Introduction

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CITY SETS Seminar – Visual Urban Identities
15–16 November 2010

Media Centre Lume, Sampo Hall
Hämeentie 135 C, 00510 Helsinki

Watch live stream

City Sets media player: mlab.taik.fi/citysetsmedia

Aalto University School of Art and Design
in collaboration with DIMEKE Content Development for Digital Media and Aalto University Media Factory


City Sets is a metaphor that refers to cities as stages where passers-by are seen as actors. People with different motives come to cities to live, work, do business, spend free time and meet other people. These encounters have inspired many artists and designers from filmmakers and photographers to writers and architects.

The architecture of an urban environment tells history and frames places, which can be seen as stages for various episodes and happenings to come about. Quarters in a town differ according to their histories and functions and although the architecture is relatively permanent, the atmosphere of a place changes with lightning and weather. The character of Helsinki is different in summer and winter months and the visual identity seems to vary when a spectator moves from one quarter to another.

Advertising and signage in a city can be seen as sets, which also influence the appearance of a place. The signage is set to inform people, to direct traffic or to identify buildings and companies. Outdoor advertisements and posters are topical information but their purpose may also be to persuade, entertain and tell stories. These city sets together with the architecture, history and people create the identity and narrative of a city.

The City Sets seminar takes a look into these identities and narratives of cities as portrayed in visual practice, research and new media. It also presents and discusses the results of the Aalto University School of Art and Design workshop 8-12 Nov 2010, in which these subjects are investigated by art and design students through the realisation of a multiple-point-of-view web narrative of Helsinki and its visual identity. The seminar also functions as a kick-off for larger national and international collaboration on the themes in order to formulate a European wide CITY SETS project.

City Sets – multi-linear urban identities is a collaborative research and education initiative to explore visual urban identities and narration in cities worldwide and particularly in Europe. The outcome of the CITY SETS project will be an interactive multi-linear online installation to be developed into a Helsinki World Design Capital 2012 event in the context of the Cumulus Helsinki conference May 2012 via collaboration with various international art and design universities. The City Sets project has received preliminary funding from Aalto University Media Factory.

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