Encountering Images: Insight Into the Evaluation Process – Film and Moving Images in Urban Space

Annika Wik


Pilot Study #4: Next Stop Brunkan, Brunkebergstorg, Stockholm, January 2017. Photo: Geska Brečević

Moving images dance across a façade in central Stockholm. Sharp light is cast through a window of the hotel building opposite the street. A place that is ordinarily more sombre is illuminated by beams of light that gather into projections onto the façade. Film images are shown directly on the wall, with sound streaming out from speakers deployed in the passageway beneath the façade. The place where this artwork is shown every evening after 5 o’clock, when darkness has fallen, lies between Brunkeberg Square (popularly referred to as “Brunkan”) and Sergel Square. This is a place that people often skirt past; a place that, despite lying in the heart of Stockholm, is nevertheless perceived as on the outskirts.

The screening of films at Brunkeberg Square is the result of a collaboration between Stockholm konst and Filmregion Stockholm-Mälardalen’s five-year EU project Smart Kreativ Stad (2015-2020). The mission of Stockholm konst is to bring art into public spaces for the residents of Stockholm. Through a number of pilot studies, Smart Kreativ Stad screens film and moving images in public space with the aim of determining how artistic expression – including moving images – can promote urban development.[1] The fourth in an series of pilot studies conducted by Smart Kreativ Stad, Next Stop Brunkan can be seen as both a public happening and an investigation into the workings of establishing a semi-permanent screening area for film and moving images in the city.[2]

In my role as researcher in the project Smart Kreativ Stad, I conduct continuous evaluation during the project’s five years. The European Commission has promoted on-going evaluation methods over traditional methods support of the dissemination of experience and project management during and after the project period. The overall goal of on-going or participatory evaluation is to create the conditions for continuous learning in the projects. Certain studies are reviewed and evaluated in depth, others on a small scale. The researcher is expected to be included in every stage of the pilot studies – before, during and after – since attendance in all processes is a prerequisite for an instructive evaluation.

The first two pilot studies carried out as part of Smart Kreativ Stad focused on popup cinema. In Pilot Study #1 Play or Pause Cinema, architecture students at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology worked on devising a mobile, modular space for showing film. The challenge was to combine function with exploratory design. The starting point for spatial and formal concepts was the Function of the Oblique – as introduced by Claude Parent and Paul Virilio[3], where the sloping plane should be regarded as an element of pedestrian infrastructure as well as a way to form spaces apt for the projection of moving image – and Nine Problems in the Form of a Pavilion[4], that reflects on the development of the DRL 10 pavilion at the Architectural Association. The challenge for the students was to combine the requirements for the pop-up cinema with an explorative mode of design development, where computation, fabrication, structure and design are combined in an expressive as well as performative way and bring something new to the context of mobile urbanism.

Pilot study #2: Popup Cinema, assembling the Play and Pause Cinema pavilion, summer 2016. Photo: Xenter.

The result of the students’ work – the mobile pavilion The Play and Pause Cinema – was employed in the second pilot Pilot Study #2 Popup Cinema, where an open call aimed at cultural associations as well as individuals in the Stockholm, was made. From 31 applications for creating popup screenings, 14 projects were selected by a jury, and 12 was carried out in various places in Stockholm in the summer of 2016. Projects were selected based on five criteria: Artistic scope, creativity, implementability and accessibility/diversity. Selected projects were granted a screening budget, were allowed to utilise the popup pavilion or a separate film projector kit and expert help/coaching from Smart Kreativ Stad regarding applying for necessary permissions from the city, how to obtain licenses for screening film etc.[5] Against the background of Stockholm, a large number of places in the city were activated in Pilot Study #2 Popup Cinema, places not normally associated with film screenings or cultural events. Thanks to Popup Cinema, people could congregate around various types of film in the public space.[6] The organisers, who had received funding to hold a screening, would ensure that Stockholmers could be offered an experience beyond that of a traditional movie show, and in doing so they call attention to the distinct and often otherwise overlooked places where they occur. Rather than excluding the context and heightening the absorbing effects, as in a cinema, the experience was enhanced through the offering of more or less place-specific screenings, which would include the surrounding cityscape. Based on the location and situation, residents and visitors were treated to a total experience of film screenings complemented by various surrounding events.

