Fiction Urbanism: Kartun Development Group

In 2008, Kartun Development Group (KDG) was organized by Wes Jones.

A think tank with the goal of researching Dubai and proposing urban solutions, KDG operated under the guise of a fictional real estate development group (“Kartun” is an Arabic sounding play on the word “cartoon”). KDG’s videos and public statements were works of fiction that were rooted in thoroughly researched facts of the city-state. With the help of Adina Hempel and Richard Wagner who organized the research trip to Dubai, KDG analyzed the urban problems of that city and proposed drastic solutions. These solutions took steps toward potential implementation and realization by making sure that the proposals fit the operating principles of Dubai: conspicuous wealth and authoritarian class distinctions. By operating as if we shared the same motivations as Dubai’s power structures, KDG gave blunt criticism of the capitalistic autocratic regime while proposing changes that were feasible given the restrictions of the given power structure.

The biting social commentaries, delivered with cartoon-like irony. As of now, Dubai still operates mostly unchanged from the period, in which these research-driven projects were produced.

“Understanding Dubai Inc.” (Credit: Robert Cha)

“Cohabitation: Low income housing for Dubai” (Credit: Robert Cha, Amir Lotfi, Caroline Dahl)