Maria Kapteijns

video storytime   (2017)

storytime, a video
The video Storytime is a short video (4.19 minutes), consisting of more than 300 pictures and a few short moving shoots. Every second the image changes, accompanied by a metronome and a narrator, telling how the city can be a story. The rhythm of this city-story is very strict, but the story changes: the city can be a user manual, a history book and definitely also a poem.
semiotic approach of the city
Roland Barthes’ book Mythologies describes how meaning is produced on different levels. In the essay Semiology and the Urban Barthes gives an impression on how a semiotic approach of the city could look like, how it should be possible to speak about meaning production of the elements of the city, without metaphors, when we really can speak about it as a language.
Semiotic theories learn us that, in order to unravel the hidden messages, to be aware of the myths, you need to be able to look as a stranger or at least with estrangement. That what seems natural and obvious, has to be noticed as meaningful.

The city is a discourse, and this discourse is actually a language: the city speaks to its inhabitants, we speak to our city, the city where we are, simply by inhabiting it, by traversing it, looking at it.
Roland Barthes, 1967
a few fragments from storytime

So the city can be described as a text, a legible structure, partially by habit and traditions, partially programmed and controlled by city planners and institutional organizations. Within this text people live and walk around and by doing so, they actualize it, they make the functions manifest. Living in the city they also change meanings, for example by taking shortcuts, using the prescribed space in a different way, by celebrating new festivities in the old squares. So we spend our days in a 3d user’s manual that is rewritten constantly.

So the city is more than just a user’s manual. Victor Hugo taught us that the city is a poem. And of course in this case he was talking about Paris. In his vision the city is álso a text, but it’s an ambiguous one. It’s a text we can read with metaphors, emotions and darkness underneath; with allusion, alliteration and stylistic beauty.

And the flaneur awoke, the universal stranger, using this estrangement to open his eyes and see the beauty of the ordinary, the diverse and the absurd, to notice the poetry of the city. And to this day we need the strange and the estranged, the stranger and the unknown to write and read the poems of our cities.

Through the veins of the city

Underground (2016/2017)

Most cities have a large underground network, tunnels, sewers, parkings, mines, ossuaries. The most visible of course is the underground trainsystem, that can be found in most large cities.

The Saint Petersburg Metro is one of the deepest in the world. It takes more than three minutes to go down by the escallator, the inspiration for the video Underground (2016).
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video via Vimeo
video via Vimeo