Furnishing Positions 06

Mary Lou Lobsinger/
Scott Sørli
Edited by Adrian Blackwell and Christine Shaw

This publication series is part of the comissioned project Furnishing Positions by Adrian Blackwell and is produced in conjunction with the 2014 exhibition FALSEWORK

Double-sided broadsheet, 18" x 18"

Abbas Akhavan image
Scott Sørli, G20 Police Kettle: Queen and Spadina, 2012.

City / Urbanization: How do public spaces combine to make cities?

Architectural historian Pier Vittorio Aureli claims that the ancient Greek City-State, the polis, predates politics and that politics was born in the city. Today many people argue that the city (at least as it was defined before the twentieth century) no longer exists. Instead of discrete cities with defined boundaries, we have a continuous and planetary process of urbanization. However, even this process involves public space insofar as the infrastructures that facilitate this sprawl are public goods. This voracious and expanding system of organization is not primarily political, but economic, and as a result its public spaces are apolitical and thus unable to offer a locus for rational resistance to the expansionary and destructive logic of development.

Artist Project and Text:
Scott Sørli, G20 Police Kettle: Queen and Spadina, 2012. Incorporating found photo by Eldar Curovic: “An aerial view of the kettling seen from up high on the southhwest corner of Queen and Spadina, on June 27, 2010.” The Toronto Star, 27 June 2010. Retrieved online 2012-03-18.

Mary Lou Lobsinger, "Units of Measure," 2014.

Furnishing Positions is a serial publication that focuses on the paradoxical nature of public space. Its standard form is an 18”x18” broadsheet, consisting of an artist’s project on one side and a text on the other. It will be published once every two weeks for three months, starting September 15, 2014, with each issue focusing on a specific paradox. As a serial, each issue builds on earlier editions. As each issue is published, it will be hung and made available for free in the Blackwood Gallery, posted to the gallery’s website, postered in public sites, and circulated electronically. As the exhibition progresses these broadsheets will accumulate, generating and animating conversations in the space.

Furnishing Positions (Broadsheet) is part of Adrian Blackwell’s project, Furnishing Positions, commissioned by the Blackwood Gallery and presented in conjunction with the exhibition FALSEWORK, September 15 – December 7, 2014.


Political theorist Chantal Mouffe is certainly not alone in questioning the contradictions and abstractions within current political theory. But what stands out is her emphatic claim that the uncontested hegemony of liberalism puts the genuinely political in jeopardy, a position that pivots upon the assertion that conflict is “integral to human society, that antagonism is ineradicable.” [1] Identities are formed through conflict. Antagonism is integral to the political, there can be no consensus without exclusion, no form of the political without recognition of a dominant, and no understanding of public or private without identifying an outside, a “they” constructed and dependent upon a “we.” The task of democratic politics, as Mouffe would have it, is not merely to manage conflict but to turn antagonism into democratic agonism, turning enemies into adversaries engaged in the process of irresolvable, paradoxical, and conflictual consensus. There can be coalitions across a range of political sites and wars of position. Admitting that conflict is integral to the political means acknowledging that there are instances where “no rational solution could ever exist.” [2]

-Excerpted from Mary Lou Lobsinger, "Units of Measure."

1. Chantal Mouffe, On the Political (London: Routledge, 2005), 10.
2. Ibid.


Police kettling is a recent spatial phenomenon in which the police use a line of their bodies as a cordon to encircle and hold in place up to several hundred people over an extended duration of time. The police kettle is held in the public realm, but it is also itself an architectural and urban infrastructure that reconfigures public space. The formal and material qualities of the kettle are developing quickly, in tandem with other technological advancements of policing (including surveillance, weaponry, tactical training, and militarization).

Police kettles generate intense experience through the precise deployment of atmospheric techniques. Once a police kettle is put in place, a performance begins: the sun goes down and it gets dark; temperatures fall and it gets cold; relative humidity rises, moisture condenses, and it often rains. The atmosphere—our medium of existence—is regularly altered with tear gas, pepper spray, sound cannons, and electrical shocks. At a lower level, the biological organism experiences discomfort through the enforced prohibition of drinking water, consuming food, excreting waste, or changing a tampon or pad.

Special black costumes suppress the individuality of the police officers, assembling them as an anonymous mass. This collective body, while less tidy than the Tiller Girls’ dance formations or North Korea’s Mass Games, is equally aesthetic. The negative emotions of those kettled include anger, fear, anxiety, dread, hopelessness, and despair; because of its indiscriminate nature, kettling is a clear example of collective punishment.

