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Arts in Cities - Cities in Arts

Géraldine Molina and Pauline Guinard

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1The presence of cities in art and the presence of art in cities are two fields which have often been studied separately, be it by different disciplines (history, geography, sociology, etc.) or by various approaches within a single discipline (cultural geography or urban geography for example). Nevertheless, the increasing visibility of culture in general, and art in particular (see Debroux’s paper in this issue), in cities since the end of the 20th century tends to challenge this strict separation. Indeed, art is more and more understood as an integral part of the urban fabric in a post-industrial era. Not only are the spaces and places of art in cities being redefined, but so are its functions and relations to the urban environment. Consequently, one can wonder to what extent art – in its various forms (sculptures, murals, performances, etc.) – is urbanized in that process and the degrees to which cities are subsequently aestheticized or “artialized” (Roger, 1997).

2This line of inquiry explains why art is becoming a subject as well as an object (Volvey, 2014) or even a method for geographers (Hawkins, 2011), and more specifically for urban geographers, urban planners and urbanists (Vivant, 2006; Grésillon, 2010; Molina, 2010; Boichot, 2012; Debroux, 2012; Zebracki, 2012; Guinard, 2014). But of course, the spatial and urban approach of art is not exempt from theoretical and methodological issues. How could urban geographers, urban planners or urbanists study not only art in cities but also cities in art? Are there specific tools they might use to do so? To what extent can a spatial and urban approach of art be distinguishable from the one offered by other research fields such as the sociology of art or art history? This thematic journal issue explores the potential theoretical and empirical inputs that a spatial and urban approach of art can bring to the understanding of both arts and cities.

3Previous researches have already explored a city or several cities in a transversal perspective and on the urban scale in order to analyze cultural and artistic urban politics and the role they play in urban development (Ducret 1994; Landry 1995, 2000; Allen 2000, 2005; Sibertin-Blanc 2008; Grésillon 2014). But the studies that explore the relations between arts and cities and the urban spaces at a finer scale are still fragmented, either according to geographical areas (primarily North America, Europe, East Asia, and secondarily Middle East, Africa, etc.) or artistic media (public art, visual art, music, dance, cinema, literature, etc.). By bringing together innovative and original researches that investigate different urban contexts – with different locations or sizes (Atlanta, Los Angeles, Lyon, Paris, Palestinian refugees’ camps, Rio de Janeiro, Toulouse) – and various forms of art (contemporary art, street art, cinema, music), this issue intends to overcome this fragmentation by building bridges between cities and arts. The importance of comparison in the papers (see for instance Guillard and Pleven’s one as well as Bouhaddou and Kullmann’s one in this issue) reflects this attempt to consider together various types of cities and arts in order to better understand their points of divergence and convergence.

4Exploring simultaneously “cities in arts” and “arts in the cities” involves analyzing the plurality and complexity of the links between cities, societies and arts. Thus, this issue combines an internal analysis of the artworks (to highlight the question of urban representation in arts) and an external analysis of artworks (to question the co-production of arts and cities and the reception of art works in an urban context). Comparative reading within and in-between the papers in this issue will outline common concerns related to the capacity of arts to participate, to transform, to contest or to reveal the way cities are produced, as well as the capacities of cities and urban places to participate in art making.

(Uneven) urban development of art and through art

5Art and artists in cities are often considered in urban studies in relation to gentrification, be it to prove, to assess or to contest their role as gentrification drivers (see for example: Zukin, 1987; Ley, 2003; Vivant and Charmes, 2008; Mathews, 2010; Debroux, 2012). Interestingly enough, all the papers presented in this issue chose not to address the relationships between arts and cities solely through the lens of gentrification. They focus more generally on the urban dynamics that arts – taking place in cities or representing them – might reveal and participate in, on various scales.

