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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