Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
uniqueness and 'legibility' of cities as a complex
conglomeration of people and place comes to
refl ect the uniqueness and legibility of deterri-
torialized cultural forms to which the city lays
claim. With the more circumscribed practices of
'tourism' being subsumed within a broader theo-
retical framework of 'mobility' (Cresswell, 2006;
Urry, 2007), the fi gure of 'the tourist' similarly
loses its specifi city if the structuring premise of
distance is no longer a given. Responding to
these theoretical re-routings in the sociological
study of tourism, Franklin and Crang call for a
'sedentary tourism of the everyday' (2001, p. 9),
in which, as Rojek and Urry point out, '[i]t is now
clear that people tour cultures; and that cultures
and objects themselves travel' (1997, p. 1).
Viewed in this light, Frank and Benny's journey
becomes a sedentary form of travel: the world
shifts around them, while they themselves remain
fi xed, as if distractedly surfi ng the Internet or
travelling the virtual spaces of fi lm and television.
The passivity inscribed in this particular mode of
'travel' leaves little room for the contingent and
serendipitous. In the same way that Liverpool:
World in One City is designed to communicate a
specifi c (and unambiguous) message, the world
which Frank and Benny inhabit steers them (and
the inattentive viewer) through a cultural land-
scape dominated by various 'signage' that maps
a reassuringly familiar if dull urban imaginary.
In X Films , Cox describes a painting by
Otto Dix of an offi ce clerk who has just hanged
himself. Sitting in a chair beside the corpse, the
ghost of the hanged man is reading a newspa-
per, unaware that he's dead (2008, p. 243).
This is Frank's predicament: he is unaware of
his condition. Culturally inured to the corpora-
tized spaces that dominate his world, he is
oblivious to the fact that amidst all the signage
and semiotic excess exists a city that is gradually
more abstract and ungraspable space becomes
the greater the importance of the image' (1997,
p. 690). Liverpool: World in One City maps a
virtualized space whose overabundant - and
overexposed (Abbas, 1997) - imagery functions
to stabilize a legible (or 'branded') space of rep-
resentation, the instrumental goal of which is to
reframe a more marketable signifi er of place to
entice tourists, shoppers and the service-based
industries to 'take a closer look' (to quote from
the fi lm) at the Culture-Capital and its 'cultural
The downside of this is that the further the
city is abstracted and virtualized, the further it
undermines the anthropological dimensionality
of urban space (the city as lived space), hasten-
ing the processes of fragmentation, dissolution
and time-space compression which Cox and
Davies so effectively map in their surreal, slightly
dystopic urban travelogue. The cognitive ren-
dering of a city as merely the sum of its semiotic
parts, each delivered in a cacophonous (or rap-
turous) assemblage of visual site-bites, contrib-
utes towards what Abbas refers to as the
'cinematization of space', where direct observa-
tion gives way to the authority and primacy of
the media image (1997, p. 41). Writing on Hong
Kong cinema of the 1980s and 1990s, Abbas
argues that ghost fi lms such as Rouge (Stanley
Kwan, 1988) crystallize a certain spatial anxiety
tied up with an acute sense of loss and disap-
pearance ( déjà disparu ) at a critical point in the
history of the former British colony. According
to Abbas, the ghost story, in which different
periods of Hong Kong's history are brought
together, evokes Harvey's concept of time-
space compression, serving as a tropic device
that enables the director (Kwan) to represent
and critically explore the space of the déjà dis-
paru (Abbas, 1997, pp. 41, 47).
Drawing on the work of Isozaki and Asada
(1992), Abbas distinguishes three types of urban
space: real cities (historically contextual), surreal
cities (hybridized urban forms, without histori-
cal context) and hyperreal or simulated cities
(televisual, theme-park cities). All three of these
types of urban space can be found in Liverpool,
yet it is the second, the surreal city, that has
most bearing upon the present discussion.
Encouraging a 'regime of the subliminal, uncanny
and half-seen' (Abbas, p. 77), the geographies
of the surreal city dominate the virtual landscape
Conclusion: Surreal City
Inasmuch as the act of seeing and what is seen
are confused, both become impotent . . . That
which is merely seen (and merely visible) is
hard to see.
(Lefebvre, 1991, p. 286; Abbas, 1997, p. 48)
Reinforcing Lefebvre's critical perspective on visu-
ality and space, Ackbar Abbas notes that 'the
Search WWH ::

Custom Search