The Cinema of Urban Crisis [new book]

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The Cinema of Urban Crisis

Seventies Film and the Reinvention of the City

By Lawrence Webb (University of Sussex)

In the 1970s, cities across the United States and Western Europe faced a deep social and political crisis that challenged established principles of planning, economics and urban theory. At the same time, film industries experienced a parallel process of transition, the effects of which rippled through the aesthetic and narrative form of the decade’s cinema. The Cinema of Urban Crisis traces a new path through the cinematic legacy of the 1970s by drawing together these intertwined histories of urban and cultural change. Bringing issues of space and place to the fore, the book unpacks the geographical and spatial dynamics of film movements from the New Hollywood to the New German Cinema, showing how the crisis of the seventies and the emerging ‘postindustrial’ economy brought film and the city together in new configurations.

Chapters cover a range of cities on both sides of the Atlantic, from New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco to London, Paris and Berlin. Integrating analysis of film industries and production practices with detailed considerations of individual texts, the book offers strikingly original close analyses of a wide range of films, from New Hollywood (The Conversation, The King of Marvin Gardens, Rocky) to European art cinema (Alice in the Cities, The Passenger, Tout va Bien) and popular international genres such as the political thriller and the crime film. Focusing on the aesthetic and representational strategies of these films, the book argues that the decade’s cinema engaged with – and helped to shape – the passage from the ‘urban crisis’ of the late sixties to the neoliberal ‘urban renaissance’ of the early eighties. Splicing ideas from film studies with urban geography and architectural history, the book offers a fresh perspective on a rich period of film history and opens up new directions for critical engagement between film and urban studies.

Read more at Amsterdam University Press here.
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the French Urban Periphery: Interdisciplinary Conference Organised by Banlieue Network

The Banlieue Far from the Clichés : New Voices, Images and Identities Emerging from the French Urban Periphery

Interdisciplinary Conference Organised by Banlieue Network

Oxford Brookes University, 3-4-5 April 2014

Call for Papers

Over the past few decades, the term “banlieue” has become synonymous with pockets of exclusion on the peripheries of most major French cities. Suburban areas have been the scene of urban violence since the early 1980s, but the riots which occurred in 2005, 2007 and 2010, have reached an unprecedented scale. In the wake of these outbreaks, media accounts and social commentators have highlighted the extent of the social divide in France between residents of disadvantaged urban peripheries and those of more affluent areas. Excluded and marginalised, suburban communities are located at the limits of French society, both literally and metaphorically. In mainstream society, the media-constructed image of the banlieues frequently provides the only insight into life in these underprivileged neighbourhoods. However, the prism of the media often tends to present a distorted image of reality. Focusing on issues of violence, immigration, integration, religion and identity, media and political discourses tend to favour the consolidation of negative stereotypes commonly associated with the suburbs.

However, in recent years, a new type of discourse has emerged that presents images of diversity, vitality and creativity, to counter the clichés of violence and delinquency. Projects which aim to introduce young people to writing, or to other forms of artistic creation, such as “Bondy Blog” or “Les Gars de Villiers”, seek to help them forge out a space in public and media arenas, as “to write is to exist” (Nordine Nabili). The publishing and film industries have also witnessed an explosion of stories referring to the suburbs. Some critics refer to a new literary and cinematic force, while others note the emergence of an urban culture that thrives on the creativity of residents from the suburbs. The resounding success of recent films such as “L’Esquive” (“Games of Love and Chance”) (Kechiche, 2003) or “The Untouchables” (Toldeano, Nakache, 2011), shows that the suburbs now occupies an important place in the minds of the majority of French people.

This conference is Continue reading

SANDSOF.com (a CREATIVE CAPSULE)


‘slicetow, module 1’, 2010 by mathilde nivet
image © zoe guilbert

Words by Staff @Designboom

Cite de l’Architecture & Heritage in Paris, France, has organized an exhibition at Le Palais de Chaillot, entitled ‘Paper Architecture’ featuring designs by Ingrid SiliakusBeatrice CoronStephanie BeckMathilde Nivet and Peter Callesen. The collection of work looks at iconic buildings and the creation of imaginary cities made of the thin sheets. During the presentation children will learn the techniques used in the art of folding and etching to realize the models.

Paris-based designer Mathilde Nivet takes the context of urbanism and the city as the source for her work. She uses a pop-up technique which combines folding, decoupage and montage to represent three-dimensional architecture at a large scale. The facades make up a paper town at different levels to evoke a sense of memory and metropolitan legacy.


‘slicetow, module 2’…

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Toward an Urban Cultural Studies [prezi]

I just returned from delivering an invited lecture at the University of Kentucky, which I titled:

Toward an Urban Cultural Studies: Henri Lefebvre, Space and the Culture(s) of Cities.

