This project aimed to re-invigorate the theory and practice of community in the present. Power does have a positive part to play in the making of community as an enabling, transformative, creative site of civil life. The power in question is authority – a specific type of power that functions through consent and structures of knowledge. Authority is created through the generation, accumulation and performance of experience-based knowledge.
Whilst ‘authority’ has been associated with ‘top down’, ‘traditionalist-authoritarian’ or ‘bureaucratic’ productions of community in recent debate, this project drew attention to immanent, ‘bottom-up’, forms of authority. As such, it consolidates understandings of the role of power in the creation, rather than the manipulation, of community.
A theoretical analysis of the relationship between authority and community explains and emphasises the importance of practices of experience-based knowledge creation, accumulation and performance in the development and empowerment of community. Experience-based knowledge is ‘excessive’, aesthetic and experimental (exceeding the present moment, individual understanding, and information forms of communication). This highlights the importance of creative, aesthetic and experimental practices and performance in the making of community – practices including public art, place-creation and testimony. Thinking the role of aesthetics in the making of community in terms of authority facilitates the development of a non-essentialist understanding of the importance of culture for community.