Emptied City (2024)

In the center of the busy Van Sijpesteijntunnel, twenty-two CCTV cameras hang in a row above the water. According to the ebb and flow of the people moving to and from the city center, the CCTV cameras light up and project the words of a poem on the wall of the tunnel.

The poem, created for this installation by British poet Sophia Walker, reflects on people’s fears and motivations searching for some place to call home.

The surveillance cameras that project the poem on the wall used to belong to the city of Utrecht and have been transformed in this work from being invisible watchers, to parts of an artwork illuminating a dark corner of the city.

The words of the poem are only revealed by the movement of people through the tunnel, and they change their meaning based on the direction that you read them in, just as your sense of a city changes depending on if you are leaving there in the hope of finding something new, or if you are returning after many years; physically it is the same place, but you see it in an entirely different light.

The words of Sophia Walker’s poem, read in both directions, are below. We’ve added some punctuation here that is not part of the actual projection:

We didn’t fit, did we? Twisted angle and full tilt. Caught breath, snatched hope, city emptied of people. Fear the run out.

Out run the fear. People of emptied city. Hope snatched, breath caught. Tilt full and angle twisted. We did fit, didn’t we?