Nine Urban Biotopes: Negotiating the Future of Urban Living

Nine Urban Biotopes (9UB) was initiated by the Berlin-based arts organisation Urban Dialogues. Directed by Stefan Horn, and with partners in London, Paris, Turin, Berlin, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, this  project aimed to generate a trans-local dialogue on  the future of urban living. I was part of the South African research and curatorial team during the 2013 planning stages,  and worked on the project’s South African co-ordination and implementation as it rolled out in different European and South African cities between January and September of 2014.

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Nine artists were parachuted into innovative and best-practice local initiatives in each city, by means of nine  (3 x 3 ) integrated residency programmes (3 projects ran concurrently for 3 months each ). The European artists who came to work in South African Cities included Armin Linke, Antje Schiffers, Marjetica Potrc and Anthony Schrag. The South African artists who went to work in European cities included Athi-Patra Ruga, Dan Halter, Tazwald Pillay, Ra Hlasane and myself. Each artist and residency projects’ research, process and final presentations were documented as they went along, and made visible on a comprehensive web-based communication platform,  and finally exhibited in September 2014, in an innovative dialogical exhibition in Berlin, designed by the innovative team Stephan Schwarz and Ingrid Sabbatier of ISSSresearch&architecture.

From July through September,  I morphed from an administrative role into one of the project artists, and took up a 3 month artist’s residency in Berlin, designing and producing a new project, Let’s Talk: 30 Days At The Spreefeldin relation to the work and physical location of  the organisation id22: Institute for Creative Sustainability.

9UB project partners are Cape Town Community TV, dala artarchitecture (Durban), Drama for Life- Wits University (Johannesburg), id22: Institute for Creative Sustainability (Berlin), Istituto Wesen (Turin), Planact (Johannesburg), Quatorze (Paris) and South London Gallery, as well as Anschlaege (Berlin), CUCR Goldsmiths (London), German Agency for International Cooperation GIZ (Pretoria) and Goethe-Institut South Africa (Johannesburg). CUCR at Goldsmith College (UK) led the academic support to the overall project and evaluated it throughout, encouraging and critically accompanying the trans-local and multi-level dialogue, measuring the project’s achievements and impact, and situating the project within a wider theoretical discussion.

Each project included a local person working as an “embedded/integrated reporter” –  who followed and documented each participatory arts project using social apps and smart phone technology. In March 2015, the final product of the 9UB project, an e-Book, will be launched in both Europe and South Africa.

Read more and follow the progress and process of each biotopes on our horizontal timeline here: