COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) provides networking opportunities for researchers and innovators in order to strengthen Europe’s capacity to address scientific, technological and societal challenges.
During the last four years the COST Action 'Writing Urban Places' has been researching and implementing a process for developing human understanding of communities, their society, and their situatedness, by narrative methods. It particularly focused on the potential of narrative methods for urban development in European medium-sized cities.
An important output was the Vademecum - 77 Minor Terms for Writing Urban Places, in which we presented a set of concepts that help us to explore new ways of thinking about and experiencing urban places, by introducing a diversity of concepts that might reveal blind spots in urban discourse or bring insights from one discipline to another. Different theoretical concepts are used in different discursive domains that deal with the urban landscape: they help to make sense of what happens in the city, but they also imply a specific outlook on the city.
Another was the Repository - 49 Methods and Assignments for Writing Urban Places, which gathered a wide range of methods, approaches, procedures, and assignments from diverse disciplines employed to capture, explore, experience, engage with, analyse, understand, and make sense of mid-sized European cities.
In June 2023 the closing symposium of the COST action took place in Delft. Together with Angeliki Sioli I organised a small workshop, during which the participants used the notions from the Vademecum and the methods from the Repository to explore places of absence in Delft. Each participant was handed a clipboard with a unique combination of place, method and term. They then used this term as a lens to explore the place (Jaffa Cemetery or Cemetery Kanaalweg) and used the method to write a short paragraph about their findings. We collected all texts and used AI software to generate textual collages, which provided a series of exciting and unexpected combinations.
Writing from Places of Absence #01
I AM LOOKING BACK NOW. Although not difficult to find, it was difficult to walk around because of the graves. The visits become more and more infrequent. Your disobedience of human orders impresses me. The gravestones are abandoned and broken. The state of the headstones indicate the decay of the person that once was as well as the thinning relations that person has to the world of the living. What can be talked about cannot be written about. The only sounds I hear are of birds singing, trees swaying with the breeze, and distant footsteps on the gravel- celebrate life. At midday, I go to lay on a stone. My one end in the shadow, feeling so cool, the other in the hot sun, almost roasting. I still like to dance as much as I did in my young years. I will never stop dancing. I am moved by those who have been here forever.