話說回來，誠實納稅的市民們，除了擁有自尊之外，那些高公共性的公共空間或公共設施，真的是為他們構成的嗎？我看不見得，許多反例正陸續發生。最近的新聞報導，有些市立圖書館委託大型書店營運。還有，2009年澀谷區和大型運動用品公司NIKE締結合約，由NIKE捐贈公園內的設施，條件是區立宮下公園必需改名為「NIKE PARK」，而且全面改造成與以往完全不同形態的運動公園。透過重新命名，這個計畫讓公共公園變成NIKE的形象代表；為了進行改造工程，驅逐原本居住在公園內、大約30名的遊民。而且，「NIKE PARK」將設置形狀像獸欄一樣、巨大的滑板場，目的是將滑板族趕出一般道路，誘導他們進入柵欄之內。此外，這個「NIKE化」的公園將由澀谷區負責管理（當然是用市民的稅金作經費），但是NIKE主辦的活動，有優先使用公園空間的權利。
讓我們回到上述的事件。在引進NIKE計畫之後，澀谷區為了開始施工，決定以圍籬封鎖宮下公園。就在封鎖的前一天，反對這個計畫的藝術家和社會運動者組成「蹲點藝術家」團體（Artist In Residence, A.I.R），在宮下公園裡搭起了帳篷，開始就地創作。隔天，我們一方面以直接行動阻礙搭建圍籬的工事，進行行為藝術的表演，同時展示我們的作品；大約100名的行動者，成功地阻止了澀谷區的封鎖。之後這些「蹲點藝術家」繼續駐紮在公園內，同時將公園開放，以「打造公園」為主題，持續進行就地創作、作品展示、現場音樂會、電影放映會、工作坊、會議、研討會等活動，甚至在公園裡開闢田地。越來越多的人來參觀，進而加入「打造公園」運動，以各自的方式質問所謂「公共」的意義。
伴隨著電視塔「東京天空樹」（Tokyo Sky Tree）的建設，周邊地區開始進行中產階級化。今年，居住在當地的遊民們仍在抵抗。雖然公園與河岸工程的驅趕，帶給露宿在當地的遊民們莫大的壓力，但是他們仍然舉行祭典，開設咖啡座，不但遊民本身組織起來，同時也與前來聲援的群眾互動、形成連盟。緊鄰著遊民們的帳篷與小屋，怪手一邊發出低吼、一邊施工，但是遊民毫不退縮。於是現在，工程處於中止的狀態。
Subversion in Parks and Streets
/ Expert /
/ Written by Misako ICHIMURA /
In a corner of the forest park right at the centre of Tokyo, there is a blue-tent village, a place where the homeless lives. I started to live here since autumn in 2003. And until now, it is still my ideal shelter, as I believe that this is where I could most probably live in the whole Tokyo. The commoners are allowed to live for paying sky-high rent and taxes, and for laboring in stressful employment. Yet, life in the blue-tent village is totally different. Many usable commodities, clothes and edible food are thrown away as rubbish every day in Tokyo. People in this village make a living by collecting and sharing the discarded stuff. Rubbishes not only become resource here, but also a communication tool connecting people. Such alternative community that almost doesn't rely on money actually exists in the park at the centre of Tokyo, world’s most developed metropolis. Of course, a community that runs on such basis is vulnerable, especially to different violent attacks coming from discrimination and prejudice. But right because of the attacks, we need the community. The interdependent connection of people living in the community is what we can never let go.
As I heard that my friend built a tent in the tent village in the park. I paid a visit there – that was the first time I visit the blue-tent village. Back then, more than 300 people were already living here. We have workmen specifying in building tent with the blue waterproof canvas, a common room, a hair salon, and even a place where you can play mah-jong. Deep in the famous forest park in Tokyo, I thought that I had left Tokyo to an unknown place when I saw the tent village. However, this is actually the epitome of reality in Tokyo.
Among the people living in the village, some of them used to feel desperate and even plan to end their life but ended up settling here, some others worked in construction companies that provided meals and accommodation but turned out losing both work and houses on the same day. They all have their own stories before becoming vagrants. Most of them live as vagrants involuntarily. Vagrants are certainly entitled to enjoy social welfare. If they negotiate with the social welfare organization successfully, they may choose to receive social assistance and live in social welfare facilities or social houses. However, most of the people here have experienced failure in living based on money, they would rather stay here and live their own life without relying on loads of money instead of going back to the old days. Isn’t it an escape from and resistance of the capitalist economy? Even right at the heart of Tokyo. I immediately want to live here. This is the life I want unquestionably. I decide to stay in the village and experience the changes with the people here.
After I started living in my own tent here, I set up a barter café with Mr Tetsuo Ogawa, who lived in the village before I came, in front of the tent. We organize art jamming every week. You pay with material instead of money for a tea or coffee. The café is open to people in the blue-tent village, but we also welcome visitors outside the park. So the café becomes where exchanges of the inside and outside take place. Meanwhile, we collect unused materials and distribute them to those in need. The artworks made in the weekly art jamming are used to decorate the café.
