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Lecture 4 - Cities & Film

•The city in Modernism
•The possibility of an urban sociology
•The city as public and private space
•The city in Postmodernism
•The relation of the individual to the crowd in the city

Urban sociology emerges which creates a public space and a private

Postmodern Cities represented in photography and film.

Georg Simmel (1858- 1918)

•German sociologist
•Writes Metropolis and Mental Life in 1903
•Influences critical theory of the Frankfurt School thinkers eg: Walter Benjamin, Kracauer, Adorno and Horkheimer

What he does is write about the role of intellectual life in the city but actually the effects of the city and the built environment on the individual.

How the body functions in a space which is new. A space which involves dealing with traffic. The experience of how you interact with the physical environment and other people.

Written around the same time of Freud's Physoanaaysis findings.

Dresden Exhibition 1903

•Simmel is asked to lecture on the role of intellectual life in the city but instead reverses the idea and writes about the effect of the city on the individual
•Herbert Bayer Lonely Metropolitan 1932

Fregmented body, surrounded by an apartment windows. The windows as eyes and the eyes loking back at us as a spectator.

Urban sociology

•the resistance of the individual to being levelled, swallowed up in the social-technological mechanism.
•— Georg Simmel The Metropolis and Mental Life 1903

Lewis Hine (1932) - He is picturing a very vulnerable body in relation to the vastness of the city.

He's famous for the image of the workers sat on a gurder. He portrays a risk to the bodies in the city environment. We see a guy climbing a wire which is unheard of today.

He is thinking about a possibility to a resistance of the individual being swallowed up by the city.

Architect Louis Sullivan (1856-1924)

•creator of the modern skyscraper,
•an influential architect and critic of the Chicago School
•mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright,
•Guaranty Building was built in 1894 by Adler & Sullivan in Buffalo NY

He coined the phrase 'FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION'. 

The actual quote is Form ever follows funtion. He is the creator of the modern skyscraper.

Details from Guaranty Building

He we see some details from the top of the building. It has an organic decoration that is influenced by arts and crafts. 

He applies the form follows function to the layout of the building. 

Different Zones for different areas of the building; offices, utility, maintenance etc. 

The building begins to dictate how a person moves through it. 

•Skyscrapers represent the upwardly mobile city of business opportunity
•Fire cleared buildings in Chicago in 1871 and made way for Louis Sullivan new aspirational buildings

Carson Pririe Scott store in Chicago (1904)

•Skyscrapers represent the upwardly mobile city of business opportunity. Represenrs this idea of the American Dream which is what attracts people to the city. People migrating to the city and also Immigration from other countries. 

•Fire cleared buildings in Chicago in 1871 and made way for Louis Sullivan new aspirational buildings

This is looked at in the film Manhatta (1921) Paul Strand and Charles Scheeler. 

Charles Scheeler

Episode looks at the work of artist/photographer

on the occasion of the introduction of the new Ford Model A. Sheeler was commissioned to photograph the plant in Dearborn, Michigan as part of a larger $1.3 million advertising campaign. 

The images here are typical of the modern aesthetic in the fact they demonstrate the industrial aspects of the forms in space that is influenced by the abstract art of the time.

Fordism: mechanised labour relations

•Coined by Antonio Gramsci in his essay "Americanism and Fordism”
•"the eponymous manufacturing system designed to spew out standardized, low-cost goods and afford its workers decent enough wages to buy them” (De Grazia: 2005:4)

How the factory environment effect the people who work there. The idea of how the body almost becomes part of the machinery in a factory. The production line and movements people make are repetitive like machines. A coming together of People and Machines.

Its not just about workers producing the goods but also affordable goods being produced so they can afford them themselves.

Modern Times (1936) Charlie Chaplin

Chaplin plays with this with the comedy Modern Times. 

Wrote directed and starred in

Modern Times portrays Chaplin as a factory worker, employed on an assembly line. After being subjected to such indignities as being force-fed by a "modern" feeding machine and an accelerating assembly line where Chaplin screws nuts at an ever-increasing rate onto pieces of machinery, he suffers a mental breakdown that causes him to run amok throwing the factory into chaos.

Chaplin is making a comment on this aspect of Modernity. A critical point of view of the body being swallowed by the machine. Comical but also Political.

Stock market crash of 1929

•Factories close and unemployment goes up dramatically
•Leads to “the Great Depression”
•Margaret Bourke-White

The Louisville Flood, 1937.

People queing for food after the flood. Difficult social situations but also an extreme between the wants and needs.

Man with a movie Camera (1929) - The film showcases a range of cinematic techniques which were revolutionary at the time. Freeze Frame / Jump Cuts.

