Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Cities / Healthy Cities

Healthy City Design 2018

Processes and practices for performing city resilience in a healthy city

By Patrick Duggan and Stuart Andrews 24 Jan 2019 0

This talk discusses the key terms in this emerging lexicon: listening, gathering and challenging. These arise from observations and interviews, and analysis of two recent performances: ‘New Water Music’ (New Orleans Airlift) and ‘Cry You One’ (Mondo Bizarro).


Despite significant interest in city resilience and the development of corresponding resilience strategies there has been no substantial study of the usefulness of artistic and cultural practice to understandings and practices of resilience.

We offer initial findings from the first case study of Performing City Resilience, a collaborative project investigating how cultural production (especially live performance) contributes to and reconfigures ideas and practices of city ‘resilience’.

Rodin (2015) argues that we should not want to make ourselves, communities, businesses and cities forever fixed, but instead capable of absorbing disruptions and converting them into change that contributes to the system’s overall functioning and purpose. In that context, what role can the arts play in embedding adaptability and capacity to absorb disruption in ways that are not ‘simply’ about infrastructure, and what we might think of as hard science engagement with a place and its people?

The arts, we argue, have a fundamental role to play in local resilience practices and, potentially, global resilience thinking. This is because arts practices think differently and so might illuminate alternate answers to those set out in extant resilience thinking.

Our paper takes, as its starting point, New Orleans chief resilience officer Ryan Mast’s assertion that resilience needs to remain a fluid, somewhat undefined idea if it’s to be a productive intellectual and practical force. Drawing on field research in his city, we respond to the need identified by Arts Council New Orleans and attendees at a public workshop for a shared lexicon of arts and resilience that facilitates meaningful conversations between arts professionals and city stakeholders. This would reveal the contribution the arts can make to the ways cities ‘think themselves through’ and contribute to more nuanced understandings of resilience in a global context.

Organisations involved