Culture of Shrinkage ///

Shrinking cities are often the starting points for cultural innovation. Whether in music, art, or architecture, in literature, photography, or film – a wide variety of new developments in popular and high culture emerge from these urban crisis sites. These are often part of novel cultures of everyday life based equally on the potentials and the difficulties of these sites. They often thereby make an essential contribution to redefining identities and mental milieus and thus offer important approaches for conceiving models of action. In the framework of the project Shrinking Cities, we will investigate and document some examples of genres, such as music, film, architecture, and visual art, in the first phase. This will formulate an important basis for the development of the on-site projects of the second phase.

Shrinking Cities and Film /// Alternating between depiction and invention, and in this way moulding our perception of the ‘urban’, film has always given us dramatic images of both large and small towns. The portrait of a city has been a topos in the history of this medium from the very beginning. The problems faced by shrinking cities, in contrast, mostly come to light indirectly, in socially-conscious documentaries, for example. Only emptiness keeps appearing as a theme: in pictures of burnt-out American ranches; deserted Spanish villages; lonely French suburbs and utterly void streets and squares in Italy.

The film expert Antje Ehmann, the film journalist Michael Baute and the film-maker Harun Farocki will research and record images like these for the Shrinking Cities project in the form, as it were, of a "Lexicon of Cinematographic Expressions": pictures that give clues to the shrinkage of cities. Taking clips from numerous films, they will create a video installation for the exhibition. They will also produce a complementary videotheque, with films in which the phenomenon of city shrinkage plays a part. In addition, the film festival Shrinking Cities Film will accompany the exhibition in Berlin.

Shrinking Cities and Music /// In Detroit and Manchester – and in the shrinking regions of Russia and Germany – the crises of the Eighties and Nineties led to the growth of musical cultures specific to each of these places. Some of them even achieved success in the ‘world market’ of pop culture. In Detroit, techno and house flourished, in Manchester it was indie new wave and hip-hop music. Even today, in the sounds and songs and clips, the listener still encounters the rough, raw, urban spaces in which this music was first played.

Empty buildings and vacant sites, long abandoned by industry, gave young people the chance to create new forms of music production and reception: warehouse parties, raves and clubs. To the advantages of rooms which were practically or completely rent-free were added technological innovations that enabled them to break free of the big music companies and set up their own labels. In Manchester, for example, the punk and new wave of the late Seventies spawned a local industry based on making and distributing music. This played a by no means insignificant part in the change of Manchester’s identity from a manufacturing city to a service industry centre.

This subject will be investigated for the Shrinking Cities project by Sarah Cohen from the Institute of Popular Music at the University of Liverpool. The results will be included in the exhibition and catalogue. Besides that, the festival Shrinking Cities Music will accompany the exhibition in Berlin.

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