Publications

Katya Assaf Zakharov and Schnetgöke, Tim . 9/20/2022. (Un)Official Cityscapes: The Battle Over Urban Narratives. Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, 57, 1, Pp. 177-270. Publisher’s Version

The visual design of urban public spaces (hereinafter “cityscape”) has an important impact on city life – it can channel interpersonal communication into certain directions while excluding others; it can powerfully communicate notions of what is socially acceptable or important. Yet, while everyone may access urban public spaces, cityscapes are designed by a very limited social group, consisting predominantly of property owners, politicians, and commercial enterprises.

This paper focuses on the narratives embedded in the cityscapes. Analyzing legal conflicts arising around expressions that seek their way into the shared visual environment, as well as expressions whose presence in the cityscapes is disputed, we trace the dynamics of battles over urban narratives. Our discussion encompasses various legal fields – such as government speech, zoning regulations, graffiti, and the protection of artworks against destruction – aiming to provide a comprehensive picture of the battleground over narratives constructing our visual environment.

The discussion of legal rules is complemented by photographs. Rather than illustrating the text, the photographs will relate to the discussed topics in their own way, offering the reader a visual tour through the narratives of urban public spaces.

Our inquiry reveals that several narratives – such as consumerism and patriotism – are constant winners in the battles over the cityscapes, whereas others – such as social and political critique – are permanent losers. This situation is unjustified. Cityscapes are important media of communication that should be used to develop a meaningful democratic discourse rather than buttressing widespread views. We suggest redefining the boundaries of property right in a way that would disconnect real estate ownership from the right to design the shared public spaces. Visible urban surfaces will then be used as a medium of free expression, creating cityscapes as ever-evolving collages of the residents’ expressions.

Bis Ende August werden auf 1500 City-Light-Plakaten der Werbefirma Wall Bilder, Sprüche oder Gedanken von Berlinern gezeigt. Die Initiatoren der einmaligen Mitmachaktion “Du bist am Zug” wollen so die Stimmen der Menschen in der Stadt sichtbar machen.

5/27/2022. Projekt Du Bist Am Zug Gestartet. Blickpunkt Brandenburg. . Publisher’s Version

“Du bist am Zug“ ist ein kunstwissenschaftliches Projekt, bei dem kreative Beiträge im öffentlichen Raum präsentiert werden. Im Juli und August werden in Kooperation mit der Wall GmbH und dem Urban Nation Museum 1500 City-Light Plakate in Berlin verlost, die von den Menschen in der Stadt frei gestaltet werden können.

Im Juli und August werden auf 1500 City-Light-Plakaten der Werbefirma Wall Bilder, Sprüche oder Gedanken von Berlinern gezeigt. Jeder kann mitmachen, Vorgaben gibt es keine. Das Forschungsprojekt „Du bist am Zug“ ist „ein erster Versuch gemeinsam gestalteter Öffentlichkeit“, wie es heißt.

Stefanie Hofeditz. 5/17/2022. Aktion Du Bist Am Zug Bringt Sie Auf Plakatwaenden Gross Raus. B.z. – Die Stimme Berlins. Publisher’s Version

Was sehen wir in unserer Stadt? Werbung, Läden, Häuser. Und wo bleiben wir – die Menschen, die in Berlin leben?

Mehr Sichtbarkeit, mehr Teilhabe am und im öffentlichen Raum für Bewohner – das will die Aktion „Du bist am Zug“.

Stefan Bartylla. 5/16/2022. Ein Instagram Fuers Sommerliche Strassenbild. Berliner Abendblatt. . Publisher’s Version

Im Juli und August 2022 werden in Kooperation mit der Wall GmbH und dem URBAN NATION Museum 1.500 Plätze auf City-Light Plakaten in Berlin verlost, die von den Menschen in der Stadt frei gestaltet und in ganz Berlin präsentiert werden.