6Debroux’s prospective paper is particularly relevant in that matter: by investigating art galleries from the street level to the international one, it questions their spatial, economic and symbolic strategies and the consequences of such strategies on urban dynamics (and reciprocally). By doing so, Debroux highlights the economic and property constraints that art galleries have to face in order to access symbolic urban spaces, especially in a dense city like Paris (France). In the case of Toulouse (France), Balti more particularly explores the alleged ability of cultural infrastructures, and more specifically of an amplified music venue called the Metronum, to foster the development of peripheral urban spaces so as to balance the cultural scene and the urban fabric. Even if this venue contributes to the redistribution of the cultural and metropolitan functions within Toulouse, its persistent lack of connection with the neighborhood and the local music scene, which is still more active in the city center, jeopardizes its long term impact. But, regardless of the effective influences of arts on urban dynamics, what is already certain is that – as shown by Bouhaddou and Kullmann (in this issue) and Arab et. al. (2016) – the integration of arts into urban projects transforms the urban stakeholders system and consequently the ways cities are produced and imagined.

7By questioning the similarities of the representations of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in contemporary popular movies Tropa de Elite 1 and 2 and in dominant urban discourses, Lebel examines the extent to which cinematic representations can reveal and influence the way the city is conceived. He demonstrates that the diffusion of violence from the favelas to the city center in the two movies challenges the opposition between formal and informal urban spaces and exposes the violence the inhabitants were confronted to in relation to the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics urban projects. Arts could thus be a tool to better understand the ways cities, on the one hand, are imagined and, on the other hand, experienced. In this regard, Guillard and Pleven analyze two contemporary movies (Wassup Rockers and ATL) in order to investigate the representations of American cities (respectively Los Angeles and Atlanta) through both image and sound. They stress on the capacity of cinema to give visibility and tangibility to the ways inhabitants – and in those cases teenagers from deprived areas – experience urban spaces that are characterized by socio-spatial discontinuities. By adopting the teenagers’ points of view, these two movies offer counter narratives and representations that can participate in reinventing the dominant urban imagery associated to socio-spatial dynamics such as urban fragmentation. Similarly, Palestinian graffiti in refugee camps studied by Lehec can be seen as a way to symbolically and physically contest the existence of borders and the ways they are implemented if not imposed by the State of Israel.

8The analysis of the presence of arts in cities and of cities in arts thus appears as a means firstly to highlight the urban dynamics at work not only as they are, but also as they are represented and lived, and secondly to act on them.

Co-production of cities, arts and societies and the question of participation

9One of the perspectives that the geography of art, urban studies of art and more broadly studies on the “spatial turn” of arts (in various disciplines) have open, relates to the reconfigurations that is induced by this artistic spatialization in the “worlds of art” (Becker, 1982), and in between those arts worlds and others social worlds, in particular the ones of the urban production. Indeed, with the – mostly urban – spatial turn of arts initiated in the 1970 in European and North-American cities (Ardenne, 2002), a new porosity appears between art worlds and urban worlds creating a dynamic coproduction between arts, societies and cities. Thus, art is made “in” and “with” urban spaces (Volvey, 2007), and with the participation of urban stakeholders. Reciprocally, in this cross-process combination, urban planning has integrated artists alongside and in collaboration with urban professionals and inhabitants feeding an ambition of increasing the democratization of arts through participation process (Terrin 2012; Molina 2016). Various researches have established how art and culture actually contribute to laying out and managing modern cities (Cole, 1987; Zukin, 1995; Miles, 1997; Paddison and Miles, 2007; Grésillon, 2008; Terrin, 2012). For a long time, the emphasis behind such efforts was placed on the central role played by contemporary art in the dynamic urban revitalization process (Vivant, 2007; Grésillon, 2008; Guinard, 2010; Terrin, 2012). Thus contemporary arts and their actors appear as major stakeholders of the artistic and urban co-production. The role played by other artistic or cultural forms which are still more marginal, discreet or recent has given rise to an emerging body of research, such as in literature for example (Molina, 2014, Fournier 2016).

10Balti’s paper enriches this perspective by bringing to light the role played by amplified music in an urban development project that took place in Toulouse (France) at the end of the 2000’s. He analyzes the role and complex relations of the various stakeholders that participated in this co-production process. Through a socio-historical and geographic analysis, he reviews the history of this urban planning project involving amplified music. By doing so, he reveals the tensions, conflicts and contradictions created by this plural and participative urban production which involves social and professional groups with diverging interests, strategies and conceptions of the urban project in which there are involved.

