City Art Lab

The first City Art Lab took place in Helsinki May 2010. We were 5 persons coming together 12 times during one month. Our meetings were usually about 5h and it gave us time to make 1-2 experiments on each meeting. Our mission was to interact with the city and in a early stage of the experiment we decided to be process oriented and explore our city Helsinki in various ways without a specific aim. Ursula was the initiator of the experiment, yet she made it clear that the responsibility of making things happen was on all of us.

During May the City Art Lab developed to a intense experiences that turned out to be very important for all of us, yet in different ways. Some of us could find the joy of traveling in our own city and thereby satisfy a longing for traveling abroad. All of us found new inspiration to our work and everyday life. We found new favorite spots in our city and ways to interrupt our routines and thereby see our life from new angles . For some of us the experience worked as a therapy group in a transition point in once life and all of us were surprised how open we could talk about things even if we were mostly strangers to each other in the beginning.

The connection between us was the curiosity to openly explore the city and our self together. We committed to this experiment and set up 12 meetings. We took no pressure and made decisions collaboratively. Everyone was expected to give input, yet you had the opportunity to step back if something felt uncomfortable. Our backgrounds and ages differed and this made our discussions very interesting. Under the Helsinki City Art Lab link you find what we did. Our last plan was to make a hut in a tree, this as a temporary gallery and debriefing space where we would gather all our experiences for an afternoon. Bad weather change our plan and we decided to make this web page - a "virtual hut in a tree", this to share our experience and to encourage others to gather a group and make your own City Art Lab.

Guidelines to arrange your own City Art Lab:
  • Gather a group, friends or strangers: Five was a good number you can work around that, a bit smaller or bigger group will work for sure as well.
  • Set up a number of meetings: It would be good to meet quite often, several times a week for a quite intense period.
  • Commit to the experiment: All of us could not make it to all of the meetings, yet we committed to the project and made us available as often as possible.
  • Explore your city in different ways: You can interact with the city in any way your group feels comfortable with. It is up to what ideas you have; you can try out something you never did, you can invite the others to your favorite spots, you can show your routines in the city and get new perspective to them. Try out different ways; you can make performances, installations, group acts or what ever experiments you can come up with. The resources for the City Art Lab comes from the participants of the group, from your backgrounds and needs. Be a bit more brave to try out new things in a group, it is easier together than alone.
  • Talk: During the experience or after it share your feelings, thoughts, perspectives, associations.... this will lead to new ideas.
  • Both plan and be spontaneous: Some of the experiments can be planned a head, others can just happen when you arrive to a place in the city that inspires you.
  • Keep it simple: Make a lot of small experiments rather than big ones that take a lot of planning and work. You don't have to reach an end result or goal. The experiments should be fun and relaxed rather than hard work.
  • Document the process: Photos, videos, diaries, notes can take you back to the moment and generate more ideas later. Everyone makes the documentation in their own way, no pressure here either.
  • Feel free to develop the City Art Lab -concept! So it fits your group.
  • Share your experiments: Share your experiments on this web page, or make a own one we can link too. Contact us with your City Art Lab group and we can give your group the rights to publish on this page or publish the materials for you. Sharing can inspire others, and what do we know, maybe some random travelers can find new ways of exploring a city from the perspective of people who lives there.


PS: there can be a lot of City Art Labs in the same city, just come up with an own "City Art Lab name" e.g. Dreamers Helsinki City Art Lab.

This is the idea we wanted to share with you. Feel free to make it your own!

Helsinki City Art Lab
Ursula, Tuija, Virpi, Tuomas and Linda

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