Neutral surface mode does not exist

There is no such thing as an impartial surface, free from invisible tensions and palpable material constraints. Surfaces generate capital by hosting consumerist messages or promoting city-wide agendas of regeneration and placemaking; they become objects of adoration and unattainability when embellishing contemporary architectural icons; they evolve into bi-dimensional monuments of aesthetic and heritage interest; and they are tools of exclusion and control in the fight for the image of the city. In fact, I would suggest that surfaces are the image of the city, hence the high stakes in protecting their desired aspect, and predicting any potential threats to their integrity.

The spaces of exclusion of the neoliberal city often appear in the form of private ownership of public spaces, which also reflects in the treatment of surfaces. Hostile surfaces, just like hostile architecture, are designed to preclude any unwanted inscriptions and to offer customised, built-in rejection of nonconformist signage. These coatings densify surfaces even more, and they slyly politicise the materiality of the surface by not declaring their presence. The resulting under-cover surfaces will less readily accept dispute and inscription, but they will nevertheless maintain their exposure and vulnerability, albeit in a less accessible way. Ultimately, it all goes down on the surfacescape: reinforcements, breaches, commodification, acceptance, segregation, conviviality, occupation – and there is no better way to examine these than by looking at inscriptions.

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