Russian silent documentary film, with no story and no actors,[2] by Russian director Dziga Vertov, edited by his wife Elizaveta Svilova. Accompanied by live music originally many contemporary versions of the soundtrack have been recorded

his film is famous for the range of cinematic techniques Vertov invents, deploys or develops, such as double exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, jump cuts, split screens, Dutch angles, extreme close-ups, tracking shots, footage played backwards, stop motion animations and a self-reflexive style (at one point it features a split screen tracking shot; the sides have opposite Dutch angles).

Vertov strove to create a futuristic city that would serve as a commentary on existing ideals in the Soviet world. This imagined city’s purpose was to awaken the Soviet citizen through truth and to ultimately bring about understanding and action. Celebrates industrialisation mechanisation transport communication. The camera has access to intimate moments bed/birth as well as public street life. World peopled by mannequins.


•The term flâneur comes from the French masculine noun flâneur—which has the basic meanings of "stroller", "lounger", "saunterer", "loafer"—which itself comes from the French verb flâner, which means "to stroll"

He's an upperclass gentleman who has the time to stroll around the city making observations. The idleness is put forward as creativity.

Charles Baudelaire

•The nineteenth century French poet Charles Baudelaire proposes a version of the flâneur—that of "a person who walks the city in order to experience it".
•Art should capture this
•Simultaneously apart from and a part of the crowd.

He walks the city rather than being part of the machine, he strolls and takes in the surroundings. Being part of the crowd while t the same time being removed from this.

•Adopts the concept of the urban observer as an analytical tool and as a lifestyle as seen in his writings
•(Arcades Project, 1927–40), Benjamin’s final, incomplete book about Parisian city life in the 19th century
•Berlin Chronicle/Berlin Childhood (memoirs)

Not unlike victorian arcades of leeds

Café society

Figure of the flaneur also becomes important in contemporary architecture and urban planning which seek to harmonise the environment with the human experience of the city

•The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world 'picturesque.' (pg. 55)

The flâneur's tendency toward detached but aesthetically attuned observation has brought the term into the literature of photography, particularly street photography. The street photographer is seen as one modern extension of the urban observer 

•The Invisible Flâneuse. Women and the Literature of Modernity
•Janet Wolff
•Theory, Culture & Society November 1985 vol. 2 no. 3 37-46

•The literature of modernity, describing the fleeting, anonymous, ephemeral encounters of life in the metropolis, mainly accounts for the experiences of men. It ignores the concomitant separation of public and private spheres from the mid-nineteenth century, and the increasing segregation of the sexes around that separation. The influential writings of Baudelaire, Simmel, Benjamin and, more recently, Richard Sennett and Marshall Berman, by equating the modern with the public, thus fail to describe women's experience of modernity. The central figure of the flâneur in the literature of modernity can only be male. What is required, therefore, is a feminist sociology of modernity to supplement these texts.

•Susan Buck-Morss,
in this text suggests that the only figure a woman on the street can be is either a prostitute or a bag lady

•City as a labyrinth of streets and alleyways in which you can get lost but at the same time will always end up back where you begin
•Don’t look Now (1973) Nicholas Roeg

•Wants to provide photographic evidence of her existence
•His photos and notes on her are displayed next to her photos and notes about him
•Set in Paris

Is this art imitating life or life imitating art? Is Cindy Sherman suggesting female experience of the city. 

Weegee (Arthur Felig)

Murder Photography. Peple beleive he is somehow in touch with spirits, but didn't in reality. he arrived on the scene minutes after a crime had been committed because he has a police radio hacked in to the system and turned up as they did.  

His book 'THe Naked City' was turned into a TV Series. Every episode was a film noir documentry. Beat cops and detectives finding the girls killer. 

•the first video game to be shown at the Tribecca Film Festival
•Incorporates “MotionScan”, where actors are recorded by 32 surrounding cameras to capture facial expressions from every angle.The technology is central to the game's interrogation mechanic, as players must use the suspects' reactions to questioning to judge whether they are lying or not.

This is echoed in LA Noir. The games is set in Los Angeles in 1947. LAPD solving a range of cases across crime scenes. Contemporary spin on the 1940's LA.

Cities of the future / pas-fritz lag Metropolis (1929)

Mixing up of the past and the future. Made in 1982 but depicts LA in 2019. We get a strange mixture which is typical of postmoderism. A Film Noir retro style of the 40's and 50's with a 1980's edge on it predicting the future.  Mixing the timeline up. 

Lora di Corica Heads (2001) NY

When in Berlin, Calcutta, Hollywood, New York, Rome and Tokyo, he would often hide lights in the pavement, which would illuminate a random subject in a special way, often isolating them from the other people in the street

Street photography telephoto lens synched with flash

Surveillance is a comment on the experience of the city. In a city full of lots of people but at the same time you are completely alone.