11To explore this coproduction process between cities, arts and societies, the originality of Bouhaddou and Kullmann’s paper is to propose a cross comparison between two French cases studies. They also examine the relationships between the various stakeholders involved in those cases. They question the extent to which arts in cities reshape urban worlds, influence the part played by stakeholders, transform relationships between them and modify actor’s skills. Specifically, Bouhaddou and Kullmann analyze the emergence of “in-between new figures” with cross-cutting skills. They describe how those processes are also linked with the uncertainty of art and construction trades that force actors to diversify their skills and find new professional fields to invest, confirming – for another type of arts – the conclusions on the links between the economic fragility of “literature condition” (Lahire 2006) and engagement of contemporaneous writers in the urban production (Molina, 2010). Above and beyond the coproduction of arts and cities, the question of the inhabitants’ participation is also raised, which implies taking into account a third groups of actors, the city dwellers. The authors thus examine the way the inhabitants are integrated in the artistic an urban production as a third co-makers group. In the case of The Tree nursery (Lyon), the strong support and participation of a local youth cultural center was a key point in the success and durability of the project. The analysis of the characteristics of the artistic director of The Urban Transition Art Festival’s project (Aubervilliers) also underlines an important skill: his capabilities to make various worlds to communicate together and to include a fourth group of stakeholders in the game, namely the researchers. An artistic director builds his position and distinction by his capability to stand at the intersection of these various professional and social worlds and to create and reinforce relationships between them. Thus, these are complex and plural inter-professional dynamics that structure the artistic and urban co-production. They involve new social and management innovation processes that are explored by the two authors. Those “arts in the city” projects are based on a complex participation dynamic involving four social groups: the artists, the researchers, the city makers and the inhabitants or users.

12The papers analyzing how the city is represented in arts allow completing this analysis of the co-production of arts, cities and societies by asking an additional question. Indeed, arts are constructing fictional worlds (Goodman, 1978) that are creating a kind of “matrix” that can impact on individual and social perceptions, representations and practices (Molina, 2007). Previous works on literature for example have already shown how some literary work representing cities have, in return, influence the tourism and social practices of the places on which there were based (see for example Wells, 2016). The two papers on cinema feed this perspective, analyzing the co-production between arts, cities and societies. The originality of Guillard and Pleven’s paper is to underline the inter-artistic dimension of the inspiration sources for cinema, demonstrating how images of the American metropolis circulate between cinema, music and arts. The authors also highlight the importance of “sounds” (music, noises and voices) in the cinematographic representation of their spaces and their synergy with “sights” and “images”. They consider movies as a social process constructed by both the spectator’s reception of the sensible experience and the representations of the metropolis which are based on a combination of visual and musical dimensions that can affect the spectator’s experiences of spaces.

Symbolic spaces in the cities and in the artistic works

13The symbolic dimension of spaces is another major cross-cutting theme that is analyzed by all the papers in this issue. They chose various entries that lead to deconstruct the boundaries between between “idéel” (“ideational”) and “matériel” (“material”) (Godelier 1984), between the urban spaces represented in arts and urban spaces modified (or re-qualified) by arts, between internal and external analysis of artworks and, eventually, analyze the coproduction between arts, cities and societies.

14Hence the issues related to symbolical value are addressed: the co-enrichment of arts and spaces through the valorization of spaces in arts, the increased or depreciated value of spaces represented in arts, and reciprocally the valorization or depreciation of urban spaces and arts through the spatialization of arts in the cities. How can arts and their symbolic dimension modify perceptions, representations and social practices of urban spaces by representing them? Also, how can arts – by spatializing in the cities and by coproducing within the urban spaces - can also modify the perceptions, representations and social practices of those spaces? This special issue provides some clues to answer these questions. The theme of localization of arts in the city is addressed by Debroux regarding art galleries and also by Balti regarding amplified music as a symbolical strategic issue. In the case of the construction of the Metronum project dedicated to amplified music, Balti outlines how the question of favoring the building of new venues or supporting those already existing has been strongly discussed before choosing the strategy of a multipurpose venue in a new district in Borderouge in a peripheral location in Toulouse. Debroux’s analysis on arts galleries in Paris reveals the interactions between symbolic and economical dimensions. Her researcher demonstrates that art galleries result from a double dynamic of visibilisation. Indeed, they appear both as places of “visibilisation” and staging for a social elite class of “art lovers” and as places that need to be materially and virtually visible to encourage the arrival of new urban space users and potential clients. This prospective supposes working on architectural visibility to put emphasize on their presence in urban landscape.

