The Metamorphosis of Cain: Aesthetics in the Trans-industrial City at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century (Gabriel Gee)

published in Visual Resources, Volume 30 Issue 4, 2014

The urban condition, as we know it, might be becoming obsolete: the continuous growth of urban textures points toward a total urbanization of the world. Together with the superimposition of electronic and virtual spaces in the city, this urban expansion furthers a radical alteration of our daily urban experiences, which in turn transforms the parameters of intervention for aesthetic production. This paper aims to outline three components of this aesthetic problem: 1) trans-industrial change, understood as the shift from industrial to postindustrial stages considered as in an ongoing process); 2) the specificities of aesthetic thought, understood as an independent mode of approaching the world differing from mathematical, political, or philosophical thought; and 3) realms of visibility, as informed by the digital and new media revolutions, which are reshaping our modes of communication. To discuss the parameters of this problem, I will draw from a number of examples originating in the United Kingdom, a territory whose cities were at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but which have witnessed a spectacular shift to a global service economy in the late twentieth century: as such, Great Britain offers a metonymical entry into the global context that constitute the framework for this reflection. Within this framework, crucially, the paper identifies the interstice, a crevice between two things, and interstitial space as a privileged locus of aesthetic intervention to be explored within the new terms of a total urbanization. It will evoke the interstice's capacity to divert the flattening impact of homogenizing tendencies and unveil new material and spiritual objects in the urban fabric. Finally, with the work of the Northern Ireland-based artist Conor McFeely, it will offer an artistic articulation addressing head on the problem of imagination in the context of the multilayered and digital/virtual urban becoming