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Markus Miessen

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Crossbenching: Towards a proactive mode of participation as a Critical Spatial Practice

Welcome to Harmonistan! Over the last two decades, the term “participation” has become increasingly overused. When everyone has been turned into a participant, the often uncritical, innocent, and romantic use of the term has become frightening. Supported by a repeatedly nostalgic veneer of worthiness, phony solidarity, and political correctness, “participation” has become the default of protagonists withdrawing from responsibility. Similar to the notion of an independent politician dissociated from a specific party, this research work encourages the role of the “crossbench practitioner,” an “uninterested outsider” and “uncalled participator” who is not limited by existing protocols, and who enters the arena with nothing but creative intellect and the will to generate change.

As a practiced-based PhD research and working methodology, a publishing and exhibition regime was established in order to constantly test ideas and concepts against reality, while installing a continuous feedback loop.

Arguing for an urgent inversion of participation—a model beyond modes of consensus—the work candidly reflects on the limits and traps of its real motivations, instead of reading participation as the charitable saviour of political struggle. Rather than breading the next generation of consensual facilitators and mediators, this work argues for conflict as an enabling, instead of disabling, force. “Crossbenching” calls for a format of conflictual participation—no longer a process by which others are invited “in,” but a means of acting without mandate, as uninvited irritant: a forced entry into fields of knowledge that arguably benefit from exterior thinking.

Sometimes, democracy has to be avoided at all costs.

Member of Roundtable One