The PARK LEK project was a durational multidimensional participatory art project I realized from 2010 – 2014. It contested and ultimately transformed the planning procedure of two urban areas of the city of Sundbyberg, just outside of Stockholm in Sweden.
From April to September 2019, it was included in a group exhibition DET ANDET STED/ The Other Place, at the Danish National Museum of Art in Public Places KOES. Included artists/ artworks were also Katie Paterson with Future Library, Ragnar Kjartansson with Figures in Landscape, Alex Hartley with Nowhereisland, Héctor Zamora with Zeppelin Swarm, and AVPD with Light Tower, Time Light, Gravity Lamp.
The exhibition was curated by Ulrikke Neergaard. Her aim was “.. to present.. six art projects, that during the past decade have revolutionized our understanding of what public art can be and created radically new encounters between contemporary art and the public. Each of the six projects rethinks central factors that play a key role in public art: time, place and participation. Each of them creates remarkable, poetic and pertinent new connections, bringing the capacity of art to spark the imagination to life, and taking us to other places.”
Ulrikke Neegaard introduced the PARK LEK project with the following:
PARK LEK is a visionary social art project by Swedish artist Kerstin Bergendal, rethinking urban planning in three phases of development and implementation in the Stockholm suburb of Sundbyberg from 2010–2014.
Sundbyberg is the most densely populated suburb in Sweden. Despite which, in 2010 a new urban development plan was on the cards – a plan that would mean the few remaining green areas between the neighbourhoods of Hallonbergen and Ör being swallowed by even more housing and an even higher population density, as well as segregating them.
Invited by the Marabouparken Art Gallery in Sundbyberg, Bergendal started the project PARK LEK, where she worked with residents, staff in the local youth club, shopping centre and football clubs, as well as urban planners, developers, politicians and many, many more over the next four years. Bergendal kickstarted, facilitated and documented the exchange and negotiation of different values, interests, needs, and points of view on the development of the area.
The video interviews were shared on social media during the first and second phase of the project – PARK LEK I and PARK LEK II – and led to endless meetings, focus groups and brainstorming sessions. This generated the third phase the project, PARK LEK PARLIAMENT. Here different groups – based in a corner of the local shopping center painted in pink, and often gathered around a large architect-built model of the area – rethought its future from asocial, cultural and planning perspective. Gradually a new plan emerged, a plan made by the people whose lives it would affect, either directly or indirectly.
This third phase of the project was managed and funded by the local authorities, who agreed to channel the collated experiences and expertise of the hundreds of participants in PARK LEK I and PARK LEK II into the council’s plans and strategies.
In May 2014 PARK LEK culminated with the local council deciding to implement the new model for the area that had been collectively developed during the project’s four-year process of negotiation. Since then a new youth club has been established, a community centre have been built, and there are now two parks in the area between the blocks of flats originally slated as a built-up zone.
This kind of influence on urban planning through an art project is unprecedented. Its strength, but crucially also its method, makes PARK PLAY one of the most significant European contributions to public art dedicated to generating social change through long-term, participatory processes.”