Podcast, Arts & Culture, Urban Issues

Episode 95: Urban Subjects — with Sabine Bitter, Jeff Derksen & Helmut Weber

December 07, 2020
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Below the Radar’s Am Johal talks issues in urbanism and art as a research method with Sabine Bitter, Jeff Derksen, and Helmut Weber of the cultural research collective, Urban Subjects, based in Vancouver and Vienna.

In this episode, they reflect on past arts exhibitions and programs they’ve facilitated on the urban experience, image politics, and visual representations of urbanism. Their work makes space for critical conversations about dispossession of land, the idea of a commons, the ‘right to the city’ in a contemporary context, the neoliberal commodification of housing, and more.


About Urban Subjects

Urban Subjects is a cultural research collective formed in 2004 by Sabine BitterJeff Derksen, and Helmut Weber, based in Vancouver, Canada and Vienna, Austria.

Together they develop interdisciplinary artistic projects focusing on global-urban issues, the texture of cities, and on civic imaginations. Urban Subjects do not work on a consensus model.

Amongst others, they have organized the exhibition Not Sheep: New Urban Enclosures and Commons at Artspeak, Vancouver, in 2006 and participated in the conference Contrapolis; or Creativity and Enclosures in the Cities at Poortgebouw and NAI, Rotterdam organized by Marina Vishmidt, Jan van Eyck Academy, in 2008.

They have collaborated with Vancouver Flying University on a public program regarding housing in Vancouver.

In 2009 they devised and edited the book Autogestion, or Henri Lefebvre in New Belgrade, with a previously unpublished manuscript by Lefebvre (Fillip/Sternberg Press, 2009). Their essay on “The Spaces and Temporalities of Dual Power and Autogestion in Gramoven, Caracas” has been published in Waking Up from The Nightmare of Participation, edited by Nina Valerie Kolowratnik & Markus Miessen (Expodium, 2011).

Collaboratively they produced Momentarily: Learning from Mega-events (Western Front, 2011) with Bik Van der Pol and Alissa Firth-Eagland.

For WE: Vancouver at the Vancouver Art Gallery they wrote a manifesto concerning the historical endurance of the political imagination of revolution, a Manifesto for the Poetry of the Future, with geographer Neil Smith.

They worked on the project “Filling the Weak Points” regarding autogestion and “researching the militant image”in cooperation with Kunstraum of Leuphana University Lüneburg and as artists in residence at the Leuphana Arts Program in 2012/2013. 

In 2014, they curated the exhibition “The Militant Image - Picturing What Is Already Going On” with Camera Austria, Graz, and conducted the workshop “Researching the Militant Image” as part of steirische herbst Academy 2014 .
Currently they are working on the publication, “The Militant Image Reader” forthcoming in 2015 by Edition Camera Austria.

In July 2015, they held a research residency at the EXPO in Milano, Italy.

Cite This Episode

Chicago Style

Johal, Am. “Urban Subjects — with Sabine Bitter, Jeff Derksen & Helmut Weber.” Below the Radar, SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement. Podcast audio, December 7, 2020.


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