difficult to gather on without blocking pedestrian right of way, and pedestrian accessible traffic islands.
Focusing on the U.S., these islands are specks of city in a sea of urbanization, the last frontier where we the people can interpret federal law and create the city through archiving, mapping, and peaceabley using these spaces. Layered atop this political history and contemporary context, is the idea that community gathering for things like a picnic, which could be viewed as a political expression given the context of the first amendment, the public forum doctrine and peaceable assembly.
Additional information about Islands of LA:
The following is a list of relevant readings. Feel free to comment on any of these or make a suggestion.
Four Models of the Public Sphere in Modern Democracies by Ferree, Gamson, Gerhards and Rucht
A great survey and way to frame theories of the public sphere
Contesting the Public Realm: Struggles over Public Space in [...]
Everyday Urbanism is non-utopian or atopian, conversational, and non-structuralist.
It is non-utopian because it celebrates and builds on everyday, ordinary life and reality, with little pretense about the possibility of a perfectible, tidy or ideal built environment. Indeed, as John Kaliski and others in Everyday Urbanism point out, the city and its designers must be open [...]
ISLANDS OF LA is an in-public project in Los Angeles that changes the way we use public space. Regardless of where you live, you are invited to interchange by collaborating with Islands of LA. Feel free to go out and do something and send it in or share with everyone what you have [...]
Islands of LA is an art and curatorial project that views traffic islands as overlooked yet provocative spaces which can be used as territories of art. One intention in doing this is to raise a series of questions about public space and land use for activities that do not require permits or fees. How do [...]
The term guerilla has different connotations. For some it means an action done with an illicit nature rather than legal activities. For others, it refers to projects like the Guerilla Girls and refers to engaged activities in the city that compel us to change and think but is not necessarily illicit.
Islands of LA [...]
Traffic islands are sections of sidewalk or pavement (although not always paved) that range in size, shape and location. They are used for traffic calming, safety and beautification and may be refuges for pedestrians. The most common uses are as medians (in the middle of a road separating oncoming traffic), roundabouts/traffic circles, and triangular [...]
Islands of LA began on September 16, 2007 at 7:59 pm when the first sign was installed in front of Mayor Antonio Villaragossa’s office in south central Los Angeles. This island is located in a neighborhood of South Los Angeles called Westmont at the corner of 83rd and S. Vermont, 90044. The mission [...]