15As underlined before, the capacities of arts in cities to participate to a symbolic requalification of urban spaces have been explored by previous works. Bouhaddou and Kullmann’s propose to go further by analyzing how artists, in the case of The Urban Transition Art Festival (Aubervilliers, France), by integrating the heritage dimension of the site in their project, try to raise its symbolic value. Such artistic projects can therefore be understood as a way to reactivate the social and historical memory of a place and, hence, to foster a kind of symbolic participation of the participants. Comparing the results of this case study to their other one in Lyon (France) leads the authors to conclude that, as part of a legitimation process, artists develop new inter-professional capabilities to position themselves at the meeting point of artists, inhabitants, researchers and city makers. By doing so, they build a new kind of symbolic power.

16The symbolic dimension of space is approached differently by Le Bel. Indeed, he shows how the representation of Rio de Janeiro in contemporary movies is based on a stereotype and a symbolic opposition between two urban spaces: the favelas (associated with violence, informality, disorder, savagery and all that is commonly associated with the dark side of urban society), and the formal city. Ultimately, the movies intend to deconstruct this symbolical barrier and to highlight the strong imbrications between those two urban spaces. Indeed, the acts of violence depict a systemic urban dynamic that embraces the whole city structured by corruption. The violence of the informal appears therefore as a consequence of practices that take place in the formal city such as the use of drugs. Ultimately, the symbolic gradation of violence all along the two movies Tropa de Elite 1 and 2 depicts violence and corruption as two sides of the same system.

17In a similar perspective, Guillard and Pleven’s paper puts a light on how the two movies they studied build an image of the American metropolis (Paquot, Jousse, 2005), that does not quite correspond to the symbolic model of the metropolis that is currently dominant worldwide. Their two cases studies (Los Angeles and Atlanta) update this model in different ways. The cultural and artistic power of Los Angeles had already been questioned in analyses articulating symbolic and economic approaches (Davis, 1990). The authors mention how the city is still an important symbolical and economical center for music and film industry because of the concentration of many major labels. As such, Los Angeles can been seen as a sort of “dreamfactory”. Whereas Atlanta, newer in the landscape of mainstream American cinema, appears in the contemporary context as the capital of African-American arts and culture but also as the new center of the rap music genre. This has strongly reshaped the urban imaginary. The authors insist on the double role played by music as a way to represent the metropolis and as a way to define the characters’ worlds and socio-spatial experiences.

18On this question of symbolic power, and arts as “land claiming” (Volvey 2007), Lehec’s paper brings an important contribution. Indeed, creating “a grammar of refugee Palestinian identity”, the graffiti on the walls of Palestinian Camps used the recurrences of a symbolic system composed by major symbols such as: the key (referring to the one of the house lost conserved by the families), the olive tree, the map (referring to the identity of the territory), the keffiyeh and the flag (two national symbols), the barbed wire, the separation wall, or political leaders and martyrs. This symbolic system of representation created by arts played an important role in disseminating religious, social and political messages in order to build and sustain the cultural identity of the minority. Therefore, the porosity between material and symbolic spaces, between worlds represented in/by arts and the worlds of social groups (symbolic worlds represented in arts being inspired by social representations of their context of production and reception) participate to the minority’s identity building and claiming.

Politics and power relationships

19The diversification of the stakeholders system involved in the co-production of arts and cities is also addressed in terms of power and balance among the various actors (whether they are dominant or not). Exploring the power balance also requires a study in terms of dynamics and through a diachronic analysis that can outline how emergent, marginal, minor, or countercultural arts can enter into a process of institutionalization and normalization (Guinard, 2014; Molina, 2016).

20On two different kinds of artistic researches objects, amplified music in one case and art galleries in the other, Balti and Debroux’s papers share a common approach: the analysis of the geography of arts and their localization in urban spaces (central or peripheral) as a power issue. In filigree of this issue, what is at stake is a geography of power and arts hierarchy (major, minor), as well as an arts players struggle to maintain or rise a new position in this hierarchy that is implicitly drawn.

