CURL Launch Article in Y-File

I'm happy to say that the lauch was a great success. Here's an article that was written by Y-File about the event!


Collaborative Urban Research Laboratory (CURL), under the auspices of
the Critical Research Laboratory in Law & Society at York's Osgoode
Hall Law School, has officially been launched, bringing together an
unusual mix of the academic and creative, and adding a complex and
layered perspective to discussions about cities.


CURL provides an innovative and
visual approach to discussions involving globalization and cities by
giving social scientists, lawyers, urban studies scholars and
geographers an opportunity to interact with photographers, digital
media artists, documentary filmmakers and their works. It brings an
understanding to the issues that wouldn't be possible without weaving
an interdisciplinary academic approach together with the artistic, says
Gregory Smith, CURL's acting academic director, 2009-2010.


Left: A guest at the CURL launch studies the photos by artist-in-residence Jorge Uzon. Photo by Uzon.


The space itself is a state-of-the-art
multimedia and research facility designed to bring people in and get
them talking about urban places. There is a gathering area, a small
conference room and two labs with equipment for filmmakers and
photographers, which include sound mixing and studio recording
capabilities, editing software, as well as high-definition digital
cameras, lighting equipment and more.


"On the academic side of things, I think
the real genesis for this…came from the fact that there was this really
great body of literature that was being written, at least for the
last 10 years, about globalization and cities, but that there really
wasn't any input by those who focus on the academic side of law," says
Smith, a PhD candidate at Osgoode whose research focuses on the role
played by law in constructing urban space and society. "The idea was to
open lines of communication between people who would traditionally do
urban studies and lawyers….and bring the legal community into the
discussion of how cities are run." That idea grew to include not only
other disciplines, but visual arts.


Right: From left, Greg Smith and Mars Horodyski at the launch of CURL. Photo by Jorge Uzon.


One of the ways visual arts and the
academic side of things will come together is through an ongoing
reading lab. "We have readings, for example, of work written by
filmmakers about cities, as much as we would have, say, a reading from
Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, literature, law, urban
studies, geography, as widely varied as we can put together," says
Smith. The first reading lab in January will look at Toronto, focusing
on its growth and the planning decisions that have affected it over the


There will also be an online
artist-in-residence every month showcasing work that represents some
aspects of cities. Photographer Jorge Uzon is the current
artist-in-residence. His black and white images of Mexico City and
Toronto, which look at how the two cities have changed over the years,
are on exhibit at CURL and can also be seen on the CURL Web site.


\Left: Greg Smith mingles with guests at the official launch of CURL. Photo by Jorge Uzon.


The equipment is available to those with
project proposals related to issues that include city life, urban
growth, governance and development, that are accepted by CURL. The
project leaders need to show a willingness to collaborate with other
CURL members to help nurture the cross-fertilization of ideas and
techniques between artists and academics, says Mars Horodyski, a
filmmaker and CURL's artistic director, 2009-2010. Already there has
been interest from faculty members wanting to partner with CURL and use
the equipment. CURL is unable to provide funding, so artists must have
their own in place.


Left: A guest at the CURL launch reads about the lab's mandate. Photo by Jorge Uzon


"There are a lot of artists doing really
interesting city work," says Horodyski, winner of Ryerson University's
2003 Norman Jewison Filmmaker Award for her film Lemonade and of the 2007 WorldFest Houston International Film & Video Festival Golden Remi Award for her latest short, Spoonfed. "The challenge is figuring out how they fit into our mandate. The global cities theme is a pretty broad one."


Horodyski co-wrote the script for Where the Sidewalk Begins: The University and the Global City,
a documentary film celebrating York's 50th anniversary with York law
Professor Peer Zumbansen, CURL's director and founder of the Critical
Research Laboratory in Law & Society at York's Osgoode Hall Law
School. Zumbansen holds the Canada Research Chair in the Transnational
& Comparative Law of Corporate Governance. A preview of Where the Sidewalk Begins can be seen on the CURL Web site.


Right: Peer Zumbansen


CURL will also host a screening series in the new year beginning with Radiant City, which looks at 21st-century suburban sprawl. The second film, Vernon, Florida, will explore whether or not a place defines the people within it or vice versa.


"In terms of the long term…it's more of
the process, that's the most important aspect, to find engagement with
academics and artists," says Smith.


Left: Mars Horodyski


In addition, there will be ongoing blogs
with Smith and Horodyski, as well as others, and book reviews and
articles to do with cities in the future on the CURL Web site. "There
are lots of ways people can get involved," says Horodyski. In 2010,
CURL will also host a conference.


Anyone interested in providing essays,
book reviews, urban musings, blogging or photography for online
publication, should contact Horodyski at or Smith at For larger project proposals, there is a set of application criteria available. For more information, visit the CURL Web site.


The Collaborative Urban Research Laboratory is at 218 Computer Methods Building on the Keele campus.

By Sandra McLean, YFile writer