Campus 745, Viscosistadt, Emmenbrücke / Lucerne. Camera Arts, 2016
In order to explore the new environment, students of Camera Arts have since 2012 investigated the urban, social, cultural, political and economic contexts of Emmen municipality, of which Emmenbrücke and “Viscosistadt” are part. In this fast-changing community, students investigated Emmenbrücke’s “Genius Loci,” the spirit of the place, with photographic and other visual media. A probe of a future habitat based on a phenomenological approach, in which students observed the urban landscape and local culture from their own perspective. They have interpreted their encounters with local inhabitants, neighborhoods, stories and histories through their own eyes and personal experience, producing a highly idiosyncratic body of work that also highlights less obvious point of view than the standard journalistic or anthropological ones.
Now that the school has moved to its new location, the viewpoint has changed: from this year onward, our students will look from the inside of Emmenbrücke to Lucerne, Switzerland and the world.
The image of the City
Since the invention of photography at the start of the 19th century, many famous photographers have placed the documentation of urban and industrial cultures at the center of their creative work. Photography revealed the ephemeral moments and exotic characteristics of the city and its environment. Like painting and drawing, photography represents a distinctive artistic image of the city. Die Eroberung der Strasse. Von Monet bis Grosz, Karin Sagner, Matthias Ulrich a.o. (ed.), München 2006, p.12. In 1975 William Jenkins curated an exhibition in New York, entitled “New Topographics – Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape.” In this exhibition the Düsseldorf artists Bernd and Hilla Becher presented photos of monumental German, European and North-American industrial constructions – an encompassing documentation, which the Bechers had been compiling in a meticulous and encyclopedic manner since the 1950s. In his documentary photography in the 1970s, photographer Robert Adams criticized the unrestrained blemishing of the American landscape by traffic infrastructure. A contrast to such analytical endeavors are Andreas Gursky’s subjective representations of urban topographies. Since the 1980s he depicts the anonymized landscapes of the service economy that have resulted from global trade and networks. Michael Wagner, «Bilder der Stadt. Fotografische Beobachtung, Analysen und Projektionen urbaner Qualitäten», in: Die Stadt als Ressource: Texte und Projekte 2005–2014, Professur Kees Christiaanse, ETH Zürich, Tim Rieniets a.o. (ed.), Berlin 2014, p.64.For architects, photography is an important instrument of dealing with complex realities and future urban developments. Beyond plans, photographic images – moving and still – have the ability to express not only the hard, but also the soft qualities of urban space. In a seminal urban study, Denise Scott Brown, Robert Venturi and Steven Izenour showed the connections between the formal appearance of the built environment and its urban iconography and semiotics. This visual research, which was compiled in collaboration with students at Yale University and published as “Learning from Las Vegas” in 1972, made a lasting impression on the post-modern discourse in architecture. Hilar Stadler a.o., Las Vegas Studio. Bilder aus dem Archiv von Robert Venturi und Denise Scott Brown, Kriens und Zürich, 2008
Also the 1976 exhibition “Signs of Life,” initiated by Scott Brown, focused on the themes of historical and contemporary symbols of North-American landscapes and living environments.
Mobile technology has greatly extended our mental cartography and our capacity to orient ourselves in space and society. In the networked mediated society, we navigate on our smartphones from window to window, through virtual geographies, online communities and semantic fields. Whereas, in his 1960 book “Image of the City,” Kevin Lynch, Image of the City, Cambridge 1960, p.145 the American architectural theorist Kevin Lynch still pointed to routes, interruptions of the urban image, urban nodes, neighborhoods and landmarks as determining elements of the cityscape and our orientation within it, today these are extended by variables such as “likes” and tweets. Locative media, machine-to-machine communication, algorithms and Big Data will further change our reading modes, perception and awareness of urban daily life.
All of these have been sources of inspiration for the “Emmenbrücke Genius Loci” project of the 1st bachelor year of Camera Arts.