Can We Recreate the Theater of the Street On Screen?

A marketing campaign's cameras turn a select number of public spaces into stages.

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YouTube/converse

In public squares in cities scattered across Europe, cameras are mounted up and pointed at a spot on the ground. When activated, they transform an otherwise typical piece of public space into a stage, where hundreds of people in hundreds of videos posted online have a brief moment to show off their skills – or at least, what they think are skills.

It's all part of a marketing campaign by the Converse shoe company called Pro Streets. The company has installed cameras in public spaces in seven European cities: Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Naples, Milan and Madrid. People activate the cameras by sending a text message, and then they can perform, often amid the busy flurry of people. The videos are posted online, and favorites can be voted on by the public.

Based on some of the videos, people have really embraced this opportunity. Like these kids dancing in Madrid:

This guy rapping in London:

This biker showing some impressive moves:

This skater showing some room for improvement:

These people spinning:

And this ridiculous dance troupe/hype crew in Paris:

The fact that it's all for a shoe company detracts from this project's coolness, but the idea raises an interesting question about how public spaces can be used and experienced: why shouldn't there be a way to experience the inherent theater of people-watching virtually?

Sure, it's much better to actually be there, but technology like cameras and web-accessible video means that the screen can serve as a proxy for the street. And for those willing or eager to share themselves both in public and on camera, the prospect of a distant audience and a permanent online record may be even more of a reason to perform. It's a different kind of way to activate a space, but one that brings a new way of looking at public places.

Images and videos courtesy converse

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.