The Poetry of the Street – The Film and Flanerie of Jem Cohen

When I was in my twenties two of my great loves were documentary photography and experimental film. Seeing Jem Cohen’s work Lost Book Found (1996) made me realise how the two could come together in a heady mix. Cohen wanders like a street photographer gathering Super-8 and 16mm film material through his direct observation of the urban world around him. Lost Book Found is his modern day homage to Benjamin’s Arcades Project relocated to New York. It attempts to find another layer of meaning to the city through its traces, fragments and neglected spaces. The narrative alternates between the city’s hard streets and a hidden reality beneath the kaleidoscopic distractions and phantasmagoria of its capitalist space.

Jem-Cohen

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Paris – Invisible City – Bruno Latour & Emilie Hermant

041Latour & Hermant’s on-line book Paris: Invisible City (1998) presents a challenge to all urban photographers and the observational methods central to their work. The project questions how much we really can understand about the modern city by simply looking. Starting off on the rooftop of the famous La Samaritaine department store it begins by examining the panorama of Paris.

The book explores the labyrinth of overlapping networks that underpin the functioning of the city. Using Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory as a methodology, it highlights the ‘invisible’ and unnoticed connectivities that compose the city. It presents us with a layered portrait of place “bypassed by the normative representational mode” (Networks of Design). Latour uses the term ‘oligopticon’ to define these hidden networks that ultimately serve to make Paris the functioning city that it is. As a social researcher he believes that they are a means to appreciate the intertwined totality of municipal space. Unlike the absolutist all seeing gaze of Foucault’s panopticon, with the oligopticon “extremely narrow views of the (connected) whole are made possible–as long as connections hold” (p.181, Reassembling the Social). By drawing our attention to the complexity of these ‘co-existences’, the work ultimately demonstrates the sheer impossibility of understanding Paris or any urban space through a single image or glance.

BLatour

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Producing Waste…

CF000313 18x24

Photographer Chris Jordan has created a powerful series of images on a remote atoll, which evidence how our everyday waste (lighters, bottle tops etc) is lethally consumed by baby albatrosses. http://www.chrisjordan.com/

Below are more resources which are helping us better observe and understand waste as a material and a productive force in our work

Since 2008 photographer and film maker Wang Jiuliang has been investigating the ring of garbage dumps that surround Beijing. (In 2013 IUD was privileged to exhibit our work alongside his in Guangdong Art Museum). This is a trailor for his film:

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Scarred Ground – Sophie Ristelhueber

In her FOTO8 interview (11/08/2009) French photographer Ristelhueber comments on how her practice has moved in the direction of ‘scars’ and ‘traces’, ranging from freshly operated bodies inspired by the Yugoslavian civil war to aerial shots of post conflict Kuwait. Bringing her sensibility to a range of traumatic subjects she works conceptually seeing them all with a type of conceptual ambiguity and evenness despite their political context.

SR-Fait67++

Fait No. 67.

“I am a conceptual person, which means that first I have an idea of something I want to do… something that becomes imperative. Afterwards I work so intently that I don’t think any more about the context. About whether I am in a country that is supposed to be Palestine, say, but which perhaps is not going to be Palestine. It’s difficult for others to understand; it’s not that I don’t care for the people around me. But once I’m working, I am working on my concept” (FOTO8 interview).

Every One

from Every One (1994)

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Unbuilding….

unbuiltWe have been thinking a lot about unbuilding as we observe the creative destruction of tower blocks in Salford (see the above photo by IUD on the ground). These demolitions are part of the first phase of a PFI driven gentrification project. In this process many social housing tenants are evicted and their homes replaced with houses and flats for sale on the open market. The demolition industry along with property developers, builders, finance companies and so on benefit from regeneration, which is not really about the provision of better homes but the redistibution of assets, from the poor to the rich. Demolition also functions at a symbolic level, as it rids us of unwanted architectural forms, in this case high rise social housing. The significance of this is not in some failure of the modernist architectural project but the destruction of viable homes and the displacement of the poor. Regeneration in this instance calls for the replacement of unwanted bodies with the healthy bodies of the rich who have money to spend and don’t rely so heavily on council services. In her book Where the Other Half Lives, Sarah Glynn says ” ‘regeneration’ sounds as though it could be a good thing, but it is being used as a Trojan horse for state-sponsored ‘accumulation by dispossession’ on a massive scale”(page 72).

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Detonation Deutschland Diptych by Piero Steinle

 

This is an ongoing selection of resources on unbuilding, rubble, demolition etc.

Julian Rosefeldt and Piero Steinle made a video installation from archival sequences of demolitions called Detonation Deutschland. See the diptych above and more on Piero’s Steinle’s website.

 

boulevard-henri-iv-place de la bastille

Boulevard Henri IV, Place de la Bastille, demolished section of Paris photographed by Charles Marville 1876.

Photographs made by Charles Marville of the demolition of large sections of Paris by Baron Haussmann. Marville’s work is digitized in the collection of the Musee Carnavalet (search in French only).

Artist Hilary Powell’s work is an exploration of and collaboration with demolition sites, materials and stories    http://demolitionsite.net

Rubble: unearthing the history of demolition, by Jeff Byles and published by Three Rivers Press is a well researched popular history of demolition.

This is an academic paper, which explores the performative properties of asbestos in the demolition process: Inextinguishable fibres: demolition and the vital materialisms of asbestos by Nicky Gregson, Helen Watkins & Melania Calestani, published in Environment & Planning Journal 2010, volume 42.

therubbleclub.com: a club for architects whose creations have been intentionally destroyed during their life time.

10 minute promotional video of back to back demolitions by Controlled Demolition Inc

more to follow….

 

 

 

Spaces of Capital 1 – Allan Sekula – The Forgotten Space (2010)

16“The Forgotten Space follows container cargo aboard ships, barges, trains and trucks, listening to workers, engineers, planners, politicians, and those marginalized by the global transport system. We visit displaced farmers and villagers in Holland and Belgium, underpaid truck drivers in Los Angeles, seafarers aboard mega-ships shuttling between Asia and Europe, and factory workers in China, whose low wages are the fragile key to the whole puzzle. And in Bilbao, we discover the most sophisticated expression of the belief that the maritime economy, and the sea itself, is somehow obsolete” from www.theforgottenspace.net website.

Sekula’s earlier photographic work has dealt with issues of labour and with economic issues especially around maritime histories. The film The Forgotten Space builds on work from his previous project Fish Story.

The Forgotten Space112 min., color, sound(film production still)For an overview of his work see Socialism and the Sea article in Radical Philosophy. See also the interview of Sekula (Ship of Fools) by Grant Watson.

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The Neoliberal City

Fig 2 Cahier contested urbanism

David Harvey’s talk on the Neoliberal City 2007 at Dickinson College, sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues. Harvey discusses the role that urbanisation has played in absorbing capitalist surpluses. It also addresses the implications of how the neoliberal city is being fashioned in the interests of the wealthy elites and its implications for democracy and governance.

eviction

Also look at:

Accumulation by dispossession by Harvey

Designs for a Post-Neoliberal City – e-flux

48330014fafce825af4cb1d936f289daImage from Bustler.net

 

 

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