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FRAME 33.1 – Urban Studies | May 2020

In his 2015 text “The Aesthetics of Singularity,” Fredric Jameson finds the ontology of our era expressed in contemporary art installations. (1) Like Stanislaw Lem’s reviews of imaginary books that demonstrate how the idea of a book is just as consumable as the real book itself, art today is generated by a single idea that operates through its combined form and content. One may ask the question in an urban context: What is the idea of a city? The point of the question is not (necessarily) to search for a master narrative, one that constructs a rationale for all types of urban crises. It is rather to reflect, in a multifaceted manner, on what it means to live in the city today. What does it mean to live in an urban environment rendered increasingly precarious by climate-induced earthquakes and flooding? What does it mean to move in an urban space where digital and bio-technologies register flows of information, knowledge, and risk? What does it mean to live in the metropolis where people are so easily blasé towards structurally prescribed segregation, the neighbouring of spaces assigned to extreme poverty and extreme prosperity, slums that border on central business districts? What does it mean to live in a geopolitical node that must bear the increasingly unbearable weight of globalised human movement, be it migration, trade, or tourism? The list continues.

From graffiti to traffic signs, from built architectures to creative forms of human inhabitance, “[One] take[s] delight not [only] in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours,” as Italo Calvino writes in Invisible Cities, “Or the question it asks you, forcing you to answer, like Thebes through the mouth of the Sphinx.” (2)

In this issue, FRAME has invited scholars to think of the city as a template for various social, cultural and political (re)engineerings that address different urban crises and to think of urban crisis as crisis beyond the urban.

Main Articles

Kaixuan Yao and Max Casey | Foreword
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Simon Oxholm Roy and Jeff Diamanti | The Bifurcation of Amsterdam’s Terminals and Tourists: Urgenda and Beyond
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Daniela Vicherat Mattar | Public Space as a Border Space: Social Contention and Street Art in Santiago Post-18/O
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Floris Paalman | An Ontology of City, Art, and Time: Plotting the Work of Fra Paalman
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Judith Naeff | Time, Space and Subaltern Phenomenology in the Documentary Film Essay Taste of Cement
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Masterclass

N.F. Hartvelt | The Urban Intersection: Resisting Control in the City of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
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Nicholas Burman | An Eruption of Fragmentary Impressions: Exploring the Spectral Narrator in Martin Vaughn-James’ The Cage
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Exposition: Further Reading

Recent Publications

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(1) Jameson, Fredric. “The Aesthetics of Singularity.” New Left Review, vol. 92, no. 92, 2015, pp. 101–132.
(2) Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities. Translated by William Weaver, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1978, p. 44.