Pilot study #5: Safari Urbain Sthlm, Julien Nonnons work projected at City Hall, Stockholm November 2016. Photo: Julien Nonnon

Surrounding events were also part of Pilot Study #5 Safari Urbain Sthlm.[7] Live music was played at several of the viewing areas, and the audience was provided animal masks to wear, if they so chose. From a giant mobile projector, artist Julien Nonnon screened his images of animals decked out in fashionable clothes on buildings such as the Ericsson Globe, the Stockholm City Hall and the Stockholm Public Library. Ten different venues around Stockholm were visited in the space of two winter evenings, and the works were displayed for over an hour each. Ephemeral graffitis lit the city up, and then left without visable traces.

At first sight, Popup Cinema and Safari Urbain could appear to be offering similar viewing situations. In both cases, films and moving images were screened in an urban environment in which people were free to stop and watch. Nevertheless, significant differences were noted.

Julien Nonnon’s projections were displayed on façades and surfaces that were visible only from a specific spot (such as a pedestrian street or square), and onto large-scale structures (such as the world’s largest spherical building the Ericsson Globe and Stockholm City Hall), which were visible from great distances and various neighbourhoods. The image projections were, as it were, operating at several distances simultaneously. For while the images left temporary impressions at one location, they lingered in the whole of the Stockholm skyline. Nonnon’s animals could be glimpsed by a viewer riding a bus or car, on the subway or a bike, or on foot. In Popup Cinema, the movement was essentially the opposite. If the audience for Nonnon’s gallery of volatile images stopped a while to watch, a majority of people stayed for a couple of hours, a whole evening or even longer at the popup cinema screenings. They saw films together and interacted with others in public space in different places around Stockholm.

The activation of place was a central theme in both studies, but in Popup Cinema activation was more closely linked to what was nearby and local. Although attendance at the place was a central aspect of Safari Urbain, distance played an even greater role. With the more local anchoring in Popup Cinema, the sharing of experience was something more quintessentially connected to place and time. This was a screening where the experience was shared by many. It was an event in a particular place of which a memory is shared by many: in Jordbro, on the outskirts of Stockholm, the organisers sought to transform the local square into a living room, with food, music and screenings. The majority of the films shown here were created by local filmmakers.

Pilot study #2: Popup Cinema, screening of Thelma & Louise at Lilla Essingen, summer 2016. Photo: Xenter

On Lilla Essingen, a quiet neighborhood on one of the islands in central Stockholm, some 300 people showed up to watch the road movie Thelma and Louise, which was screened onto a bridge abutment beneath one of Stockholm’s busiest highways. Upon arrival, the audience confirmed the notion on which the organisers built their concept: there are never any cultural events in places like these. This is where you live; work, culture and entertainment you will have to find elsewhere. A third example worth mentioning concerns a screening of art film and video. In Stockholm’s largest park, Hagaparken, late-night screenings were organised of art films on custom-made transparent screens, in front of which viewers could sit on blankets on the grass among the trees and footpaths. Entering a dark park at night raised questions about the places in the city we access – and at what times – safe or unsafe, and for whom. Available for recreation and rest in daylight, the park, seen by many as a non-place after dark, the installation ForRestArt was given the same function for a few hours at night. The video works were framed by an atmosphere far from that of the white walls of a gallery space.

The screening of Safari Urbain was also linked to a specific place and time, but in this case the mercurial nature of the film medium was central to the experience. One minute there was an image on the building, the next it was gone. By projecting directly onto city facades, Safari Urbain was creating new layers of narrative and etching them onto both the buildings and the city’s history. Similar forms of display could create, on the one hand, a shared, first-hand happening as a common experience, and on the other hand, a more volatile mental trace, a furrow in the intersubjective, collective memory.

Local creativity assumed many different expressions in Popup Cinema. The organisers’ applications revealed what they analysed to be missing from a particular place, or which places would be well suited to give a contextual added value to a particular film. Audiences with a clear connection to a place were offered a free cultural event, which in many ways was about the place itself. In Fisksätra, which like Jordbro is located at a distance from the city centre, a cultural mover who often works with and runs social projects, the Fisksätra Museum, has long been working with the youth of the neighborhood. They hasucceeded in getting the municipality to contribute funds for a number of young people to have summer jobs based on creating a common cultural event on the spot, a place where 126 languages are spoken. Popup Cinema helped to enable young people to create an evening where many parties in the area could collaborate and participate in social networking – with film in focus. The youth organised activities for an entire evening in the local park, with more than 450 people attending. Their choice of film fell upon Bekas by Karzan Kader, a film about two Kurdish boys who follow their dream against all odds. Bekas is Kurdish for a person who has lost everything and must deal with it all alone. In front of a gigantic screen, local residents gathered through this cultural event.

