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The practice of “possessing” space, even temporarily, whether private or public, is Appropriation. This act of possession challenges the established social order identified in, or with, a particular space. Because civic squares represent the power of the regime through architectural aesthetics and symbols, they are the most notable demonstrations of this phenomenon of appropriation. In other words, appropriation, especially in civic squares, challenges rules, laws and social codes that govern that space.

The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, marching in circles around the monument in the plaza, perform a repetitive ritual that redefines access to, and the appearance and representation of, urban space. This act reclaims the space and thus modifies its cultural meaning. Similarly, Israeli “Women in Black” temporarily appropriate “informal public spaces” throughout Israel every Friday afternoon. These relatively small groups decide their own spatial configuration and performance acts. In the case of large assemblies, the powers (i.e. political parties, institutions) often choose to maintain control and order by actually collaborating with activists through a careful selection of spaces of a certain size, scale, and orientation.

These highly controlled gatherings offer a benefit to participants because their scale enhances the crowd’s experience of togetherness and solidarity, which in turn intensifies their impact. However, when the highly controlled gathering veers off its agreed course (in terms of scale, patterns of movement, with intervention of the state or other uninvited persons, etc.) violence can erupt.

In terms of the regime’s control, modern technology and surveillance are the most effective means. However, surveillance and enforced order may be resisted through socio-political agencies, as in the case of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Monday demonstrations in Leipzig, etc. In other words, what is at first conceived as a means of control can also serve as a means of liberation and mediation.

PENGON/Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign Tali Hatuka Sandra Bracho. Archivo El Nacional Yair Gil, Tali Hatuka