People in the blue-tent village are very different people, each with their own personality. Some people cannot get used to the prearranged living space in apartment building. However, in the blue-tent village, people with special needs or the elderly can build their own tents or huts that fit their physical conditions. Making use of discarded materials, some build huts that basically provide everything. Some other guy simply puts his stuff around them, and covers it with a piece of blue canvas. His house is in irregular shape, changing everyday according to his movement and the position of his stuff. When I just came to the village, there was still plenty of room for moving. I lived next door to a guy for a while. People saw me as his subordinate whenever they saw us. It made me very uncomfortable, so I decided to move to the other end of the village alone. Living in this community, you are still under pressure of interpersonal relationship, but it is much more easy to move as compared with people living in apartment.
I have to talk about the gender issue here. The overwhelming majority of the vagrants are male. Only very few women live in this male-dominated community and they have to face a lot of difficulties here. Women have no choice but to live under the imminent threats of violence and sexual violence. I truly feel like this and therefore I started the monthly tea gathering exclusive for women. I started to wander around in order to find out women scattered in the village and invite them to the gathering. We hardly have any interaction and may not even know each other’s existence even though we both live in the village. When we firstly met up in the gathering, we were so shocked to find out that there were actually so many women living here. Among 350 villagers in total, there are around 30 women. We share our own experience during the gatherings. Sometimes we agree with each other, sometimes we don’t and even get divided. But in the blue-tent village, the organic gatherings indeed help to bring together a small bonding in the community. Even though the problems would definitely not be solved by the gatherings, I sense that the power relation between men and women in the community has slightly changed. This women network formed by the tea gatherings makes the life in the male-dominated tent-village much more comfortable.
The gender issue is definitely not exclusive to the vagrant community. Take an open space like a park as example, who, in top priority, is the park open for? Whose position and what kind of thinking gave rise to such decision? These questions are pivotal to everybody, and they exist not only in the public realm, but also in areas usually regarded as private, for instance space like houses and apartments, and even in families. Female and sexual minorities are often exposed to threats of violence and sexual violence. Family, a relationship built up in patriarchy, is exactly the breeding ground of sexual discrimination and sexual violence. The existing “family” relationship often transgresses its role needed for “re-production” and violates human rights with unnecessary fetter. Family privacy is often used as an excuse to mask such evil deed. Both men and women tend to think that female vagrants are exposed to dangers as they have no family and no rooms with lock. But this is all prejudice and stereotype. The dangers are not totally a result of the vagrant life. To women and sexual minorities, both public space, such as parks and stations, and private areas like home are not where they can feel safe and free. Regardless of the situation at the park, we should nonetheless seriously discuss safety and freedom of women in the household.
Another issue that needs to think over is that, park management often accuses vagrants for posing dangers to women and children whenever the issue of safety in public space is discussed. It is irresponsible to describe vagrants as the source of danger and ignore the violence issue that the management must deal with. I am not saying that vagrants hold absolutely no responsibility to the problem. But I must emphasize that accusing vagrants as victimizers is actually a political decision. And it fails to respond to the actual violence, which is in fact eating away the park.
Let’s try to look at capitalism in a gender perspective. Men are often told to be strong, not to show their weakness and protect women and children. If a man fails to meet these demands, he will likely be defeated in the capitalist competition, wander outside the patriarchic system that supports capitalism, and start to worry if he will become a vagrant. Especially for those low-income labours, informal employees and freeters, they feel this threat of capitalism and wish that they wouldn’t become vagrants. They work hard to earn qualifications and engage in employment in order to stay strong, forcing themselves to expose any weakness. These men tend to see vagrants as losers lacking of persistence, and some may even attack the vagrants. In almost all the news about vagrants being attacked, the victimizers are men, mostly teenagers. Influences of the teenagers come from the administration, society values and the adults’ attitude. Gentrification is being carried out by the administration of many districts: they rule all vagrants out of public space, such as parks, riverbanks and station area. The administration never talks and negotiates with the vagrants, however forcefully destroys their tents and demolishes their living space. With such measures, the administration is actually pushing the vagrants to some even more difficult conditions. The administration refuses to think that each vagrant actually has specific needs and opinions, and community has its own collective means of living. Our society shuts up its eyes, pretending such incidents bring no influence to the teenagers at all.
In other words, to people like us who lead a vagrant life, the most enormous threat doesn’t lie in the lack of food or the winter cold, but the discrimination, prejudice, attack and banishment from society.
The patriarchic capitalist society shifts all its anxiety and hatred on to the vagrants and escapes from the real problems that they need to tackle. Is it possible for the vagrants who do not fit the patriarchic capitalist norm to get respect from common people? Women, sexual minorities, children, the poor and even the teenagers who attack the vagrants share exactly the same disadvantageous situation with the vagrants. But they remain in opposition and deny the vagrants. There isn’t any single park where all people are equally free to enjoy. We often say that “park is an open space”, or “the park belongs to everyone”. What these expressions really mean is that the park should be a space where all can express their respective positions and power, and exercise their free will. We do not need imposed “safety”, granted “security”, or approved “freedom”. We say no to all safety measures that attempt to divide us in public space.