Pilot study #2: Popup Cinema, screening of Thelma & Louise at Lilla Essingen, summer 2016. Photo: Xenter

Yet another difference between the two pilot studies in connection with the viewer concerns the experience of the viewer and the link with social media. In spite of apparently similar conditions, the resultant human interaction was quite different. In Popup Cinema interaction occurred primarily on the spot and in personal encounters, whereas in Safari Urbain, viewers were highly active on social media, sharing and spreading images and films.

The 12 popup cinema screenings staged during the summer of 2016 came to comprise a palette of events, several of which were directed at area residents, some at specific audiences, and others at visitors and tourists. The interplay between place, event and visitor could then be studied through direct observation, with the overall results of the pilot study showing different types of activation—of place, local neighbourhood, film culture, the waterways of Stockholm, visitor groups and so forth.

When Next Stop Brunkan was set up at Brunkeberg Square, it was already known as an area that, despite its central location, was felt to be something of a transit area.[8] With the intention to investigate the ways in which creative industries can promote urban development, the city’s slumbering and forgotten places become deeply interesting. Malin Zimm, Director of R&D at the architectural firm White, calls places like this “underused”. In her study, “Provisional architecture makes room for culture. Space-shaping events and communal places”, conducted on behalf of the Cultural Administration of Stockholm City, Zimm, among many important points, poses an exhortation to not only ask ourselves what to do with an underused place, but to regard the local residents and ask:

“for whom is the place underused?”.[9] For whom is the place called Brunkeberg Square underused? For whom are the places underused where Popup Cinema was screened? Who moves about in these places? For whom or what are they inviting? What can be done in places like these – by means of film and moving pictures – and for whom?”

The viewer perspective becomes central to understanding and studying how film and moving images can work in an urban environment, in public space in general, and perhaps in any underused place in particular. The focal point needs to shift onto the viewer before we can speak about the effects for all the residents of a city.[10]

As artistic expressions change and artistic and curatorial practices develop in public spheres, the need grows to comprehend the emergence of changing viewing positions. Interest in the viewer, the public and the participant is burgeoning. In the book Imagining the Audience. Viewing Positions in Curatorial and Artistic Practice, this theme is highlighted as artists and curators describe how they imagine the audience in their work. [11] One researcher of note in this context is Annie Dell’Aria, Ph.D., Professor of Arts, specialising in art and architecture. In her book Making Sense of Cinema: Empirical Studies into Film Spectator and Spectatorship, Dell’Aria contributes a chapter that is interesting for several reasons.[12] In the article “Spectatorship in Public Space. The Moving Image in Public Art” she provides a scholarly introduction to the history of moving images and their position in public space. Her focus on the viewer in relation to art in public space provides a much-needed interdisciplinary perspective, including examples from the film and art scenes. In her text, she emphasises the importance of the notion that the display of art and moving images in an urban environment is always situation-specific:

“What arises when the moving images are encountered in public spaces are specific situations. The context, content, and structure of the work, in addition to the specificity of the spectator, construct each situation”.

This reasoning is recognisable in the curatorial discussions of contemporary art in its focus on the context of its displaying, i.e. its location and situation specificity.[13] Dell’Arias dual perspective becomes particularly crucial for understanding the role of the viewer of film and moving images in the public space by mere fact of her combining art and film. What she writes concerning spectatorship and moving images in public space derives from both film and art scholarship, in their theoretical perspectives as well as in the choice of examples. She moves freely between film theoreticians describing spectatorship and artists’ employment of moving images. Two fields of study are merged to reach a viewer position that likely could not be attained without synthesising theory and praxis from various cultural domains.

Pilot study #5: Next Stop Brunkan, Brunkebergstorg, January 2017. Video installation by Nathalie Djurberg (video) and Hans Berg (sound). Photo: Geska Brečević.