Police kettling is an intermittent yet iconic function of urbanization. As the formal and material manifestation of global economic expansion, urbanization opposes the city as a political construct. Civic action, such as the political protests against neo-liberal hegemony at the Toronto G20 meeting, is met with oppression that takes on a specific spatial and temporal configuration. The coherence of form and politics coincide with unusual clarity in a police kettle.

Most of those kettled at Queen and Spadina on June 27, 2010 were not protesters, but rather an assortment of shoppers, cyclists, tourists, seniors, lovers, and curious bystanders, not one of whom was subsequently convicted of any charge. In this case, the kettle, as a temporal urban infrastructure, constructed a dynamic political space: the police kettle politicized urbanites into citizenry. A crystal of civic space arose within and out of the generalized space of oppression.

The motives of the G20 police kettle are a question for many. It was either a live test or a threat. Probably both. As the implementation of economic austerity programs by political-corporate elites continues, repressive technologies that aesthetically transmit affect will not only increase in number and sensation, but will also mutate and intensify. As Benjamin writes in his famous Artwork essay, these continued efforts to “aestheticize politics culminate in one point. That one point is war.” [1]

-text by Scott Sørli accompanying his work G20 Police Kettle: Queen and Spadina, 27 June 2010, 2014.

1. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility,” in The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, And Other Writings on Media, ed. Michael W. Jennings, Brigid Doherty and Thomas Y. Levin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008), 121–122.

Contributors' Biographies

Mary Lou Lobsinger’s writing and research focus on the history and theory of contemporary architecture and urbanism. Lobsinger’s publications can be found in Grey Room, Werk, Daidalos, Journal of Architectural Education, Thresholds, Architecture+Ideas, Scapegoat, Transmissions,and in various anthologies such as A Second Modernism: MIT, Architecture and the “Technosocial” Moment, Atomic Dwelling: Anxiety, Domesticity, and Postwar Architecture, Architectural Periodicals in the 1960s and ’70s, Import-Export: Postwar Modernism in an Expanding World, 1945-1975, Le Città visibili, Concrete Toronto, Italian Cityscapes: Culture and Urban Change, and Anxious Modernism: Experimentation in Postwar Architectural Culture. She has two current book projects, the completed Realist Impulse (on postwar Italian architectural discourse), and one entitled Neo-avant-gardism and the Politics of Post-materialism. Lobsinger is also completing a video project presently titled Urban Economic Motor. She is Associate Professor of History and Theory of Architecture at the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design.

Scott Sørli’s trans-disciplinary practice concerns itself with moments when form and matter engage the economic and political forces that produce the city. He is co-founder of convenience, a window gallery that provides an opening for art that engages, experiments, and takes risks within the architectural, urban, and civic realms. He is also chair of Toronto’s peace subcommittee of the Nathan Phillips Square Community Advisory Committee. Sørli has taught architecture at several institutions, most recently in Jakarta, Indonesia; a book and exhibition on the work of the Inundation research studio conducted there will be published in fall 2014.


Publisher: Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto Mississauga
Artist: Adrian Blackwell
Curator: Christine Shaw
Editors: Adrian Blackwell, Christine Shaw
Designer: Matthew Hoffman
Copy Editor: Jeffrey Malecki
Printer: Captain Printworks
Abbas Akhavan
Adrian Blackwell
Eric Cazdyn
Greig de Peuter
Kanishka Goonewardena
Karen Houle
Mary Lou Lobsinger
Dylan Miner
Paige Sarlin
Scott Sørli
Charles Stankievech
Kika Thorne
cheyanne turions

How To Order

The Furnishing Positions broadsheets are all available for free download. To order free printed copies of any or all of them, please send an email including title(s), number of copies, and your mailing address to:


Issues in this Series

00, Six Paradoxes, 15/09/2014
01, Affinity / Disagreement, 15/09/2014
02, Representation / Presentation, 29/09/2014
03, Materiality / Immateriality, 14/10/2014
04, People / Things, 27/10/2014
05, Privacy / Publicity, 10/11/2014
06, City / Urbanization, 24/11/2014

Related Projects

Furnishing Positions
Commissioned Project
by Adrian Blackwell
September 15 - December 7, 2014

September 15 - December 7, 2014
curated by Christine Shaw