21Another politics and power issue is outlined in the paper on amplified music in the city of Toulouse proposed by Balti. He reveals a double process of political distinction between a former and a new urban political authorities favored by a change of political party in power with the 2008 French municipal elections. The new alliance between artists and politicians reveals the co-construction of their legitimacies. Indeed, culture and arts combined with an ambitious participation of the inhabitants through public meetings constitute the basis of the cultural policy of the new political authorities. Emerging or less institutionalized arts are particularly favored by the new municipality, while major cultural facilities (such as Zenith, National Theater, Museum of Modern Art) were favored by the previous one. Balti’s analysis underlines the co-construction of legitimacy and power between artistic actors, political stakeholders and groups of inhabitants. The author also demonstrates the limits and paradoxes of participation. A plurality of social groups and subgroups were included in the participation process. Those groups had divergent or even opposing interests in terms of projects conception, localization of musical equipment or uses of public spaces. At the end, the divergent and opposing interests of those various social groups have created clashes and tensions and can been underlined as paradoxical effects of a broad participation process. Indeed, the participation includes not a world of music actors, but various and distinct worlds of music actors – that maintain relationships of complementarities but also tensions and competition with different strategies. Therefore, it is the diversity, the plurality and the burst of actors of the co-production process of arts and cities that are questioned.

22Debroux explores power relations through the angle of interactions between art galleries and capital. Indeed, she demonstrates how art galleries materialize the art market within the urban spaces and how they are related to the major capital markets worldwide, underlining the links between local and international scales. The implantation strategy of arts galleries is also influenced by the social geography of the urban spaces and the transports accessibility of an elite class (by private cars or airplanes) that composed the buyers, connoisseurs, and audience of those arts. Art galleries can therefore be seen as a “materialization” of the art market and of the artistic consumption in the city. This paper also highlights the evolution towards the professionalization of the galleries, their pluralization and the increase of their geographical presence in the cities. The apparition and increased clustering in various cities reinforce this presence, emphasizes the visibilisation and the materialization of an elite power of art consumption into the urban spaces, and, ultimately, the symbolic, economical and spatial power of the elite.

23The relations between art, visibilisation, social groups and power can also be questioned by the capacity of arts to increase the symbolic power of a specific group. To what extent can arts, artistic expression and their spatialization produce or increase social empowerment? By taking the example of a minority, Lehec shows how graffiti in Palestinian refugee camps play a political function by allowing a social group to express words that are confiscated, censured or risky in other spheres. By doing so, the graffiti give way to an empowerment process. The blooming of arts in those specific urban spaces of the camps can be seen as a politic claim: it allows the affirmation of an exodus identity, and also reclamation of Land Lost. The author questions to what extent arts on the walls can be analyzed as a major politicizing process in the camp (“no wall is left bare”). Consequently, graffiti on the walls of the camps define a symbolic and political public space that could be able to give visibility to a given political minority. Walls create a “common space in which each is free to express themselves”. They publicize identity symbols, so as to maintain the memory of the minority and to encourage its political resistance.

24Arts in the cities and the integration of artists and inhabitants as co-makers of the urban production also need to be put into perspective through a diachronic analysis of the part played by stakeholders and the redistribution of positions and power relationships between them. In this perspective, Bouhaddou and Kullmann’s paper raises the question of the empowerment of both artists and inhabitants. The artists partly construct their legitimacy and power in urban production by supporting the inhabitants’ participation process on a “reconnaissance mutuelle” (“mutual recognition”) (Ricoeur, 2004) dynamic between those two groups. This legitimacy co-building process plays an important role on the artists’ professionalization in the urban production, but also increases the risk of both the artists and the inhabitants being instrumentalised.