His photographs would then give a sense of heightened drama to the passers-by accidental poses, unintended movements and insignificant facial expressions. Even if sometimes the subject appears to be completely detached to the world around him, diCorcia has often used the city of the subject's name as the title of the photo, placing the passers-by back into the city's anonymity.

This sense of bewilderment creates a drama which makes the image look like film stills.

•In 2006, a New York trial court issued a ruling in a case involving one of his photographs. One of diCorcia's New York random subjects was Ermo Nussenzweig, an Orthodox Jew who objected on religious grounds to diCorcia's publishing in an artistic exhibition a photograph taken of him without his permission. The photo's subject argued that his privacy and religious rights had been violated by both the taking and publishing of the photograph of him. The judge dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the photograph taken of Nussenzweig on a street is art - not commerce - and therefore is protected by the First Ammendement.
•Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Judith J. Gische ruled that the photo of Nussenzweig—a head shot showing him sporting a scraggly white beard, a black hat and a black coat was art, even though the photographer sold 10 prints of it at $20,000 to $30,000 each. The judge ruled that New York courts have "recognized that art can be sold, at least in limited editions, and still retain its artistic character.
•[F]irst [A]mendment protection of art is not limited to only starving artists. A profit motive in itself does not necessarily compel a conclusion that art has been used for trade purposes."

Walker Evens Many are called (1938)

An interesting exposure of people unaware of being photographed. Going about their daily business. The wider picture of people both alone in the big city but together at the same time. 

Clarke says evans used a concealed camera hidden beneath his trench coat. The result is one of the most incisive series of photographs of city life ever taken. There is a haunting quality appropriate to the environment in which figures are placed. Everyone appears alone and separate. 

Postmodern City in photography: Joel Meyerowitz Broadway and West 46th Street NY 1976

Taken at street level this offers an eye level view of incipient confusion. The eye is overwhelmed by signs, and colour adds to the effect of chaos.  Although the image is full of deail there is no sense of tradition or of unity. Indeed it is difficult to find a solid building at all. Clarke

Intense saturated colour with depth of field to give no focus. Not asking us to pick a person in the crowd, nobody is prioritised over another. The figures take up the bottomhalf of the image and the city takes up the rest. We are not sure what we are being shown which replicates being in a city and being disorientated. 

Another one of his images here. The body on the floor is not really the focus of the image. People are looking at the drama as if its normal and something to walk past. Somebody is actually stepping over the person on the pavement. No engagement or attempt to help or be involved with the scene. 

9/11 Citizen journalism: the end of the flaneur?

•Liz Wells says that phrase is first seen in an article by Stuart Allen Online News: Journalism and the Internet in 2006. She discusses the 7/7 bombings in London and the immediacy of the mobile phone images which recorded the event as commuters travel to work. These images were online within an hour of the event.

The destruction of the skyscaper, in the Twin Towers is the destruction of the American Dream as Andrew Grahame Dixon figured earlier.

Where issues of the body the city the built environment the man of the crowd the stranger/immigrant collide catastrophically
Surveillance City

•“Since the attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in 2001 and the ensuing ‘war on terrorism’ there has been an enormous ramping up of investment in machine reading technologies. If the nineteenth century saw the automation of picture making , in the 21st century we now seek machines to look at pictures on our behalf.” (Wells: 09: 339)

•Stills from the video, Untitled, 2003, by Runa Islam shown in the Intervention exhibition 2003, John Hansaard Gallery. Islam uses BBC news footage of the collapse of the World Trade Centre, 11 September 2001. Slowed down and in reverse, the back to front collapse of the towers aquires a ‘terrible beauty’. The viwer is forced to contemplate events in a manner which is very different from any earlier responses they might have had to the ubiquitously show news footage. The ‘sublime’ quality of the panorama is dealt with in such a way as to make the viewer ask if Katherine Stockhausen wasn’t perhaps touching on some unmentionable aspect of any viewers experience I describing the collapse of the WTC as “the greatest work of art ever”?

Luna Islam is a Bangladeshi-born British visual artist and filmaker based in London. She was a nominee for the 2008 Turner Prize. She is principally known for her film works. Wikipedia

The idea is so simple that it is almost childlike indulging us in the fantasy moment of turning back the clock. Is however theoretically underpinned.
Bernadette Buckley

Further Research

•Cityscapes of modernity: critical explorations

By David Frisby
•Art of America: Modern Dreams (2/3) Andrew Grahame Dixon BBC 4 21/11/11
•De Grazia, Victoria (2005), Irresistible Empire: America's Advance Through 20th-Century Europe, Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
•Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (1989)
•Grahame Clarke (1997) The Photograph, Chapter 5 The city in photography
•Art in the Age of Terrorism, Terrible Beauties, Bernadette Buckley, (2005)

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