Posted December 1st 2011 at 2:29 am by
in Audio Portraits, Media Mindfulness

Sidewalks as Contested Public Space; Art as a Form of Inquiry

“Ho Chi Minh City was telling me a story unlike other cities — something really gritty and humanizing. And that’s what I am trying to get at with this research project: What is it?”

- Annette Kim

Sidewalks as Contested Public Space; Art as a Form of Inquiry

On Wednesday November 30th at MIT, Professor Annette Kim presented her process of bringing art and social science research together to understand the dynamic sidewalks — and the vendors who work on them — in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where Kim has lived or worked for over 15 years.

Kim’s voice is unwaveringly tranquil and her presence unassuming, but the question her research raises is potent: How should art, and the methods artists use, influence the process of planning cities?

A diverse audience of well over 50 students and professors from the Rhode Island School of Design, Harvard, and MIT came to hear her speak and see the collection of maps she and her students have produced at Sidewalk Laboratory, a group Kim founded. Her full lecture is available in the audio file below.

During the question and answer period attendees uniformly expressed gratitude for various aspects of the presentation, and sought greater insight into Kim’s process.  Professors, who normally sit near the front and provide an opening round of questions, took seats further back in the room and listened as students and guests spoke.

For one attendee, the maps presented the possibility there could be a deeper level of democracy happening on the sidewalks than what happens in the city or country that hosts them.  Audience members nodded in thought.

Though there may be 1,000 ways to know a sidewalk, the Sidewalk Lab’s approach is surely one of the most thought provoking and stunning among them.

Kim discusses this map at approximately 25:45 in the audio file above. Click on the map to see it at full size.

For updates, follow @MIT_SLAB on Twitter.

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