cityscape esthetics

I’ve rambled quite a lot about urban environments as natural habitats, ecosystems, cityscapes, and on it goes, but high-fly verbiage is a poor tool for helping anyone see. Australian photographer Ben Thomas, of Tiny Tokyo fame, has much better tools:

In much of his work – not all – he focuses on spaces and buildings, and to me it’s educational, in the sense of teaching a way of looking that one can subsequently apply oneself. Seeing this short video, makes me want to hit the streets and see for myself. It doesn’t stop with the ‘work’, although I very much enjoy the above images with sound. The work is just a finger pointing.

First I saw this as treading in the footsteps of conceptual artists like Dutchman Jan Schoonhoven. who saw art as a way to convey an intensified experience of reality, not through emotional expression but its opposite, a total focus on the objective aspects of the quotidian, eliminating the artist to the extent possible. Stories about Schoonhoven’s inspiration by e.g. geometric patterns on man-hole covers in his home town Delft seemed to point to a similar sensitivity. But then, the work that resulted from this inspiration doesn’t particularly help me notice man-hole covers myself, and doesn’t esthetically appeal much to me. And whatever I do like of his work seems to do exactly what he apparently wanted to avoid at all costs: add new reality.

So I’ve changed my mind and now I think Thomas’ video work is more in tune with the storytelling of Alexandra Horowitz.

Thomas’ is one of many ways of looking at the cityscape, but a core one. I haven’t come across something comparable yet that (also?) directs attention to the fast and furious life of us and the other wildlife inhabiting it. I’ll let you know when I do.


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