25Cross-cutting all issues of power (legitimation, visibilisation, social appropriation and social differentiation), Le Bel’s paper as well as Guillard and Pleven’s one, demonstrate that the contrast between representations of the same city in arts in the first case, and between different spaces of the same cities in the second case, is strongly related to the power relations of various social groups and to their commitment to establish their legitimacies. How can art become a scene of struggle for power to impose ones’ representation of the city as the legitimate one? The contrasts and tensions of two different representations of the city of Rio de Janeiro is analyzed in Le Bel’s paper. One is the city of violence depicted by the films Tropa de Elite (1 and 2) by José Padilha. The other that is proposed by Fernando Meirelles, is the formal city. This city is the one of sports focused on public security, and its “vibrant urbanity in full harmony” that erases the favelas issue to create a “city-simulacrum” (Baudrillard, 1986). The tension between those two representations of the same city is structured by relations and balances of power. Indeed, the film produced by Meirelles for the candidacy of the city to the International Olympic Committee tries to deconstruct the representation of the city proposed by Padilha. It depicts an official representation of the city that hides the social inequalities and participates in short-circuiting the participatory management impulsed by the Lula administration before 2010 (to integrate the inhabitants and reaffirm the right to city of the most disadvantaged urban groups). The analysis therefore highlights the exclusion process of the informal inhabitants that major urban projects for the Olympics Games have generated.

26Guillard and Pleven’s analysis highlights in both movies (ATL, Wassup Rockers) the symbolic representations of the “ghetto” and minority groups in the American metropolis. The movies show out a group of teenagers and their itinerary in the city and its neighborhoods strongly shaped by socio-spatial contrasts and discriminations. Visual frames and music genres are used by film-makers as symbolic markers of the social inequalities of neighborhoods and as a way to outline two urban morphologies and the spatial progression of the characters through those contrasted spaces. Music is used in the two movies to highlight the power relations between social classes within the cities they aim to represent. Another similarity between how the cities are represented in those cases of American movies is that some particular spaces – the ones “in between” –, and mobility towards those spaces allows a symbolic empowerment of the characters and a claim of right to the city (Lefebvre 1968). This empowerment and claim are provided through body performance that engage social and sexual interactions in which their take place such as choreography. The place Cascade in the film ATL appears as an emblematic and strong symbolic space to underline this dynamic. Indeed, it is presented as a place where social borders are abolished and where people are brought together around and by dance and movement in space (despite originating from diverse social classes and neighborhoods). In the end, in both films, music is used to emphasize the ambition of a symbolic revenge, of a conquest of the urban landscape and power by minorities and the way they challenge a dominant imaginary of American city.

Art and public spaces

27The increasing presence of arts in contemporary cities is obvious when considering the number of art-works and art interventions that are today visible in and from the public spaces. This is due, on one hand, to the persistence and renewal of public policies and private strategies in favor of the installation of art in urban spaces in the second half of the 20th century (Ruby, 2002) and, on the other hand, to the development of art in situ in relation to some artists’ desire to produce art outside the cultural institutions that could resonate with its social and political context (Lacy, 1995; Volvey, 2007). Art – in various forms – has been consequently more and more present in public spaces. Nevertheless, the relation of arts to public spaces, be it by taking into account public or urban spaces, is far from being equivocal (Zebracki, 2012) and engages the publicity of both arts and spaces (Guinard, 2014).

28In that matter, Lehec’s paper on Palestinian graffiti and Debroux’s one on Parisian art galleries are particularly stimulating. By looking at artworks that are visible from the streets, that is to say from public spaces, even if they are installed in or painted on private spaces, these two papers blur the separation between private and public spaces and invite the reader to reflect on the potential relationships of those spaces through arts. Can arts be a means to publicize places – be it socially or politically – independently of their legal status? Or, conversely, is the aestheticization of public spaces by private actors a way to privatize those spaces in a less contentious and more consensual way (Deutsche, 1998)?

29The question of the part and place of public spaces in contemporary cities which tend to be more and more commodified, segregated and secured (Sorkin, 1992 ; Mitchell, 2003), is thus asked directly by the presence of arts in those spaces but also indirectly by the representation of those spaces in arts. Guillard and Pleven’s paper is symptomatic in that regard: because they belong to a certain social and ethnic group, teenagers depicted in Wassup Rockers and ATL are not always able to freely navigate the various urban spaces. Eventually, the two movies highlight the progressive communautarization of spaces in (American) cities.

