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Our Story

What is our perception as foreigners traveling in a given city? How does a foreigner passing-by relate to the culture of a new city? Our experiences traveling around the world have taught us valuable lessons about how one relates to a city from the foreigner’s perspective, and how our own culture filters the perception of the new reality. Noticing is at the heart of developing intercultural awareness when traveling; one can travel with the intention to let destinations and experiences come to oneself by allowing wandering and embracing unexpected paths in the journey.

Traveling with intention implies paying attention to cultural nuances that often escape the eye of the tourist, be willing to perceive differences and recognize their value, noticing the new reality not filtered trough the lens of the native culture. Being a cultural passenger requires overcoming ethnocentric behaviors and suspending judgments rooted in patterns of monocultural understanding. Cultural passengers embrace the newness of how public spaces are organized, how citizens interact in social spheres, how idiosyncrasies are articulated and manifested.

We travel with intention, we are cultural passengers.


Passengers: Cartographies of the Underground utilizes the metro as a metaphor for the underground dynamics of the city, and intends to explore the city from the arteries of the metro. Our interest resides in understanding commonalities and peculiarities that metro systems around the world display from the perspective of a cultural passenger. We are interested in learning through observation and reflection what kind of sensitivity a cultural passenger possesses; what is that cultural passengers notice that locals might not, and we would like to engage the public in this conversation about being in the world, being present, noticing.

The project originated in St. Petersburg, Russia, where writer Nuria Alonso García was on a Fulbright teaching appointment for the 2014-2015 academic and, in partnership with conceptual artist Leo Morrissey, envisioned an across-disciplines collaboration that reflects a commitment to traveling with intention, to being cultural passengers, and to foster awareness about the responsibility to be active listeners and sensitive observers by blending art, language and city life observations.

Observations of the Metro

This is a project about awareness, about interconnectedness of citizens. In this digital platform, we invite metro passengers from cities around the world to address this question: What do you notice when you travel on the metro? We, ourselves, are engaging in international metro research and base our observations in a variety of criteria such: language of the metro maps, functionality of the metro, schedules, building aspects, lighting, sustainability of the metro infrastructure, behavior of passengers, the spoken and unspoken rules of conduct.

We are developing visual narratives of our metro observations in a variety of media and language expressions, and juxtaposing our perceptions with the data collected digitally from passengers worldwide. It is our hope that this work will unveil commonalities of human behavior in connection to city traveling and will foster awareness and empathy about the way we relate to our fellow citizens in our native and foreign transit environments, often drenched by anonymity and isolation.


Cities speak, cities tell stories. Cities embody a mosaic of human experiences. Cities are landscapes where narratives travel waiting to be told, waiting to be heard. Cities can be ruthless, can isolate, marginalize, imperialize; cities can also foster creativity, cosmopolitan bonding, free-expression, self-realization. Cities witness an incessant flow of passengers who travel to the city, through the city, from the city. The semiotics of the city is intricate and city dwellers construct and reconstruct meaning within the realm of challenges and opportunities posed by urban landscapes. How do we develop an understanding of a particular city?

The metro offers cultural passengers a space for listening, for observing, for blending in the new environment. There is certain universality in the layout of underground systems around the world, a common sense of directionality, a familiar code to read metro maps and navigate the system; the absence of natural light that gives the underground a consistent light; there are also codes of regulated behavior that might vary from culture to culture, and to which passengers adhere. All cultures have a sense of an underground, and the surface representation of culture is rooted in underground traditions, heritage, past and current conflicts. What we perceive in the surface of a society is not a complete representation of its culture, and therefore it is imperative to ‘go underground’ to gain a better understanding of the city.

Your Stories

Which metro do you ride?

What type of passenger are you?

Think about what you see in the metro.

List up to three (3) things that come to mind.


More information coming here shortly


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