Ralph Bunche Park: At the Intersection of Opposition
Ralph Bunche Park, a one acre public park opposite from the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, provides the only space for political action within close proximity to the UN complex’s demarcated international zone. The highly politicized extraterritoriality of the United Nations contrasts vividly against the isolated, deterritorialized public sphere of the park, a civic zone which is clearly subordinate to the political entities who meet in the General Assembly. Despite the fragility of this small space to host political activities, the park offers a unique opportunity for protestors to occupy a highly visible, though easily policed, space located directly along the arrival route for UN ambassadors and politicians.
In order to subvert the existing power hierarchy between the protesting public and the United Nations, I have appropriated Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of deterritorialization as an affective design strategy. This spatial negotiation, whether physical, psychological, or temporal, requires an establishment and recognition of a delineating boundary. Here, the boundary, or threshold, between the public sphere and the extra-state zone is of particular interest. The process of deterritorialization and reframing does not flow in a single direction; rather, there is an inherent possibility of reversal and reciprocity. The proposed lighting schemes question how the oscillating actions of deterritorialization and reterritorialization inform the power structures of the site and subversively negotiate the implied boundary of the park. This ambivalence of agency creates an unstable state of occupation and oppression that amplifies the dialogue between the public and the international political community.