Signs of the City - Metropolis Speaking

Signs of the City involves work with young people through artistic and photographic practice and considers the relationships between cultural flows and the interplay of place, citizenship and identity.

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About the project

This project was funded by EU Culture. The research team included Alison Rooke, Michael Jeith and Britt Hatzius. Partners of the project included Watermans (Loondon), Haus der Kulturen Welt in Berlin, Urban Dialogues, Hangar and Artibarri and Atelier for free Associations.

Signs of the City is a project that considers the development of urban cultures in Barcelona, Berlin, Sofia and London. It involves work with young people through artistic and photographic practice and considers the relationships between cultural flows and the interplay of place, citizenship and identity.

Through Signs of the City – Metropolis Speaking, young people, guided and accompanied by professional artists will explore the semiotics of London, Berlin, Barcelona and Sofia landscapes in a two-year artistic engagement with the signs and symbols of the European city. After developing an online image archive, developing web 2.0 participatory techniques, young people will be involved in curating large-scale exhibitions in the cities’ public space with the cooperation of the public transport companies TMB (providing four Barcelona tube stations during May 2008) and BVG in Berlin. Exhibitions will also be curated for the gallery spaces of prestigious centres for contemporary culture, such as the House of World Cultures in Berlin, the House of Cinema in Sofia, and Watermans West London, in September/October 2008. A concluding international conference will take place concurrently at the House of World Cultures, with participating young people, academics, practitioners and policy-makers alike.

The project's funding

The project’s principal funding is through the European Culture Programme 2007-2013. The general objective of the programme is to enhance the cultural area common to Europeans through the development of cultural cooperation between the creators, cultural players and cultural institutions of the countries taking part in the programme, with a view to encouraging the emergence of European citizenship.

The specific objectives of the European Culture Programme are programme are:

  • to promote the transnational mobility of people working in the cultural sector
  • to encourage the transnational circulation of works and cultural and artistic products
  • to encourage intercultural dialogue

The project is also supported Berlin’s Capital Culture Fund and Barcelona’s City Council, the British Council, the Spanish Embassy in Berlin, and the Goethe Institutes of each city involved.

The aims of the project

The aims of the Signs of the City Project are

  • To generate a closer understanding of the European city as an “arena” of intercultural encounter and a “workshop” of European identities – associations, fractures and bridges included – in both participants and observers
  • To offer a platform for an accessible and experience-oriented artistic/aesthetic engagement of and between young inhabitants of European metropolises based on visual arts methodology and modern communication technology
  • To sensitise participants and observers to the multiple layers of visual signs and significations in urban landscapes
  • To mobilize the examination of urban signs for the processes of identity formation and political maturation of the participating young people, given that questions of belonging to peer groups, subcultures and ethnicities, as well as their correspondent norms, values and rituals of differentiation, continue to be played out through sign systems and symbolic languages
  • To highlight and create awareness of identity and diversity in the metropolises of an integrating Europe to understand and highlight ways of thinking about diversity and social cohesion in the contemporary European city

The Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) at Goldsmiths, University of London will conduct the evaluation of the ‘Signs of the City’ project. CUCR has extensive experience in the evaluation of social policy programmes and a particular interest in programmes involving the arts, young people and exercises in the development of participatory democracy.


Signs of the City: Young People's Photographic Imaginary of the European Metropolis (PDF download)