Express Trains is an artistic and social project in Berlin. It gives city residents the opportunity to
present their visual contributions in urban public space. Everyone will have an equal chance to
communicate his or her individual message – be it a photograph, a picture, a phrase, a poem, or
anything else – in a highly visible manner to one’s fellow residents. Printed on trains, the residents’
messages will travel throughout the city, reaching diverse locations and engaging numerous
In theory, all people have an equal right to the free speech. Yet, in practice, only a few individuals
have the opportunity to express themselves publicly in a way that reaches an audience. The access
to mass media is strongly associated with political and economic power. On the social media, one’s
messages mostly reach one’s acquaintances and like-minded people. Museums and galleries exhibit
only works of famous artists.
Urban public spaces, where we all spend our time daily, offer the best opportunities to express
oneself and to be heard. Yet, today these spaces are dominated by advertising, political messages,
and commissioned art. An individual’s right to free speech thus remains a theoretical ideal.
Express Trains aspires to change this picture, offering every city resident a kind of stage – a real
chance to express him- or herself freely in urban public space. At the same time, the project gives all
people in Berlin the opportunity to learn what their fellow residents wish to share with them.
An important principle of the project is an unconditional participation. Except for objectionable
expressions, like pornography or hate speech, as well as commercial advertising, all residents’
contributions will have an equal chance to participate. No selection process and no competition will
take place. Since the shortage of space prevents us from presenting all the contributions, it would be
still necessary to choose among them. This choice will be made randomly, through a lottery.
1. Each resident can upload his or her contribution here (link).
2. A randomized algorithm chooses the contributions that will be presented on trains.
3. The chosen contributions are printed in a big format on wraps and affixed to wagons.
4. The trains with the contributions go through the city, taking the residents’ visual messages
to different places and to many people.
5. The contributions stay on the trains for a month. Then the whole process repeats itself.
We are a small research team that works with questions of citizen participation in urban public
space. We aspire to enable city residents to emblazon their city with their individual contributions,
making the shared urban space more inclusive and multi-voiced.
Tim Schnetgöke is a photographer. Tim is especially interested in non-commissioned art in
Katya Assaf is a law professor. Her research focuses on politics behind the aesthetic design of
Do you have questions or ideas? Would you like to take part in our project as a sponsor? We would
be happy to hear from you!