With(in) is a multi-stage project that includes an exhibit, installation, qualitative exploration, and visual storytelling.

This is a story about connection. The MIT Media Lab City Science group presents an immersive view into the worlds of three women in three settlements: Eva in Guadalajara, Mexico; Gihan in Cairo, Egypt; and MamaG in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Through visual storytelling we experience activities from the mundane to the surreal, from the deeply meaningful to the inconsequential. We visit the fringe neighbourhoods and community centers of Guadalajara, the vertical slums and bustling streets of Cairo, and the tiny homes and crowded markets of Port Harcourt. In the lives of each individual, we examine the micro and the macro, from the gentle care of fixing one’s hair each morning to the cultural swells of holidays, religious ceremonies, and funerals. In these places, far from our own, we learn and inquire, we gather and we listen, in the hope of better understanding the complexity of the world around us and new possibilities for how we will live together in the future.

As extreme urbanisation unfolds at an astounding pace, all three locations reflect the chaos and the importance of community. One woman’s journey can be both individual and global when viewed in the context of the others. We ask ourselves: how does rapid urbanisation impact the community we seek, and how do intimate domestic activities such as food preparation and celebration reflect a larger cultural context? 

The Meals

Is there a connection between the act of procuring food, preparing food and eating together, that can tell us something important about the community we live in? 

The research was conducted during a two-week visit at each community,  when Eva, MamaG and Gihan would be followed during two different occasions:

- Their most important meal on a day they work;

- Their most important meal on a day they don't work.

For each of those events, they were accompanied during the acquisition of the food or ingredients, the preparation and eating.  This methodology looked into the multi-level relationships between private lives in individual households, and the communities that support them.

Immersive storytelling

Through immersive projection mapping and soundscapes, we experience the red brick cities  of Egypt, busy markets in Mexico, and funeral rituals of Nigeria.

La Biennale di Venezia 2021

The With(in) immersive installation will be featured at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021, under the theme “How will we live together?” 

Our work is far from complete. We see the need to bring more of our research to focus on the new challenges of rapidly urbanizing areas of the world. In addition, we are further rocked by the pandemic, looming climate change and political and social unrest. As With(in) informs us, we need to continue to learn, listen and document. Our perspective and our understanding will continue to evolve, and with it, new projects will emerge. 

Project funded in part by the Council for the Arts at MIT (CAMIT).