urban matters


Nine Urban Biotopes

Nine Urban Biotopes – Negotiating the Future of Urban Living

9UB was an international, socially engaged art project delivering artistic research and cultural exchange. It does this both within and among social citizen and art initiatives in cities in South Africa and Europe in 2014.

The participating initiatives in Paris, Berlin, London, Turin and Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban all distinguish themselves by addressing vital matters of concern with regard to contemporary urban living in innovative ways. They work about and respond to issues of safety and housing, youth and migration, mobility and economical subsistence. They do so »on the ground« and »in the thick of life« in each city, which is the reason why they are referred to as »urban biotopes« giving the overall project its name.
Metropolises have become the central arenas of globalisation and its resulting social developments. Within the cities’ structures, global processes inscribe themselves as »local colourful complexions«.
The aim of 9UB was to establish both a »trans-local« and »trans-continental»
dialogue by interweaving and connecting new context-speciec, socially engaged art projects into the existing social activities of these biotopes. It did so in order to expose, discuss and share different »intentions, methods and techniques« of imaginative urban practices for building »sustainable cities«.
From January to September 2014, nine artistic projects produced work and research in nine innovative urban settings. Three projects run simultaneously; each for a period of three consecutive months. All of them were participatory in their approach; engaging actively with both citizens and initiators of existing innovative urban development projects.
Embedded reporters represented each process of each participatory arts projects. The citizens of each local participating project were linked up by means of webbased communication and social networks, and in this way themselves become actors in an »arena of exchange«. By combining, linking and implementing 9UB within a South African – European partner structure – local answers to global questions were discussed in such a way.

Long-term impact on the (urban) space and the society

9UB established at least three initatives in Paris, Soweto and London which are still alive. Furthermore and more in general, the question on how artists and architects can work with communities was discussed during the project’s lifetime and results are broadly published and presented. The project was selected as a »success story« by the European Commission in early 2017.


Since 1998 the metropolitan art organisation urban dialogues has been
experimenting with the urban spaces of the city of Berlin searching for interesting grounds for temporary, public and participative art projects.
Starting point was a project entitled urban dialogues (outside) in 1998. The project addressed the enal moments of the reconstruction of central Berlin in form of an artistic visual and performative intervention. The idea of exploring a particular area within its contemporary usage as a spatial system within its own history and through its silently slumbering visions has been repeated in various areas in Berlin through a multitude of artistic approaches.
The artistic principle of urban dialogues is to bring aesthetic sensitivity to the rapid changes of place and perspective within the city landscape. Since 2002 urban dialogues has worked within the social regeneration programmes in urban crisis zones, focussed on integrating youth and young adults in the production of art and culture.
The artistic projects of urban dialogues which began in the centre of Berlin as a scrutiny of the dramatically changing environment, have since then developed in a manifold artistic discourse with the phenomenon of urban spaces, urban literature and urban signs.

Artists/ contributors
Marjetica Potrc, Athi-Patra Ruga, Antje Schiffers, Taswald Pillay, Armin Linke, Dan Halter, Terry Kurgan, Anthony Schrag, Rangoato Hlasane, et.al.

Publication for download


Photo Credits:

1. 9UB Johannesburg, Photo: Anthony Schrag

2. 9UB Paris, Photo: Christian von Wissel

3. 9UB Soweto, Photo: Daniel Brumund

4. 9UB Durban, Photo: dala artarchitecture


Nine Urban Biotopes


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