30Yet, even if this dimension is less tackled in this issue – surely because of the type of artworks analyzed, which focus preferentially on urban violence and discontinuities –, the ability of artworks through representation to make urban spaces in general, and public spaces in particular, not only private but also public at a smaller scale and for a wider audience might be considered. Could artistic representations be a symbolic way to give visibility and publicity to urban spaces to such an extent that they become desirable for those who do not use them on a daily basis but imagine them? What is at stake here is the capacity of arts to stimulate tourism.

Mobility in and through arts, and circulation between arts and urban’ societies

31As stressed above, studying arts in cities and cities in arts does not imply to focus on arts and cities only as given objects but as dynamics and processes. This proves especially to be true when considering art forms that are themselves in motion such as performances or movies.

32Not surprisingly, the two papers on cinema give a certain importance to urban mobility, be it residential, professional, recreational or symbolic. By looking at teenagers’ mobility in American cities, Guillard and Pleven are able to expose the resources and constraints offered by urban spaces in that respect. As a result, they make the illusion of free mobility apparent. By comparing two opus of a same movie in Rio de Janeiro, Le Bel can grasp the characters’ mobility into each movie but also questions its evolution in-between the two opus. He demonstrates that the change in the hero’s mobility as a law enforcement officer is symptomatic of the diffusion of violence in a city as a whole. Art – and in this case cinema – is thus a mean to apprehend both the mobility and immobility that structure contemporary cities from a daily basis to a longer term.

33But even when art forms considered are not themselves in motion, the spatial mobility of art-works or infrastructures can be relevant in order to understand urban organizations. As such the creation of the Metronum in Toulouse studied by Balti is characteristic of an attempt made by public authorities to displace part of cultural activities from the city center to its outskirts in order to stimulate cultural and urban development in less-advantaged spaces. This displacement of art infrastructures and more generally of art production from central areas to peripheral ones has to be understood as part of a broader trend that is happening at various scales. The development of arts in cities of the Global East and the Global South is symptomatic of that, even if these spaces are still underrepresented in literature dealing with arts and cities. Lehec’s paper on graffiti in Palestinian refugees camps and Balti’s paper on urban representations of Rio de Janeiro are thus to be understood as a part of an attempt made by several researchers in urban geography and in urban studies (see for example: Guinard, 2014; Ithurbide, 2010) to overcome this underrepresentation.

34Finally, the question of mobility of arts in the cities and of cities in arts is also raised. The circulation of images and representations of urban places in arts and societies is dealt with by Le Bel. He evokes interactions between the representation of Rio de Janeiro in the movies Tropo de Elite 1 and 2 and the social representations of this city. He insists on interactions between fictional urban spaces of Rio and real ones to show how the film is formed by the social reality that, in return, is informed by it. Everything is happening as if the symbolic power of the image of the city proposed in the movies and it social impact were conducting to the blur of the frontier between fiction and reality. This stresses the porosity of those both universes. The strong co-production of 1/ the urban spaces, 2/ the spaces represented in the movies, and 3/ the social perceptions, representations and practices of those by the audience – are explained by Le Bel by two reasons: the important artistic inspiration of the movies on real social facts and on real urban stakeholders, and also the intense social reception that the film has been the subject of. Supported by an analysis of social media (Brazilian magazines, blogs…), Le Bel addresses the dynamics of reception and social impacts of the image of the city proposed in those two movies. He concludes that those movies have encouraged a public debate on the city violence, corruption of the police, trafficking and city planning.

35Therefore, what is questioned is to what extent arts and the world they create can influence the construction of the real world and how the representations of cities in arts can, in return, have effects on the cities on which they are based on.

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Electronic reference

Géraldine Molina and Pauline Guinard, Arts in Cities - Cities in ArtsArticulo - Journal of Urban Research [Online], 15 | 2017, Online since 07 May 2018, connection on 25 May 2022. URL:; DOI:

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About the authors

Géraldine Molina

Researcher at the CNRS, research unit ESO (UMR 6590) and Interdisciplinary Research Institute IRSTV (FR CNRS 2488). Email:

Pauline Guinard

Assistant Professor in Geography at the Ecole normale supérieure (Paris, France) and research units LAVUE and IHMC (affiliate). Email:

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