– Autumn/Winter 2002

Jump Cut Cities

Jan Verwoert

Sean Snyder, Shangai Links, Hua Xia Trip, colour photographs, 2002. Courtesy of the artist.

Sean Snyder, Shangai Links, Hua Xia Trip, colour photographs, 2002. Courtesy of the artist.

The televisual logic of the jump cut is a key principle for the organisation of contemporary cityscapes. This thesis was first proposed by Michael Sorkin in his attempt to analyse the urban structures that were emerging around the globe.1

Sorkin argues that, just as the cut on television enables a 'seamless slide' between different elements of a broadcast, wilful combinations of generic architectural modules help to create the 'continuous urban field' of the megalopolis. Both on TV and in the city contiguity is perceived as a form of flow. The cut takes you from one location to another in the blink of an eye. It produces flow as it erases difference. And it is precisely the specific differences and significant distances between buildings and neighbourhoods that make it possible to experience a city as a coherent and meaningful assembly. Without this binding agent, Sorkin states, cities become ageographical zones.

Many of Sean Synder's works can be understood to thrive on this televisual principle of urban montage. They do so in a twofold sense: on the one hand, his research-based works reconstruct the process by which certain generic forms of architecture proliferate around the globe, and examine how certain images of the city are projected from one continent to another to become urban realities. Snyder documents the emergence of a global network of non-places linked by ghostly similarities. On the other hand, his works experiment with the jump cut as a working method and push it to extremes. In many of his photo collections, books and installations Sean Snyder produces montages of images from different cityscapes. Thereby he establishes links between distant places

  1. Michael Sorkin, 'Introduction: Variations on a Theme Park', in M. Sorkin (ed.), Variations on a Theme Park - The New American City and the End of Public Space, New York: Hill and Wang, 1992

  2. This work was produced in the context of Manifesta 2 in Luxembourg in 1998.

  3. A similar question could be addressed to a long line of artists whose work is based on cultural research including: Group Material, Stephen Willats, Renée Green, Fareed Armaly, Dorit Margreiter and Florian Pumhösl.

  4. The opposite of science, and in many ways its inverse, is paranoia. Paranoia is the most imaginative form of making, or rather seeing, significant connections between the most diverse phenomena. In its scientific guise as 'conspiracy theory', paranoia portrays the entire world as a network of meaningful connections. Here the principle of coherence is a subjective idée fixe. Artists such as Rust, Schweiger & Eichelmann have succesfully used paranoid perception as a tool for cultural research. Their installation and book project, What happens when a whole culture dreams the same dream, is an extensive topography of political, historical and social links established solely on the basis of conspiracy theories.