Unreal City. Urban Experience in Modern European Literature and Art.

April 18, 2008 by stanza Leave a reply »
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stanza photo from china 2004

Unreal City. Urban Experience in Modern European Literature and Art.

Edited by Edward Tims and David Kelley.

Manchester University Press. 1985ISBN 0 7190 1748 3

Page 1 Forward.

Around the 1900 century the city became the focal point for an intense debate about the dynamics of technological civilization and its effects on the quality of human life. The Futurist manifesto of 909 identified the city as the pre eminent theme of modern poetry and painting.

….page 2 …”the Futurists picture the city as unstable and insecure”

page 3….as Ezra Pound pointed out in his comments on Eliot’s The Waste Land: “ the life of the village is narrative…..In a city the visual impressions succeed one another, overlap, overcross, they are cinematographic”.

Page 4…The city ceases to be pictured as a social environment and it is transposed on to an existential plane. The metropolis ultimately becomes a metaphor – a dynamic configuration of the confiding hopes and fears of the twentieth century.

Page 47 by Fank Whitford. “It was he constantly shifting experience of the city which concerned him (Monet), not the experience of living in it.”

In 1914 Ludwig Meidner published and essay about painting urban subjects asserting that painting modern cities needs a different approach from Monet and the impressionists.

From Medneir.

“Let us paint what is close to us, our city world.! The wild streets , the elegance of iron suspension bridges, gas tanks in which hang in white – cloud mountains, the roaring colour of buses and express locomotives, the rushing telephone wires aren’t they like music?), the harlequinade of advertising pillars, and then night….big city night”.

From Frank Whitford page 49…”for Meidner his conception of the city….had to be thoroughly subjective and could only be depicted in a fragmentary and metaphorical way.

Page 52….The visual aspects of the city is so complex, Kirchner argues, so different from one second to the next, that the painter must resort to exaggeration and other kinds of distortion in order to convey the authentic impression of it.

1912. The Street Enters The House” by Umberto Boccioni. He included elements on the periphery of our vision and attempts to evoke the sensation of noise and colour by distorting forms and exaggerating colours. The city is growing before ours eyes.

Page 57…”Nature now seems finally to have been mastered. The City, in which nature was most obviously tamed, confined to parks, tubs and pots, seemed to be a symbol of that mastery”

Marinettis’s manifesto makes it clear that Futurism was an urban movement.

…page 58 “The city is a living thing, a restless superhuman creature in whose presence puny man can only stand and wonder”

In 1912 Robert Delauney painted “The City Of Paris modified after influence from the Futurists. Delauney describes this paintings as a “living and simultaneous”surface an “ensemble of rythms”. Quoted in Virginia Spate, Orphism (Oxford,1979), p.205 where The City of Paris is reproduced.

Writing played a huge part in the metaphorical and poetic interpretation of world cities. But it is through cinema that we can appreciate the scale, pace movement and patterns that where emerging in the modernist city. The imagined city is constructed in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1926). It is an imagined city, a city of the future a city that is seen time and time again in modern science fiction films like The Fifth Element. Lang referred to The Tower of Babel, the massive control tower in Metropolis is called “The New Tower Of Babel. The comparison to
Babylon within the city has become common in metaphorical language of the city ever since cities really became too large for easy assimilation. Lang’s city thus becomes a city of “idea”.

Stanza Towers 2004 from Diversity

Stanza Towers 2004 from Diversity


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