Thursday 7 November 2013

Cities and Film

The Lecture;
This lecture looks at;
  • The city in modernism
  • The beginnings 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

Georg Simmel (1858-1918);
  • German socialist
  • Writes Metropolis and Mental Life in 1903
  • Influences critical theory of the Frankfurt School thinkers eg: Walter Benjamin, Kracauer, Adorno and Horkheimer

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)

Urban sociology, Lewis Haine;

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

Architect Louis Sullivan (1856-1924);

  • Creator of the modern skyscraper
  • An influence architect and critic of the Chicago School
  • Mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Guaranty Building was built in 1894 by Adler & Sullivan in Buffalo NY
  • Coined the phrase, in 1896, in his article «The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered». Here Sullivan actually said 'form ever follows function’
  • Red terracotta
Details from guaranty building;
  • He and Adler divided the building into four zones. The basement was the mechanical and utility area. Since this level was below ground, it did not show on the face of the building. The next zone was the ground-floor zone which was the public areas for street-facing shops, public entrances and lobbies. The third zone was the office floors with identical office cells clustered around the central elevator shafts. The final zone was the terminating zone, consisting of elevator equipment, utilities and a few offices.
  • The supporting steel structure of the building was embellished with terra cotta blocks. Different styles of block delineated the three visible zones of the building. Sullivan was quoted as saying, "It must be every inch a proud and soaring thing, rising in sheer exultation that from bottom to top it is a unit without a single dissenting line.
  • Sullivan’s ornament is unmistakably original, but it is not without precedents in the contemporary tradition of the English Arts and Crafts movement. “The numerous parallels between Sullivan’s ornament and the architectural decoration of Furness make it clear that Sullivan’s ornament came directly from Furness and, through him, from earlier ornament by English architects.” (Sprague 1979) 
 Carson Pririe Scott store in Chicago (1904);
  • 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

 Charles Sheeler;
  • 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.
Fordism; mechanised labour relations;
  • Coined by Antonio Gramsci in his essay "Americanism and Fordism” of 1934
  • "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)
  • Production line
  • Sought to gain maximum productivity with minimum effort through repetitive mechanical action
  • Cycle of mass production and mass consumption- in this case cars

Modern Times (1936) Charlie Chaplin;
  • 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.
  • Gets accussed of being a communist, goes to jail, meets a girl, ends up working as a waiter ends up performing a kind of pantomime which is a hit and saves the day for the two of them.

Stock market crash of 1929;

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

         He 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"
 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
  • Man of the crowd comes from Edgar Alan Poes story
Walter Benjamin;
  • Adopts the concept of the urban observer as an analytical tool and as a lifesytle as seen in his writings
  • (Arcades Projects, 1927-40) Benjamins final incomplete book about Parisian city life in the 19th century
  • Berlin Chronicle/Berlin Childhood(memoirs)
Photographer as flaneur;

Susan Sontag on Photography;
         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 invisible Flaneuse. Women ans literature and modernity.
  • Janet wolff
  • Theory, Culture and 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.
Sophie Calle Suite Venitienne (1980);

  • ‘For months I followed strangers in the street. For the pleasure of following them, not because they particularly interested me. I photographed them without their knowledge, took note of their movements, then finally lost sight of them and forgot them.
  • At the end of January 1980, on the streets of Paris, I followed a man whom I lost sight of a few minutes later in the crowd. That very evening, by chance, he was introduced to me at an opening. During the course of our conversation, he told me he was planning an imminent trip to Venice.’ Frieze magazine.