Clicking on the above link will take you to the prezi that accompanied the talk, which includes video and audio clips, although it leaves out the first 15-20 minute set-up which was devoted to the academic spat between C.P. Snow and F.R. Leavis in their 1959 and 1962 lectures (see an earlier post). The talk was a form of organized rambling at a general level about Lefebvre’s insights into cities, the timeliness of urban cultural studies, interdisciplinary issues in general, David Harvey, city rhythms, and so on, so a lot is left out of the prezi alone, but it may still be interesting to watch. Given that I was pitching the talk so broadly, I was thrilled that so many non-Hispanic Studies faculty/students were able to make it.

If you haven’t seen or used prezi before (higher functionality/privacy free for educators with an .edu email address) I can say that it may blow your mind as a presentation format (I was blown away when I first saw this used at a conference last year). After watching a prezi (many are ‘public’/freely available on the site to view) it becomes clear just how much power point presentations are linked to the cultural moment in which I grew up–which revolved around linear slideshows of non-digital photography (didn’t you hate it when that one slide got stuck in the projector?).

Special thanks to U Kentucky Professors Susan Larson and Aníbal Biglieri in particular, and also to many other faculty members from both the Department of Hispanic Studies there (and its fantastic graduate students) and beyond, for making it such a great experience!

Zola’s The Squares: City, Country and Work

In the Introduction to Against Architecture: The Writings of Georges Bataille by Denis Hollier (trans. Betsy Wing; MIT 1989) there are some interesting remarks:

“In 1867, Emilie Zola, a young journalist, dedicated one of his articles to the upcoming inauguration of a public space. The piece is entitled ‘The Squares.’ It begins: ‘The gates to the new Parmentier square, built on the site of the former Popincourt slaughterhouse, will soon be opened to the public.’ Then come two pages of sarcasm directed at the absurdity of urban landscaping, where lawns try to recall nature for consumptive city dwellers. ‘It looks like a bit of nature that did something wrong and was put in prison.’ A square is not a museum, but it too is a place for soft expenditure, it is an enclave through whose gates Parisian workers escape the implacable law of labor: they take the air (regenerate their lungs just as do the museum visitors observed by Bataille). For lack of an animal they kill time.” (xv)

“Despite his sarcastic remarks about squares, a mere detail in Haussmann’s overall plan, Zola is vigorously in favor of the modernization of Paris. […] In the modern city, the capital of the world of work, everyone is busy. Everything found there has its function, a physiological justification. […] Zola is allergic to the squares because the city takes its rest there, or, more precisely, because these idleness preserves are urban. Not that Zola is opposed to stopping work (workers have a right to recreation), but he is opposed to this happening in the city. If one is not working one should leave.” (xvi)

Although I’ve read more of Chilean writer Baldomero Lillo and Spanish author Emilia Pardo Bazán (both influenced by Zola) than Zola himself, I was reminded of the role of the country in the French writer’s Germinal (a great read) where the forest serves as a safe space for organizing against the evils of mine-work. Given that nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century reactions unfolded against industrialization and mechanization rather than against urbanization proper (e.g. see Lewis Mumford), it makes sense to see authors of that time upholding such a strict city-country dichotomy instead of seeing (as some have suggested) capitalist industrialization as a first step toward capitalist urbanization (much easier in hindsight)–in both cases, of course, the city and the country are part of an evolving and dynamic relationship, which renders Zola’s view on squares somewhat humorous if not also absurd from today’s perspective.

“if one is not working one should leave”–I’m not sure how well this statement represents Zola’s view, but it certainly supports a reifying perspective on city and country that itself anticipates the post-war uneven development of leisure and work spaces taken on by Lefebvre (e.g. The Production of Space).

 

CFP–new Journal of Urban Cultural Studies launched

Visit the new Journal of Urban Cultural Studies site here.

Call for Papers

The Journal of Urban Cultural Studies is a new peer-reviewed publication cutting across both the humanities and the social sciences in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities. The journal is open to studies that deal with culture, urban spaces and forms of urbanized consciousness the world over.

Although we embrace a broad definition of urban cultural studies, we are particularly interested in submissions that give equal weight to: a) one or more aspects of urban studies (everyday life, built environment, architecture, city planning, identity formation, transportation…) and b) analysis of one or more specific forms of cultural/textual production (literature, film, graphic novels, music, art, graffiti, videogames, online or virtual space…) in relation to a given urban space or spaces.

Essays of 7,000-10,000 words (including works cited and notes) should be sent by attachment to the Editor at urbanculturalstudies@gmail.com. JUCS is also open to proposals of special issues by guest editors working individually or in teams of two. All citations in other languages should be translated into English for the journal’s international reading public, in addition to including the original text.

While the journal does not publish book reviews, we do publish review essays—which should discuss 3-5 recent books on a shared topic or theme (or place) and run from 2,500 to 4,000 words. Review essays of urban-themed installations or other works of art are also welcome. These essays will be reviewed in house. Given our visual focus, we are interested in original, unpublished artwork on the topic of cities and in publishing articles accompanied by images where appropriate.

We encourage a variety of approaches to the urban phenomenon—the strengths of the editorial board run from urban geography to literature and film, photography and videogames, gender and sexuality, creative economy, popular music, Marxist approaches, fashion, urban planning, anthropology, sociology, Deaf culture, built environment, philosophy, architecture, detective fiction and noir, and more…