urbz combines ethnographic participation with visual storytelling to accompany, facilitate, or initiate urban planning, heritage, and transformation projects.
urbz Paris: Visual narratives for participatory urbanism
Documentation as Intervention
We believe that every place is embedded with unique knowledge, narratives, and memories: about its geography, its economy, its built and natural environment, its histories. It is an “Invisible Archive” which is distinctive to each place and neighborhood.
We imagine this Invisible Archive as an unrealized potential, known and shared by the place’s inhabitants and daily users, which tends to be ignored by urban planners and policy-makers.
How do we uncover such special knowledge? How do we, as urban practitioners, make the most of it to generate meaningful projects and interventions?
urbz realizes a place’s potential through a process of storytelling, by orchestrating participation using a variety of media, primarily filmmaking. We activate this unique local knowledge through an ethnographic research approach, and make it tangible and shareable with a larger public through the production of films, videos, and graphic narratives, collectively created with local storytellers.
We realize projects on behalf of our clients (municipalities, planning agencies, residents’ associations, private developers, activist groups, collectives, landowners) or on our own initiative.
1. Conduct ethnographic research
We realize a series of conversations (individual as well as collective) with different categories of people in the local community, with two main objectives:
Reveal and record the community’s Invisible Archive, knowledge, histories;
Identify the community’s best storytellers (people with knowledge about the neighborhood, artists, creative individuals, volunteers…), who will be our partners in the process.
2. Produce a collective visual narrative
We mediate between the professional practitioner and the local resource to start a creative collaboration. The product can be a documentary project, or a fictional one (we believe in fiction as a unique way to imagine and convey possible futures, a natural ally for the activist or practitioner).
By partnering a professional media practitioner with local storytellers, and in cooperation with our clients and urban planners, we curate and organize the creation of a film, video or graphic narrative that can accelerate, accompany and catalyze a project to a higher degree of involvement with its inhabitants and users.
3. Share knowledge, foster debate
We exhibit the film/output within the neighborhood, besides circulating the archive in other relevant places (for example, in similar urban contexts). We organize screenings and generate debate.
4. Collective archives as project generators
Archives are the first step of intervention. As anthropologist Arjun Appadurai phrases it, they are “important vehicles for building the capacity to aspire among groups” (https://archivepublic.wordpress.com/texts/arjun-appadurai/). The production itself of a media product, a document, or film, about a place, is an act of collective imagination. It is the point where memory and desire meet.
The media projects we help create are the starting point for urban projects which aspire to involve the local community both in the understanding of a place, and its re-imagination.
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