The power of projections in urban landscapes and their representations on Instagram

“The images are marked by all the stigmas proper to animation and personality: they exhibit physical and virtual bodies; they speak to us, sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively; or they silently return their gaze to us through an abyss not connected by language ”. Mitchell (2015, p. 167)

Social media are new territories in which people can post photographs that portray their daily lives, newspapers can publicize news and projects with different purposes can disseminate their initiatives, creating a collaborative network of visibility and interaction. The Covid-19 pandemic has generated annoyance and has caused anxiety for many people, who have not yet understood how we will return to “normality”.

From our homes, we see everything happening through televisions, computers and mobile phones. The imminent danger of the Coronavirus has caused many societies to live in social isolation indefinitely. On Instagram, amid a tangle of photographs, I see initiatives that reassure hearts and inform to the population. “The balancedist hope” won the walls of Copacabana and Botafogo, in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), and arrived in several locations through the #Projetemos on May 5th. And, before hope wins these parts, Rio de Janeiro saw a marriage proposal: “Isabella, we will be quarantined together forever. Marry me?”. In the special memories of April 29, we see another declaration of love: “I have a heart apart just to love you”.

Running my fingers over the cellphone, we see the continuous posts from #Projetemos. In Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais (Brazil), a tribute to the deceased who failed to win the fight against Covid-19: “There is no one who likes to be a number, people deserve to exist in prose”. Brazilian newspapers report the power of projections. An urban art technique is taking over the walls of the tallest buildings in major Brazilian cities at night. Even with the social distance, people still manifesting, mainly in what concerns the political scope of the countries. A form of resistance to the government of Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil who is standing out on the world stage for his omission in relation to the fight against the Coronavirus, (re)born in this socioeconomic and cultural context. The defense of SUS, the Brazilian Unified Health System, is one of the projected themes.

New York can also be seen during social isolation, making projections as a form of demonstration in defense of health. “For you! For them! For us! Stay inside. Victory begins at home”. With a high number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the United States, the appeal has gained city walls and can be seen on Instagram at @the.illuminator. Through the walls of NYC, we also see calls for the protection of some minorities: “Protect migrant & refugee detainees from Covid-19”. Looking at @the.illuminator’s posts, I see the implicit political character of these demonstrations. June 4, 2019: Cancel Trump in the UK Parliament. The images of these projections travel the world, without time and space limitations. It is the power of technology and image, in constant intersection, giving voice to contemporary societies through projectors.

The strength of the image is an invitation to confront them, expose them and acclaim them. Mitchell (2015, p. 170) criticizes how visual culture can be biased. As critics, we run the risk of interpreting images as a direct strategy for political intervention. Regarding the “power of images”, it is necessary to understand that they can also have a simpler value than we suppose. Thinking about this reflection by Mitchell (2015), I tried to understand what these projections really want.

On May 6th, I met Mozart. Mozart is a VJ (video jockey) who lives in Recife, Pernambuco (Brazil). His work is related to free tourism. With projections, the artist interferes in the tourist scenery of the city. In our videoconference that took place on the Zoom digital platform, Mozart told me how the idea for #Projetemos came up. With his work limited during the Covid-19 pandemic in northeastern Brazil, Mozart looked for ways to inform the population and express himself artistically. “I cannot leave the house, but my light and my information may go out the window, reaching other people”, said Mozart.

The #Projetemos proposal was based on the creation of collaborative networks between VJs and volunteers who wanted to bring more information to people around the world. Today, the initiative has more than 200 projectionists spread across different locations. Brazil, United States, Italy and Portugal are connected daily in this network, discussing guidelines and sharing information to make the projection work happen. Mozart told me that projections are a political act and an artistic phenomenon. We talk about the power of the scope and the design aesthetics. The idea is sublime, as reinforced the artist between smiles and concerns with advancing Covid-19 in Brazil. It is about changing the landscape of the horizons. Even though artists are unable to see the real scope of their projections during the performance, other people’s photographic records show the immensity of the transformations that take place in the landscapes of large urban centers.

Journalists, social movements and people who never designed it began to show a lot of interest in the project the last month, and this is intensifying the action that came out of the need to disseminate “information against the pandemic”. The projections that portrayed “The innumerable” gained international visibility. The action that seeks to humanize the extensive number of deaths in Brazil, highlights that all lives matter: “Anyone’s best childhood friend in five minutes. Érika Regina, 39, a victim of the coronavirus in São Paulo, is not a number”.

Despite criticism from some neighbors who came to Mozart’s house to ask about the projections they thought were unnecessary, he continues his work. With messages that reinforce the need to stay at home, he managed to transform even the region in which he lives. Some children who were used to be playing in the streets before are already at home. The intention to project good and honest speeches continues.

I conclude that the network of free projectionists and the photos posted on Instagram, want to position themselves politically through art and the countless aspects that visual culture has for this. The photos that portray these projections want to be seen and, above all, want to be heard. Would this be an impossible task for images so silent and still? I believe not, because language collaborates in this aspect and lyrics gain prominence (Mitchell, 2015, p. 184).

Foucault (2017) approaches power as a social practice built throughout human history, displacing it from the concept that it is concentrated only in the hands of the State, as a controlling force. According to the author, it is necessary to observe another aspect of power. It can be used as a form of repression, exclusion and censorship. However, each struggle we fight in our daily lives develops around a particular focus of power, especially resistance struggles. Power is capable of permeating societies and producing discourses. It is also capable of being an expression, inducing pleasure and forms of knowledge. Resistance struggles as forms of micropolitics are composed of “gestures, attitudes, habits and discourses”. In this context, I consider power to be a producer of new knowledge and new ways of living. And this guides, in particular, the artistic expressions that are political acts that happen in urban centers, mainly in suburbs, as is the case of #Projetemos, which asks for “more love” in this period so critical for the world.



Foucault, M. (2017). Microfísica do poder. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra.

Mitchell, W. J. T. (2015). O que as imagens realmente querem. Pensar a imagem. Belo Horizonte: Autêntica.


By Alessandra Nardini

Braga, April 7, 2020