Mark Tewdwr-Jones (UCL Bartlett)
"The eye does not see things, but images of things that mean other things." Italo Calvino's comment from 'Invisible Cities' captures the role and value of film in the urban realm. Cities have long been a feature of motion pictures and the use of urban landscapes for the setting has taken varied forms since the dawn of cinema more than 100 years ago. These landscapes form part of the narrative text to film that are necessary to convey a unified sense of space. The eclecticism of the contemporary study of cities - associated with a growing body of theory on place identity, on 'placeness', and spatial awareness, on the interrelations between place, space, people and politics, with a long standing interest in urban form and city life - provides an opportunity for an alternative critical perspective, gleaned from celluloid representation, that might explain the prevalence and significance of people's perceptions of places that social scientists often feel remote from or unable to discern. Similar to maps, films are just another way of looking at the world but evoke matters concerning power and contestation. Film as a product of modernity captures perfectly the dynamism of modernism and its impact of cities and landscape, looking forward excitedly at the prospect of the utopian future while glancing backwards and with nostalgia to familiar, cherished and vanishing scenes. Massey talks about space as "the sphere of the existence of multiplicity". Perceptions of space, of representations and imaginations, will be multiple too. This is where the camera lens has the advantage - depicting multiple meanings of places, representing difference and distinctiveness, and challenging existing perceptions of places we think we already know well.
Mark Tewdwr-Jones is Professor of Spatial Planning and Governance at University College London Bartlett School. His work is multi-disciplinary, spanning planning, politics and governance, architecture and film studies, and housing and environment.
His latest book, Urban Reflections: Narratives of Place, Planning and Change, was published in 2011. It provides a series of narratives that examine our perception of place and change, both through official town planning accounts and through literary, cinematic and social depictions and reactions to urban change and development.
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Part of the City Seminar series.
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