City Council Meeting was conceived after a particularly well-performed battle about zoning at the Portland, Oregon City Hall.
The project takes as its departure point the formal structures of local government. An emphasis on the formal elements helps us engage, play, critique and enliven, among other things.
The Mayor and council sit behind the table, regarding us; citizens and functionaries address them with their backs to us; everyone’s faces play on the video monitors in the room, online and on TV. We have access to power at the same time as we’re separate from it.
How do you know how to act? You can’t possibly be up on all the procedures and you are definitely not in charge, but you know that this is where you are supposed to come if you have something to say, an idea for change, a grievance. Stand if you agree with something, but don’t speak unless you signed up to.
City Council Meeting is created by writer Aaron Landsman, director Mallory Catlett and designer Jim Findlay. We have visited local meetings from Bismarck to San Antonio, Portland to New York. There is something about being in the room we find galvanizing – here is a connection to power we can see. Sometimes it’s power depicted by a splendid dais in an impressive room; at others it’s a few cheap curtains, a couple flags and some velvet ropes installed where there used to be a bank or a classroom or a basement.
In each meeting there are moments of pure performance. The competing agendas, alienating rules, tedium and temper often, remarkably, let adversaries occupy the same room and agonize each other constructively, with one side coming out on top, for now.
If you come to City Council Meeting you may play these relationships out. Maybe you’ll be reading the words of someone real who said - something important or trivial, somewhere in the US. Maybe you’ll speak your own mind. Maybe you’ll just watch and listen. We would be happy to see you.
Here is a list of people, places and things we've found inspiring.