Planting Commons through Art ?

Aesthetics of Commons and Commodification in Two Community Gardens in Berlin and Dakar

  • Mareike Schwarz
Keywords: Urban Commons, Public Art, Community Garden, Participation, Commodification


This paper analyses the intersection of urban art and community gardens to explore whether commons can emerge from this collaboration. Through a comparative study of two community garden projects in Berlin and Dakar, the research examines the impact of funding structures, accessibility, artistic concepts and design on commoning. It is motivated by the popular use of the term ‘commons’ in contemporary art discourse that raises concerns of potential ‘commons-washing.’ The findings reveal that the two projects differ significantly in their development context and underlying structures, which affects their ability to function as commons. While central Berlin lacks non-consumer, ecological spaces for inclusive interactions due to its gentrification, Dakar’s open spaces neglected by the city are in need of being reclaimed by the local community. The analysis highlights the challenges of limited accessibility connected to such city contexts. Furthermore, the paper argues, that the dependency of artistic involvement on third-party funding contradicts the principles of commoning. The two projects share a common goal of unlearning exploitative practices and promoting eco-socially cohesive communities. For the artistic forms, materials, and strategies employed in both projects contribute to intercultural dialogue and conflict negotiation at eye level within the communal setting. The paper concludes by emphasizing the need to explore alternative funding models and question traditional processes of art to ensure the genuine realization of urban commons. The integration of artistic imagination with the collective mentality of community gardens holds promise for the emergence of future commons that prioritize shared resources and equal participation.

How to Cite
Schwarz, M. (2023). Planting Commons through Art ?. SAUC - Street Art and Urban Creativity, 9(3), 68 - 79.