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blame yourself for gentrification!

November 29, 2014 - mirrormirror -

I’ve been thinking, reading, talking, shouting about ‘gentrification’ over the last few years and I’m still confused and don’t know if I’ll ever fully understand. . .

I find myself at a point, where I’ve lived in different neighbourhoods, suffering from and over-thinking gentrification, for years.
but what is gentrification?

according to the Huffington Post for example gentrification is “defined as the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.”

from my point of view the whole process of gentrification is too dynamic to fit into a box, to tag it, or to ship it as an universal theory all over the planet, because cities are different, people are different and places have a specific history in terms of their development. some become a magnetic for certain industries and economies, others don’t. one metropolis becomes an international hot spot, the other does not.

cities usually have a central business district, often a historical part and depending on the diversity of the local economy, a variety of industrial districts. where do the people live? this is not an easy question to answer, every city is different, but it does follow some concepts of settlement.


unique: half back lane with rotten garages (right) half street with modern living space on top of garages (Toronto)

one concept is about segregation and means, simplified, that citizens live in different locations according to their income, job- and social position.
history has also an effect on the dispersion of citizens too, e.g. workers districts close to mines, etc. but that would go too far at this point.

the important point is about the existence of  living space to maintain an affordable way of life you want to have and you want to keep.


now leasing: an iron art piece and a pile of scrap, or is both scrap?

I’m carrying a dogmatism of gentrification as an evil result of capitalistic structures of our living spaces.
blaming somebody for a development you don’t agree with is simple, if you know who the enemy is – the investors, the government, the real estate beasts, the yuppies and – of course – the hipsters.

but what if you’re the enemy?

who brings creative potential and talent into a certain area? what turns the potential into recreational power? and who takes the wrong turn? is there a point of no return?


statement against gentrification on Spadina in Toronto

the cheap places (early stage of gentrification) are often located, where nobody wants to go. politicians have limited interest, so have investors, or people with money, who choose to live where it suits them better. the dirty, crumblings streets and side walks are of lower interest and it’s raining most of the time anyway.

but then there is light. groups, collectives and friends occupy houses, streets and eventually a neighbourhood. they give their passions, their spirits and often their souls to a way of life rather than materialism and they get a cheap life in return.


double-bass player at a neighbourhood party in Dresden Neustadt Germany

a gym, a fast food restaurant, a fancy bar does not make your life better. it’s the counter-cultures, the subversive, energetic people, who paint a town in colours. those colours are found in gloomy basements, dark bars, wild backyards and open spaces for art of any kind, creating melting pots without the goal of gaining wealth.


where the yuppie and the hipster lives is longboard living…

but some always take the wrong turn. when a place becomes magnetic and attracts the ‘rest’ of the community, or even bigger: the 9-5 society. a descriptive poem, a try:

where painters are, there must be art supply

where singers are, there must be a venue

where a venue is, there must be the guest

some guests live upstairs, some come as tourists

tourists gotta stay somewhere,

a hip hostel is a great indicator for the progress of gentrification

the hipster wants to follow the newest trend

who determines which trend is now?

they want to find ease in buying fair trade colombian coffee,

but eat shit at the hot dog stand, hammered and ugly

now there is a problem, a failure in the system and the evil takes over:

they come dressed up as business wo(men) and young professionals, with ideas of how to slut out an area as cool and fast as possible.

where man is, there is woman, or another man, or another woman, or both

cuddle up, in shared apartments,

that’s how they afford a rent, they could not afford before.

having a child or two (tops) resurrects forgotten happiness

and the baby stores pop up

and the mama-friendly cafés and sometimes dogs are welcome too.

ruins that were homes for the poor and the artists for some time, turn into property of higher interest and finally into temples of an aged generation, who now drives their fancy cars in an elevator up to the top floor, to slide from the driver’s seat onto the couch (I’ve seen it in Berlin).


modern houses, not for everybody

money changes everything, always. it’s a currency you can exchange. you go to another country you exchange, craving for a good rate. you exchange for goods. you exchange, you change, YOU change!

where are the local community galleries? they move, they make room for commercial galleries. owned by those who can pay to dictate the art. they tell the good from the bad. they pay for it. they gain profit, they gain popularity, they are established. they exchanged.

where are you now? are you coming straight from high school, begging your parents to pay 1200$, just so you can live where it’s at?
what did you contribute? do you contribute at all?

you recently graduated in university and now you’re looking for a job?

the housing project you wanted to live in so much doesn’t exist any more. do you need it any more, do you miss it? I doubt it.


contribution to the community

a nice apartment, a well paid job and your kids belong to cool and the gang of the neighbourhood? well done! is this your contribution? if you believe it, you failed, by successfully contributing to a system, determined to end the cycle of a dynamic process that changed hundreds, maybe thousands of peoples life’s – they had to move aside, when you moved in – 25 years ago.

mankind often comes like a plague and what we leave behind is a plane, uniform environment, you chose to take over and help to guide into its demise.

shouldn’t you be allowed to live where you want, even if you don’t give anything in return? I don’t know! what I do know is this: by sucking out the blood of a neighbourhood and draining it’s cultural and communal veins, the streets become pale and neighbourhoods silently fade away into a comatose status. you wake up and stare into the mirror, realising, that you are old and never tried to change anything about it.

good night!

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