The senses as direct theoreticians in practice



The senses are relationally produced through, in part, the everyday activities of making urban space. This reciprocal relationship suggests new ways of exploring the conditions of possibility for an urban politics. In seeking to chart such possibilities, we turn to the twofold understanding of aesthetics found within Marx’s critique of political economy, using this as a lens through which to learn from the practices of insurgent artists and anarchitects as they perform ‘relational urban interventions’ in the cities of London and New York. Just as Marx railed against the anaesthetising tendencies of capitalist society, and saw within communism the possibilities for the liberation of the senses and the freeing of creative activity, so relational urban interventions develop a twofold aesthetic model. Nevertheless, recent scholarly attempts to consider the political life of sensation and to theorise the relationship between space and politics have been filtered through a post-Althusserian lens that is less attentive to emergent possibilities within critical spatial practice. Taking a different tack, we call for a philosophy of praxis that builds on an understanding of relational sensuousness and a Marxist aesthetics in order to prise open the conditions of possibility for an urban politics.