  • City as a labrinth 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.
  • Couple go to Venice to recover after the loss of a child.  The woman is haunted by a figure in  a red cape that darts through the city.
  • Issues of memory. Grief Trauma
  • Plays with time
  • Mixed up identity
The Detective (1980);

  • 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.
  • Detective (1980), consisted of Calle being followed for a day by a private detective, who had been hired (at Calle's request) by her mother. Calle proceeded to lead the unwitting detective around parts of Paris that were particularly important for her, thereby reversing the expected position of the observed subject. 
  • Such projects, with their suggestions of intimacy, also questioned the role of the spectator, with viewers often feeling a sense of unease as they became the unwitting collaborators in these violations of privacy. Moreover, the deliberately constructed and thus in one sense artificial nature of the documentary ‘evidence' used in Calle's work questioned the nature of all truths.
Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Stills (1977-80);
  • Acting out that character.
  • Dwarfed by the city.
  • Woman is lost, threatened by the street. Trapped- presence absence
  • Film noir stereotype
  • Shot at the base of the WTC.
  • The shots of the WTC don’t look like the WTC unless you knew the towers well and could recognise the windows in the background. I wasn’t trying to make photos of Manhattan; I wanted the pictures to be mysterious and to look like unidentifiable locations.  So I used types of building that looked as if they could be anywhere. 
Weegee (Arthur Felig);

  • Weegee worked in the Lower East Side of New York City as a press photographer during the 1930s and '40s, and he developed his signature style by following the city's emergency services and documenting their activitynickname,
  • a phonetic rendering of Ouija, because of his frequent, seemingly prescient arrivals at scenes only minutes after crimes, fires or other emergencies were reported to authorities
  • Originally from the Ukraine
  • Weegee developed his photographs in a homemade darkroom in the back of his car
  • 1938, Fellig was the only New York newspaper reporter with a permit to have a portable police-band shortwave radio.
The Naked City;

  • Based on a story by Malvin Wald, The Naked City portrays the police investigation that follows the murder of a young model. A veteran cop is placed in charge of the case and he sets about, with the help of other beat cops and detectives, finding the girl's killer. The Naked City producer Mark Hellinger's voice was used for the film's narration. Hellinger died of a sudden heart attack after a preview of the movie. The film was the inspiration for the 1958-63 TV series Naked City and its closing tag line, "There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.”
  • Film Noir documentary style
LA Noire (2001);
  • The first video game to be shown at the Tribecca Film Festival.
  • Incorporates "MotionScan" where actors are recodered 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.
  • L.A. Noire is set in Los Angeles in 1947 and challenges the player, controlling a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detective, to solve a range of cases across five crime desks. Players must investigate crime scenes for clues, follow up leads, and interrogate suspects, and the players' success at these activities will impact how much of the cases' stories are revealed.
  • As the title suggests, the game draws heavily from both plot and aesthetic elements of film noir – stylistic films from the 1940s and 1950s that shared similar visual styles and themes including crime, sex, and moral ambiguity and were often shot in black and white with harsh, low-key lighting. The game uses a distinctive colouring-style in homage to the visual style of film noir, including the option to play the game in black-and-white. The post-war setting is the backdrop for plot elements that reference the detective films of the '40s (as well as James Ellroy's novel L.A. Confidential and the Curtis Hanson film based on it), such as corruption and drugs, with a jazz soundtrack. L.A. Noire is also notable for using Lightsprint's real-time global illumination technology, as well as Depth Analysis's newly developed technology for the film and video game industries called 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. 
  • L.A. Noire is the first video game to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival.Upon release, the game received critical acclaim.
Lorca di Corcia 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

  • 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.

  • 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."
  • No privacy in a public place.

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
9/11 Citizen journalism: the end of the flaneur?;
  • Adam Beezer Image
  • 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)
  • Surveillance images follow the mobile phone images.

  • 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”?
  • una 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. 
  • 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

  • Titled jpeg to indicate the digital pictures—anonymously created images downloaded off the Internet—from which they are derived, Ruff's newest works greatly expand the matrix of individual pixels in low-resolution files. 
  • The perceptual effect of this transformation—from the size of a computer screen to the grand scale of history paintings—is that the pictures seem to fragment and explode before our eyes, trailing off into a seemingly infinite progression of tonal shifts from pixel to pixel and in every direction. 
  • The disquieting result is that the iconic image of the attack on the World Trade Center seared in collective memory becomes ungraspable, fugitive, slippery, almost aqueous. (met museum)

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