consuming the city

Culture has become one of the main tools to promote cities around the world, primarily as a trigger to attract tourists, international corporations and investors. In the context of city branding, culture is positioned as a purely economic asset, a market commodity. But what does it mean for the actual culture of these places?

The case of Malaga (Spain) demonstrates how the process works. Based on the fact that Pablo Picasso was born here, the city developed a branding operation around the famous painter, even though he never developed any artistic activity in Málaga. The branding campaign has caused two different voids. The construction of imported museums and new hotels created an urban void: throughout the city historical buildings have been reduced to mere skeletons which are still empty today. Next to this, a growing number of inner-city residents have left their neighbourhoods. They escaped from the tourist mad house, creating a social void. The celebration of imposed culture will eventually lead to the disappearance of a local culture that took ages to grow.

Consuming the City investigates an alternative to the cultural branding of Málaga; a model that might be valid for other ‘cities of culture’ around the world. The challenge is to start developing a bottom-up counter strategy in which local collectives and communities are given a voice. They have a chance to speak up and spread their knowledge. They will turn a city of culture into the city of their culture.