On the 26th of June I participated in the Creativity of Property workshop at UCL which I helped convene.  Together with two other PhD students at UCL I have been thinking through some of the ideas that were explored in this workshop.

Namely these ideas relate to how creative practices are involved in shaping the ways in which we as humans relate to each other through land, territory, space, legal discourses and so on… we focused on property in the workshop as a particular mode of ownership which brings about a certain way of relating to each other.  To explain myself further I’ll run through how the day went.

We started with Charlotte Johnson from Newcastle University whose talk (The Urge to Tidy: Fashioning post –neoliberal property out of shared attics and basements in residential buildings in Belgrade) investigated what happens when a particular mode of relation to space, namely the socialist communal ideal of shared space seen here is shared attics space is managed in a post-socialist society.  She mentioned that a mode of relations was “literally built into the fabric of the building”.  I found this idea fascinating and wondered how it this idea might look when applied to the everyday English suburb.  Tom McDonald and Meixuan Chen both talked about the changes in Chinese society with the former looking at hosting and how karaoke bars as a hired space reflect yet simultaneously change the hosting relation between host, guest and help (service) through the use of commercialised hosting space.  A vegetable patch featured in Chen’s work where genealogical lines, community notions of ‘the greater good’ and state notions of communal land were mixed together in the debates around how and if to sell land and who should, might and could benefit from such an exchange.


A fundamental philosophical question was posed by Luke Bennett who asked if the Lockien notion of ownership, relating to the application of labour to natural state leads to the acquisition of property, then what happens when property is in excess in relation to the amounts of labour able to be applied to it?  What do to with the excessive present space…?  Put the toilet roll in the freezer was amongst the answers.  Rafael Schacter’s paper moved us to looking at the practice of participating and asked questions of daubing on walls through his account of graffiti in Madrid merging notions of owning, aesthetics, action over substance and style over substance.


Nick Gadsby, through his study of the players of second life asked what digital items acquired through the game meant in relation to Mauss’s theories of the gift and in relation to the notion of abandoning relations.  He skilfully applied this idea to a exchange of slushy machine (a gift in ‘real life’ not in the game) between two participants and how this worked to release a relation of debt of favour and kindness yet simultaneously created a relation of kindness and appreciation to the ways in which players can abandon items and players in the game.  Amy Hinterberger, Natalie Porter and Mike Upton all talked about the relation of the body, drugs, IP rights, who owns genomes, the right to drugs and much more.  This stimulated some productive conversations between them and in the group as a whole. The day ended nicely with a consideration of how one human may own another through a form of relation through a focus on the slavery and kinship relation in Amazonia by Marc Brightman.  My mind spun to the ways in which such relations might work in everyday late liberal societies.  To help make sense of the many ideas and conversations we allowed plenty of room for discussion and Dr Eric Hirsch and Dr James Leech kindly opened up the discussions for us and added some much appreciated experience, expertise and intellectual reflections on the papers.

Overall the day was a success if it aimed to open up ideas of creativity as a mode of forming relations of owning.  Debates ranged as to the definition of property, the difference to owning.  People discussed how useful these debates were and the PhD students iron some of the creases in thought around such ideas.  Thanks you to all who came, presented and discussed.