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Invisibility Studies

Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture


Edited By Henriette Steiner and Kristin Veel

Invisibility Studies explores current changes in the relationship between what we consider visible and what invisible in different areas of contemporary culture. Contributions trace how these changes make their marks on various cultural fields and investigate the cultural significance of these developments, such as transparency and privacy in urban architecture and the silent invasion of surveillance technologies into everyday life. The book contends that when it comes to the changing relationship of the visible and the invisible, the connection between seeing and not being seen is an exchange conditioned by physical and social settings that create certain possibilities for visibility and visuality, yet exclude others. The richness and complexity of this cultural framework means that no single discipline or interdisciplinary approach could capture it single-handedly. Invisibility Studies begins this conversation by bringing together scholars across the fields of architectural history and theory, art, film and literature, philosophy, cultural theory and contemporary anthropology as well as featuring work by a collective of artists.
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PART II Urban Topography, Void and Display


← 84 | 85 → PART II

Urban Topography, Void and Display

← 85 | 86 → zURBS

Prelude II

In Chloe, a great city, the people who move through the streets are all strangers. At each encounter, they imagine a thousand things about one another; meetings which could take place between them, conversations, surprises, caresses, bites. But no one greets anyone; eyes look for a second, then dart away, seeking other eyes, never stopping.

—ITALO CALVINO, Invisible Cities

There is such a thing as a distribution of the sensible: an underlying structure that is hardly visible in urban space, but that nevertheless, according to the French philosopher Jacques Rancière, determines what is possible, acceptable, and even perceptible in a certain place. This structure shapes the spatial forms that social phenomena and material things take on, and it influences all the different realities, possibilities, images, meanings, futures, perceptions, experiences, connections, forms, patterns, relations and structures that these spatial forms consist in. In short, the distribution of the sensible shapes and controls our spatial realities.

Space, then, can be seen as the precondition for re-imagination: encounters that could take you on a carousel of fantasies. Disagreements that could escalate into love affairs. Your envious car glancing at a bike while impatiently waiting for green light. The intimate experience of holding hands with a stranger during a thunderstorm. The joy of sitting in a café without buying anything before eating your breakfast at...

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