One aspect that is clear so far from the Smart Kreativ Stad project is that the viewer perspective will continue to play a prominent role as methodological approach, and will likely pervade all evaluation and developmental work. The results from both completed and initiated studies show that experimenting with the viewing practices of film and moving images generally comes down to the viewer in public space and, by extension, all the residents of the city. The fact that the question involves probing new film screening practices in an urban environment and studying the residents’ encounters with these means that the project must address the curatorial practices of contemporary art in public, its specific locational and situational viewing practices and the inclusion of the viewer in these.The pilot studies carried out to date actualise the issues that will persist in the continued experimentation with moving images and film in an urban environment: what are the possibilities and the challenges when screening moving images in public space? What sorts of film experiences can be achieved in a city? What type of encounters and shared film experiences can be triggered outside the cinema? For whom is a place in a city accessible? Posing these questions, combining the tools of theoretical perspective and empirical experimentation, the project can further investigate if and how film, through developing screening practices, and with a locational and situational approach, can benefit inclusion, bridge misinterpretations, invisible structures and prevailing conventions, and thereby contribute to urban development.

Translation: Kevin Fickling



[1] See the website: smartkreativstad.com

[2] The films displayed are the work of two artists usually associated with international exhibitions in art galleries. Natalie Djurberg and Hans Berg have achieved great success on both the Swedish and international art scenes. The works on which they collaborated for this context were now shown for the first time in the public space. Every evening between January and March of 2017, Stockholmers could take part in their contemporary artistic expression. In late 2017 and early 2018, the moving images of other artists are intended to be screened on the same surfaces.

[3] Claude Parent, The Function of the Oblique – the architecture of Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1963 – 1969, AA Documents 3, 2004.

[4] Alan Dempsey, Yusuke Obuchi (eds.), Nine Problems in the Form of a Pavilion, AA Agendas No. 8, 2010.

[5] See: http://smartkreativstad.com/pilot/play-or-pause-cinema/

[6] A detailed account of the film screenings can be found on the website above under the heading Pilot Study #2 Popup Cinema, ”Evaluation report” http://smartkreativstad.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/SKS_Rapport_PopupCinema_v2.pdf (in Swedish only.)

[7]See: http://smartkreativstad.com/pilot/safariurbainsthlm/

[8] At present, there is a major change in the works here. The square is being rebuilt to serve as an attractive boulevard, a place rather than a passageway. Until these changes become more visible, the square will continue to be a transit area.

[9] Malin Zimm, ”Tillfällig arkitektur ger plats för kultur. Rumsskapande händelser och gemensamma platser”. Contracted by the Cultural Administration of Stockholm City, download pdf from Stockholm Stad or from: http://www.white.se/tillfallig-arkitektur-ger-plats-for-kultur/

[10] Within the Smart Kreativ Stad project, we have opted to use the term “viewer” rather than “participant”, well aware of the fact that this concept can in certain contexts be understood as more passive and unidirectional. In the field of film studies, ”viewer” is the accepted term and does not imply a passive onlooker.

[11] Imagining the Audience. Viewing Positions in Curatorial and Artistic Practice, Magdalena Malm and Annika Wik, ed., Stockholm: Art and Theory Publishing, 2012.

[12] Annie Dell’Aria, “Spectatorship in Public Space. The Moving Image in Public Art” in Making Sense of Cinema: Empirical Studies into Film Spectators and Spectatorship, CarrieLynn D. Reinhart, Christopher J. Olson, ed., Broomsbury Publishing, 2016. See also Dell’Aria’s blog: Just Passing By. Spectatorship in Public Places.

[13] See, e.g.: Situation, Claire Doherty, ed., London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2009. Out of Time. Out of Public Art (Now), Claire Doherty, ed., London: Art/Books, 2015. Curating Context. Beyond the Gallery and into Other Fields, Magdalena Malm, ed., Art and Theory Publishing, Statens konstråd, 2017.



Annika Wik holds a PhD from the Department of Cinema Studies, Stockholm University (2001). Currently she works independently with research and development within the field of film and contemporary art; conducting projects for Film Region Stockholm-Mälardalen and the Swedish Film Institute, and teaching at Konstfack, the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. 2007-2012 she was working with research based issues for the independent art producer MAP, Mobile Art Production. She is co-editor of the books Imagining the Audience. Viewing Positions in Artistic and Curatorial Practice (2012) and Rörlig konstproduktion/Mobile Art Production (2010). Since 2016 she is Chairman of the board for Filmform – Art Film & Video Archive in Stockholm.