„Du bist am Zug“ heißt das kunstwissenschaftliche Projekt, bei dem kreative Beiträge Berliner Bürger im öffentlichen Raum zu sehen sind und eine Art „Instagram“ im Berliner Straßenbild bilden werden.

Katya Assaf Zakharov and Schnetgöke, Tim . 2022. Urban Semantics Through Law And Photography. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies, 14, 2, Pp. 52-79. . Publisher’s Version

The visual design of urban public spaces (hereinafter “cityscape”) has an important impact on city life – it can channel interpersonal communication into certain directions while excluding others; it can powerfully communicate notions of what is socially acceptable or important. Yet, while everyone may access urban public spaces, cityscapes are designed by a very limited social group. This paper focuses on the narratives embedded in the cityscapes. Analyzing legal conflicts arising around expressions that seek their way into the shared visual environment, as well as expressions whose presence in the cityscapes is disputed, we trace the dynamics of battles over urban narratives. The discussion of legal rules is complemented by photographs. Rather than illustrating the text, the photographs will relate to the discussed topics in their own way, enriching the discussion and broadening its perspective.

Katya Assaf Zakharov. 12/2022. Who Owns Public Spaces? (In Hebrew). Hujicast. Hebrew University. . Publisher’s Version

This project seeks to reveal the nature of graffiti prohibition as content-based speech regulation. It will unearth the practice of favoring messages conforming to prevailing narratives and aesthetic standards. This research is very timely given the role of graffiti in the recent “Black Lives Matter” uprisings. The authors’ groundbreaking proposal to introduce a right to free expression on city surfaces promises to open an avenue for non-violent, yet powerful protests, fostering social change.

Tags: Diversity, Social Cohesion, Right to the city, Public spaces, Active Citizenship, Graffiti, Street art

Katya Assaf Zakharov and Schnetgöke, Tim . 5/14/2021. Reading The Illegible: Can Law Understand Graffiti?. Connecticut Law Review, 53, 1, Pp. 117-153. Publisher’s Version

This essay focuses on graffiti—the practice of illegal writing and painting on trains, walls, bridges, and other publicly visible surfaces. Social responses to graffiti are highly ambivalent. On the one hand, media often picture graffiti painters as “vandals” and “hooligans.” Local authorities define graffiti as an “epidemic” and declare “wars on graffiti.” On the other hand, graffiti is recognized as a valuable form of art, exhibited in mainstream museums sold for high prices. Reflecting the ambivalent social attitude, the legal treatment of graffiti is highly uneven, punishing some graffiti writers for vandalism while granting copyright protection to others. Scholars have made various suggestions regarding the legal regulation of graffiti, ranging from toughening the criminal sanctions to providing more legalized spaces and art programs for the painters. Yet to date, no attempt has been undertaken to understand the dissenting message of graffiti and to consider an adequate legal response to this message. As Jean Baudrillard suggested, the subtle message of graffiti “must be heard and understood.” Doing this, in the legal sphere, is the central goal of this essay. Instead of suppressing or manipulating graffiti, we propose to answer its message with redefining the boundaries of physical property so as to restrict owners’ control over surfaces that shape our urban landscape. These surfaces will then be used as a medium of free visual expression, creating a public “forum” in its classical sense: a place of discussion, opinion exchange, and purely aesthetic expression.

A lawyer and a photographer explain why we should not let the ability to shape public space be taken out of our hands.

In this episode, Katya Assaf Zakharov, Assistant Professor of Law in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law and the DAAD Center for German Studies, and Tim Schnetgoeke, a professional photographer, discuss their article “Reading the Illegible: Can Law Understand Graffiti?,” which will be published in the Connecticut Law Review. They begin by explaining what graffiti is and what makes it unique. They observe that copyright law and other legal doctrines lack the capacity to property account for graffiti and its motives. And they argue that there should be a right to create graffiti, in order to transform urban spaces.

This episode was hosted by Brian L.