Unfixing Hamilton

Let us think together.

Hamilton, so frequently imagined as “the city that once worked,” is now imagined as “the city in need of fixing.” The current drive “to fix” the downtown core in particular results in narrow imaginings that endorse a “cleansing” and uniformity aimed at displacing some of the city’s most marginalized members. In this article, we examine an art exhibit that, through its deployment of images of surveillance, raises questions about the role of artists and the arts in gentrification at the local level, and leaves us asking: how do we go about unfixing the fixed images of the city, particularly of those who are imagined to live the lives of those fixed images?

Unfixing Imaginings of the City: Art, Gentrification, and Cultures of Surveillance, by Phanuel Antwi and Amber Dean

What does that mean to you? What might this unfixing look like? My associates and myself have endeavoured to grapple with this analysis a little further. Throughout my stay here in Hamilton, I have done more borrowing than giving back. I came and I took up space, I borrowed a Hamilton postal code, took advantage of this prestigious education, used Hamiltonians as specimens for much of my cultural and academic interests, and constantly use my Hamilton Public Library card. All of this is good for me, in the human development sort of sense, but what have I done for – or what have I done to – Hamilton?

I write for the Mac Pop the Bubble blog as an attempt to better integrate myself as a citizen who is not simply borrowing. Instead of coming, taking what I want and then leaving, moving on to the next city where I will “start” my life, I hope to recognize my existence in Hamilton as an ingredient in this living organism we call a city. The hope is that some of the borders and barriers that classify X as Hamiltonian and Y as immigrant to Hamilton can be rendered obsolete.

The above excerpt pinpoints a project that I think we should all consider: it’s about unfixing. It’s about discrediting stereotypes, recognizing ourselves in others rather than ourselves as apart from others. It’s about respecting the living beings in a city so that we can proceed with caution instead of destruction as we “insert solution here”. Disrupting the idea that Hamilton needs “fixing” and instead appreciating the malleability and fluidity of our cultural mosaic is a step toward the “unfixing” of our city. The ideology that communities are static, or that negative views stick, is exactly the problem. Let us think about how we can free each other and expand our minds into imagining Hamilton as a living, breathing entity with personality and vigor that demands the respect we would give to an individual. How do we unfix the view of Hamilton as dirty place to be avoided? We stop avoiding it. We live and breathe with it. We participate in it and recognize our places within it. Think about it.

For more information, please visit: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/oh-hamilton-zine

Written by: Ashley Marshall