Of course, this city won’t allow itself to be captured completely, whether it’s vertically, horizontally or diagonally. … Every form of representation can be no more than another try.
The spaces of Manhattan and Venice have been represented and interpreted by many artists, in works that are very different in nature and scope, and far apart in genre and in time. Here I consider works that – ranging from photography to etchings, performances, writings and video installations – offer interpretations, inventions and productions that in different ways involve the spectator, each time challenging his or her position in the city and toward the city. Most of them are presented as processes that often involve and document the presence or the agency of the artist in their making and representation. My interest here is in the process of the artwork as a way of relating to the city that is spatial without being directly architectural or aimed at producing architecture. These ‘other’ ways to interpret, inhabit, represent and narrate the city are important to architecture because they reveal different points of view. From outside architecture, these works propose crucial understandings and manipulations of the city, manifesting and explicitly addressing its irrational and non-quantiﬁ able elements. Unlike academic or documentary writing and quantitative urban analysis, the artworks that take the city as their subject and concern are able to construct a space and offer an interpretation of the city that is not linear. Holding together at play and intersecting a multiplicity of simultaneous readings, they produce a synthesis that is very different from that of architecture. The artist’s interpretation of a place consists in situating him or herself between the place and the work produced: the work of art on the city is inevitably also in the city, and produces an interference with the urban space that often remains invisible or unexpressed in architecture.