Notes on the city, the city-scape, the city based narrative.

September 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

‘Glasgow is a magnificent city,’ said Thaw.’ … Think of Florence, Paris, London, New York. Nobody visiting them for the first time is a stranger, because he’s already visited them in paintings, novels, history books, and films. But if a city hasn’t been used by an artist not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively.’

(Gray, 1981; 243)

taken from Alasdair Gray’s novel Lanark

A city’s discourse, as framed by artists, by newspapers, by demography or any other official report determines popular attitudes towards that city and hence shapes subsequent narratives about it. The inhabitants of that place live an imagined life there along side their real life and this imagined life is caught in a feedback loop with the city’s discourse. One could define a genre for the discourse of a place and its influence on the aesthetic of the narratives that flow through it. In the case of my home city Melbourne, it is hard for any one in the film industry to go past the recent mythology attributed to organised crime as seen in films such as Animal Kingdom or TV dramas such as Underbelly. As an artist is it not completely unexciting to conform to a status quo such as the accepted genre of the representation of a city’s spirit? It’s inner life? Not to say there’s anything wrong with previous expressions of this place but more to say that discourse implies an evolving to and fro. It is hard to see where the change in conversation is happening in our arts and in our imaginations. The political dimension stays consistent, the entertainment invokes the same sets of signs and signifiers and the so-called discourse stays as it was perhaps even 20 years ago.

By living imaginatively I mean to say attributing a framework of myth and history, fiction and fact to the very heartbeat of the urban landscape – the eb and flow of the population day to day through the CBD; the police presence found on the city street corners on a Saturday night; the back streets and alley ways so teeming with nightlife.

‘[…] cities (and, indeed, all urban spaces and even ‘natural’ landscapes) are always already social and ideological, immersed in narrative, constantly moving chess pieces in the game of defining and redefining utopias and dystopias.’

Colin McArthur in The Cinematic City

The meaning that a city has, and the imaginative characterisations attributed to it have no fixed or absolute meaning.

I see mobile videography as a way to explore and see the city with fresh eyes – to re-imagine it. This is the goal of my mobile videography sketches and project. The goal of my film practice is also framed in such a light – to redefine and redefine again and again possible utopias and dystopias and not just of the city we find ourselves living in but also of the human mind and soul itself.

“Men can see nothing around them that is not their own image; everything speaks to them of themselves. Their very landscape is alive.”

Karl Marx

Why the mobile? A different tool for a different vision.


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