Urban Knights is a programme of events, which provokes and promotes practical approaches to urban governance and city living. The programme brings together people who are actively producing alternatives to our given city infrastructures, norms and perceptions.

2020
Berlin
Bristol

About

Established in 2013 in Dublin, Urban Knights is a salon style event, where current techno-civic issues and related urban affairs are discussed in an intimate setting between host, speakers and audience. Since its inception, the scope of the project has grown and now includes a set of feral resources, ‘expansions’ from experiments in hosting, to proofs, inventions, workshops, sketches, podcasts, tools and publications. Urban Knights is now home to this interweaving set of materials.

Situated with artistic practices that conceptually, practically and theoretically play with what it means to be placed within the fabrics of public institutional practices. The rationale for establishing Urban Knights emerged from a body of sited-based artistic practices and experiences, including working with city councils and cultural institutions on topics relating to the city living.

City councils are a very particular kind of public body in that they essentially administer and/or run, urban services, have a mixture of elected and non-elicited members and work across multiple and often separated, departments and sites. Given their nature and structure, from the outside the internal workings of city council can often be difficult to decipher. Despite this, when it comes to running cities, city councils are one of our most important public, civic institutions, who act on our behalf and make critical, daily decisions about what happens in our cities.

Recongising the complexities of such bodies and the tensions inherent in their structure between 2010-2014, Dublin City Council, took a bold step. Establishing an internal working team composed of experienced civil servant, architects, urban planners and the designers, The Studio was set up to ‘break down’ such walls. Looking outwards, it worked intentionally with new collaborators others so as to shake up its ways of thinking and doing.

Working, with The Studio on a number of events and exhibitions (Open Data Challenge, 2011; HACK-LAB and HACK-THE-CITY, Science Gallery, 2012), the proposition to set up Urban Knights as a space through which ‘curated conversations for city living‘ was established. With the aim to provoke and promote alternatives to city living by bringing together diverse people and communities – urban governing bodies, concerned citizens, activists, artists, designers, youth groups and students, companies and corporates, to the table.

Understanding cities as messy, fuzzy, multispecies habitats that require diverse infrastructures, living paths and forks to coexist simultaneously, so as to maintain vibrancy and variety.

Urban Knights looks to how a constant conversation about urban matters is required so that living relations do not become concentrated, gated or locked down. This is all the more vital as we continually shift into the operational logics of what is known as the ‘smart city’, a term which broadly refers to how cities can be run more efficiently via the integration of various data streams and digital platforms.

Such technological ‘smart‘ imaginaries view the city as a programmable interface, which reduce capacities for diversity and variety by streamlining regulated pathways. From a citizens perspective, the workings and language of the ’smart city‘ is also alienating and largely invisible. This along with the nature of how cities tend to be administered, raises questions about how we co-construct urban futures under such conditions and exposes the necessities to reveal, such infrastructural dynamics. It is from this base that Urban Knights was founded, so as to create grass-root conversational spaces, through which contemporary civic issues could be discussed and explored.

 

Hosting the Conversation

Urban Knights places value on hosting, encountering and dialogue. The art of hosting is considered as central to the practice, with events often extended through various formats that over time look to how moments of exchange, no matter how small can collectively build capacities for supporting conversations about city living.

 

Focal Points

Since it is inception, Urban Knights has taken place in Berlin, Helsinki, Aberdeen, Vienna, New Delhi and Bristol. With Berlin and Bristol, the current focal points through which salon events and workshops continue to be held.

Each salon event, lasts two-and-half hours with speaker presentations, purposefully kept short and numbers limited so that the conditions for real-time exchange can emerge. Placing emphasis on the physically present, conversational encounter, our events and workshops are purposefully not streamed or recorded. Over 2019-20 we are extending this format through a series of one-to-one chats with guest speakers, which can be listened to here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Team

Teresa Dillon

Host and Founder

Artist and Professor of Future Cities, UWE, Bristol

Eliza Alice Lomas

Podcast Producer

Sound producer and editor