A Conversation with Matej Vakula and Janeil Engelstad, September 2015
Janeil Engelstad (JE): Have you experienced any differences in the impact of the project that you attribute to the specific culture of a place?
Matej Vakula (MV):Yes, certainly with every workshop. Every space is highly specific and requires educational constructs precisely tailored towards specific cultures of each site. The very nature of MfPS is to discover and to work with these different cultures, but also to compare and research them at a global level.
With this in mind, we can look at the whole project as being literally built from changes and ideas that are coming from specific sites and also that ideas coming from one site can be modified to fit needs of a different site.
JE: Often that is easier said than done
MV: When you want to change a place first thing is to try to change its culture. A change in culture opens the place for all the other changes, including the physical one.
Let me give you an example: If people living in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn want to remediate the polluted environment where they live, first thing would be to gather smaller group of concerned citizens who have the energy to change the thinking of the neighborhood on a larger scale and raise awareness about the issue. This can be done through many different cultural channels. Later on they can create some proposals, which have to culturally resonate and “sink” into the people who inhabit that certain area. So the group of concerned citizens from the certain site creates a culture for the wider community of that area. The wider community either assimilates that culture and modifies it further to meet its needs or rejects it. After assimilating the culture the crowd is large enough to bring on real change on a political, financial or urban level.
JE: So many of the problems that we face as a society are systematic or structural, such has racism, how do you approach structural roadblocks that are deeply embedded into systems wit ha project that MfPS?
MV: Within the MfPS project I am specifically interested in nurturing this systematic approach via methods of DIY movement and DIY science. Now, part of the specific approach that is being developed by people in Greenpoint contain actions that come from another manual which was made somewhere else before that. The participants are re-using these actions. For example, an action where the participants in Poland collected concerns and ideas from local inhabitants to then develop a plan of action based on the citizens needs has undergone minor cultural adaptations that fits the needs of people living in Greenpoint.
JE: What do you hope to accomplish in the long run with MfPS?
MV: I am hoping to build truly working international community around the project. This community will gather around a strong simple to use archive with manuals online and offline. Through this community I am hoping to achieve two goals: to research status and perceptions of public space around the world, and to identify, internationally compare and provide solutions to issues connected to people using public spaces around the world.