"Orient yourself properly."¹ Introduction to Scenes & Sounds
Walking and writing have many things in common, as we move along streets and across pages, get lost in our ways and thoughts and find something unexpected, stumble across associations that then find articulation in steps and words. Walking is a method, or more precisely, the performance and application of a method, and allows for a kind of dialogue with the territory, people, buildings and traffic, trees, affects and memories, in short, the scenes and sounds that matter in this section.
The Scenes & Sounds series engages with embodied experiences and everyday life. It has featured photographic encounters in Kolkata that pose ethical and political questions about representation (van de Ven 2008), an excerpt Wacquant’s field diary written during his immersion in Chicago’s black ghetto (Wacquant 2009), a series of six pieces by graffiti writers (Burnham 2010; Zephyr 2010; Colt .45 2010; Eine 2010; Civil 2010; Cochran [aka Jimmy.C] 2010), a wonderful sounding out of the late Elephant and Castle’s Heygate estate (Montgomery 2011); an observation of how people appropriate a river bank in Trento (Brighenti and Mattiucci 2012), the ‘dance’ of bulldozers and the migrant fabric in Beijing’s motile edges (Knowles 2014); the recording of urban standstill in post-socialist Jez yce through the ears and words of a hip-hop artist (Lisiak 2014) and the story of the 5 Pointz Institute for Higher Burnin’ in Queens (Heathcott 2015). This issue revives the Scenes & Sounds section after a longer pause.
The following contribution to Scenes & Sounds is a remarkable collaboration between students and international scholars at a liberal arts college in Berlin. It is remarkable because it combines an open reading of Marshal Berman’s critical reflection on urban modernities, fragments of theoretical texts, descriptions of scenes and sights in contemporary Berlin, images with equally important captions drawn from Franz Hessel’s 1920 Berlin flânerie. The essay is also remarkable because it mimetically re-enacts the practice of walking and writing by offering and encouraging a hopscotch way of reading it. Discussing flânerie ‘as a practice of subjective mediation that establishes an ever-expanding, sensory connectivity among individuals in the streets’ (Kramer and Short 2011, 323), Kathryn Kramer and John Rennie Short noted in this journal how it produces ‘in the process [of walking and, later, writing about walking] vibrant documents of cities in transformation’ (ibid.).
The ten chapters of the visual essay could well be described as precisely such ‘vibrant documents’ of a city in transition, not least because the walking routes and captions directly quote Franz Hessel, while the photos display contemporary impressions of the very same places and sights. The authors are conscious of the fact that people experience the city differently, even if they take the same route and thus confidently ‘invite the reader to walk the city with us, but […] do not insist on holding hands’ (Lisiak et al., this issue). Offering reflections of modernity in Berlin in late 2017 informed by critical readings of Hessel and Berman, the seminar and resulting visual essay brings their western-centric perspectives into conversation with and relates them to decolonoial, postcolonial, feminist and queer approaches to and experiences of modernity. Insisting that Berlin (or, for that matter, any city) is always in transition, ‘A city coming into being’ is ‘a city that’s always on the go, always in the middle of becoming something else’ (Hessel 2017, 7). The piece provides illuminating insights into how the authors through dialogue immediately and subjectively respond to the messy everyday, aesthetically grounding the disorder they encounter in ‘community, history, tradition, the symbolic, place, the material, language, life-world, the gift, Sittlichkeit, the political, the religious, forms of life, memory, nature, the monument, the path, fecundity, the tale, habitus, the body’ (Lash 1999, 5-6).
1 Hessel, F. 2017, 108; see the caption to the first photo in the visual essay (Lisiak et al., this issue).
Anna Richter (2018) “Orient yourself properly.” Introduction to Scenes & Sounds, City, 22:5-6, 875-876, DOI: 10.1080/13604813.2018.1577636
Anna Richter is a lecturer in Urban Design at HafenCity University Hamburg and Editor of Scenes & Sounds. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brighenti, A.M. and C. Mattiucci. 2012. “Visualising the Riverbank.” City 16(1-2): 221-234.
Burnham, S. 2010. “The Call and Response of Street Art and the City.” City 14(1-2): 137-153.
Civil, T. 2010. “Learning the City.” City 14(1-2): 160-161.
Cochran, J. [aka Jimmy.C.]. 2010. “Aero Soul City.” City 14(1-2): 162.163.
Colt .45. 2010. “Our Culture is Your Crime.” City 14(1-2): 156-157.
Eine. 2010. “Shutters.” City 14(1-2): 158-159.
Heathcott, J. 2015. “The bold and the bland: Art, redevelopment and the creative commons in post-industrial New York.” City 19(1): 79-101.
Hessel, F. 2017. Walking in Berlin: A Flaneur in the Capital. Translated by A. DeMarco. London: Scribe.
Knowles, C. 2014. “Dancing with Bulldozers. Migrant Life on Beijing’s Periphery.” City 18(1): 49-65.
Kramer and Short 2011
Lash, S. 1999. Another Modernity, a Different Rationality. London: Wiley-Blackwell.
Lisiak, A. 2014. “Navigating urban standstill. Hip-hop representations of Jez yce, Ponań.” City 18(3): 334-348.
Montgomery, W. 2011. “Sounding the Heygate estate.” City 15(3-4): 443-455.
van de Ven, A. 2008. “Photographing People is Wrong. With a Camera in Kolkata.” City 12(3): 384-390.
Wacquant, L. 2009. “Chicago Fade: Putting the Researcher’s Body Back into Play.” City 13(4-5): 510-516.
Zephyr. 2010. “The City.” City 14(1-2): 154-155.