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Conference paper, 2007

Closed Circuits and Curious Situations – Cinematic Performance as Actualization and Counter-Actualization of Urban Power Structures

Hellström, Maria


Today, an increasingly tense political climate raises new questions as for the referent and role of ‘urban space’. An imperative rather than a representation, the concept of ‘city’ evokes so much more than architectonic order; it gives rise to commercial or relational expectations, prospects of citizenship, social mobility, empowerment and change – shortly, to the concrete, yet incoherent dimension of ‘everyday life’; a large and unrestrained (urban) body of intermediation. Therefore, an enquiry into contemporary urban space has to actualize not only the representative outcome – the physical structure – but also the mediating regimes, or power structures, upon which it depends. One such regime is film production. In this paper, I will focus on the performative rather than the representational aspects of filmic agency in urban space. I will argue that the representational mutuality between city and cinema has its performative correspondence in the reciprocity between panoptic CCTV actualizations of power aiming at a ‘closure’ of representative circuits and the counter-actualizations of, on the one hand the cinéma verité attempts to conflate cinema with ‘true’ reality, and on the other hand alternative attempts to develop a cinematic situationism of curiosity and reconfiguration. The relationship will be exemplified through an analysis of the films “I am Curious – Yellow” (1967) and “I am Curious – Blue” (1968) by Swedish director Vilgot Sjöman – films that in a provocative way examined the topology of the cinematic performance. Fuelled by a composite political and erotic desire, the films presented a blatant and self-reflective counter-actualizing of the regimes of social mobility and utterability organizing urban space

Published in


Power and Space - Transforming the Contemporary City