Those homeless tend to stay in public space. The administration either pushes us away by saying that public space is not a living space, or persuades us to be independent and ask us to move to social welfare facilities. We have also heard common people having similar opinions.
Let’s talk about the very notion of “public”. The saying that pubic space is not a living space suggests, as public space doesn’t belong to any particular individual, any individual should not occupy the space for a long period of time. Whenever I hear saying like this, I am so eager to tell them that: as long as I have the will to live, I will occupy a certain space (even though in fact I am reluctant to start such conversation with the administration). As long as we stay in public space, such contradiction of unable to separate “public” from “private” will appear. No matter where are we standing, if only we regard the location not belonging to a certain person, all people will then have to face such contradiction. But for those who spend money on houses in their private realm, they would not put such situation into consideration. Moreover, banishing vagrants by asking them to be independent and support themselves is indeed an assumption that “vagrant life is not independent”. There is actually a certain premise behind such thinking: an independent citizen is who is employed, pays for house, engages in consumption and re-production activities, and pays taxes. People who follow such norm will be granted an imaginary “subjectivity” by the government. The so-called “public” is in fact constructed by taxes paid by citizens living in such norm. Tax paying becomes a proof of your independence as “independence = construction of public”. Such system is what the government uses to exercise complete control over “the independent citizens”. As a result, the citizens, in association with the nation that they identify with, tell us in one accord: “Stand on your own feet! Pay taxes!”
Anyway, do the upstanding citizens who pay taxes actually own, beyond their own pride, the public space and public facilities? I don’t really think so. More and more counterexamples are coming up. In recent news, the operation of some city libraries has been outsourced to mega bookstore. In 2009, the Shibuya district signed a contract with the sports brand Nike: Nike will donate all the facilities in the Miyashita Park, and in return the park will be renamed as “Nike Park”. And transformed into a sports park totally different from what the park used to be like. Through renaming, the public park now represents Nike’s image. And due to this renovation, around 30 vagrants who had been living in the park were expelled. A big skateboarding ground is built in the park. However, its design looks like a cage: the objective behind it is to rule the skateboarders out from the streets and get them into the cage like skateboarding ground. Besides, the Shibuya government will be responsible for managing this “Nikelized” park, with taxes from people. However, events organized by Nike will have priority in using the park.
Society blindly strengthens such rationalist belief in productivity. Administration now unites with corporation. Such ideas have been expanded and spread to the public space. Street space related to consumption activities gets bigger and bigger. With ever increasing land price, the poor is expelled. The structure of the street turns into a delicate apparatus, which is made for luring people to buy the products of the big corporation. Because of authority and gigantic power of money, the original self-disciplined culture of the streets, together with empty houses, plaza, alleys and gaps in the city, are all vanished.
Nonetheless, we are not completely impotent under this trend of gentrification.
On the day before Miyashita Park is closed for renovation, artists and activists who opposed to the plan started an Artist in Residence (A.I.R.) programme by building tents and making art in the park. On the following day, we hindered the workers from setting up fences through direct action and at the same time performed performance art and exhibited our works. Around 100 activists successfully stopped the park from being locked up. The A.I.R. remained stationed in the park and opened it under the theme of “Creating the Park”. Events including art making, exhibitions, concerts, screenings, workshops, conferences and seminars were held. And we even started a farm in the park. More and more people came to visit and eventually joined this “Creating the Park” movement. People came and questioned the meaning of the so-called “public” in their own ways.
Six months later, police and security sent by the Shibuya district sealed off the park with a strong hand. They demolished and evacuated all the stuff of the A.I.R. artists. In a statement that followed, Nike repelled renaming the park as “Nike Park”. Nike then started the construction as Miyashita Park was completely sealed off. The park kept its original name, but instead of putting it in Kanji, the name is now shown in Hiragana “みやしたこうえん”. Moreover, the park is now transformed into a district sports park. However, resistance is not yet over. Protests against the park, Shibuya district government and Nike are still on the go.
Now, the ways we spend time, play and rest are all being controlled and dominated through the means of mutual monitoring – even nobody tells us to do so. Since and earthquake and the subsequent nuclear incident on March 11, 2011, rapid revival and development have been constantly carried out. Indeed, we all feel a severe sense of loss towards both meticulous and significant matters now. However, the mass media continues to make use of obsolete symbols of security and hope to hypnotize those who wish to be free from suffering. Such symbols of security and hope are merely shadows from the past. Things that we used to long for – urban development, lies of the modern family – are closely related to the factors leading to the nuclear incident.
We can put it this way: vagrant life is actually an escape from modern family, disobedience towards modern state, and resistance against urban development. Those who act against social will get banished. Space that should be kept open is shut down one by one. Yet, the exiled and those who do not fit with the modern society will break into the closed arena and create their own space as a way of resistance. To people like us, this is what a real space means. This is our living site. Endless possibilities can be found in the park, from a place where strangers gather to an area where we can re-evaluate the urban city.
Parks and streets are certainly not somewhere totally safe. In terms of civilization, perhaps they are the least influenced part of the urban city. They are the battlefields of resistance. I will keep on creating space there. Never letting go.
/ Translated by Sumyi Li (ENG)