Nanna Verhoeff

University of Utrecht

Performative Materials: Making Urban Interfaces


I am interested in the interfacing role of media art and architecture – from screens, projections and installations, to other mediating objects, structures, and surfaces in our cities. Conceptually, interfaces are increasingly theorized as performative, processual and relational, and in that sense, as non-material territories. However, it is precisely the performativity of interfaces, or perhaps rather, interfacings, that prompt us to understand and approach interfaces as material practices that imply various (interrelated) materialities. We may distinguish, for example, between materials that come to function as interfaces, practices as interfacings with materials, and interfacings as the materializing of situations.

In my presentation I will sketch some questions that arise from this perspective when looking at current examples of critical making and creative and tactical design of urban screens as public dashboards for the visualization of data and data flows within the city. In collaboration with European partners and with our research group at Utrecht University ([urban interfaces]) I am currently developing a research perspective on the productive connections – interfacings – between theoretical and critical analysis on the one hand, and practices of creative and critical making, and reflexive design and curation on the other. In my contribution I will bring this methodological reflection on interdisciplinary (artistic and theoretical) approaches of urban screens and media art in relation to questions about the performative materiality of these urban interfaces.


Nanna Verhoeff is Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Culture at Utrecht University. Interested in comparative approaches to changing media forms, she investigates emerging and transforming media cultures from early cinema to contemporary mobile and location-based, interactive screens and installations. Besides her work on 3D cinema and immersive screen media, she has published on mobile media, augmented reality, screen-based installations and media architecture. Her books include The West in Early Cinema: After the Beginning (2006) and Mobile Screens: The Visual Regime of Navigation (2012). She is co-editor of a special issue on Urban Cartographies with Television and New Media (Spring 2017). In 2014, she initiated the interdisciplinary research group [urban interfaces] at Utrecht University – a platform for research on location-based and mobile media, art and performance in urban public spaces. Currently, she is co-editing a special issue for Leonardo Electronic Almanac: Urban Interfaces: Situated Media, Art, and Performance Making Public Spaces (planned for 2018).

[urban interfaces]: