Environmental and Urban Aesthetics

Research line 2

This research line on aesthetics integrates the art and technology of producing images and its relationship with the social sciences and visual culture in its history, theory, and pedagogy. Besides achieving research results and knowledge, it is essential to focus on two strictly convergent studies involved in aesthetic experience: environmental and urban aesthetics—the interactions between nature, architecture, framing photography, moving images, and media to understand the aesthetic realm’s value nowadays. This study explores space and time modalities in the interdisciplinary exchange between perception studies and cinematic methods, theories, and editing effects (montage of fragments of environmental and urban scenarios). The objective is to prioritize cinematic representation’s potential, moving images in the transition from nature and architecture to the screen-mediated environment, framing photography through photosensitive surfaces and their digital counterparts. Some important aspects are considered, such as the inclusion of new subjects and objects in the field of perception. That is what Walter Benjamin (1939) called “sensory-perceived shocks.” Films allow for an affective response from the viewer, a subjective experience—the Kino-Eye style that generates a particular effect. One of the best known cinematographic effects grew from Kino-Eye to resist everyday life and reconfigure perception, allowing individuals to have cinematic relationships outside the cinema. The potential use of cinema as an instrument of social transformation and political-cultural power to form critical thinking is due to the influence of the following theorists, artists, and filmmakers: René Clair, Jean Epstein, Elie Fauré, Walter Benjamin, Fernand Léger, Laszló Moholy-Nagy, and Vertov (Michelson, 1984). Specifically, it has influenced Bertolt Brecht’s theory of the distancing effect, also called alienation effect or a-effect (Verfremdungseffekt; V-Effekt) that has altered the conception of visual narratives and produced new understandings of images. Moreover, considering the aesthetic and socio-political influences today does not exclude rereading and interpreting the Frankfurt School’s classical theories on which critical theory is based.

Although the word “image” is commonly used, it is very complex in its meaning, and this research refers to the definition of “imagination” to better understand this multifaceted meaning. Thus, imagination is the faculty or act of forming new ideas, images, or concepts of external objects not present to the senses. Therefore, imagination cannot be characterized as knowledge. Equally significant in this study is the attention to simulacra, through which the imagination makes contact with “reality,” not only in the moment of image execution but in the visual narrative’s formal outcome of our consciousness of time and space as reality. These ideas are further related to the perception of movement, how one moves or is mediated in an environment or urban space. The visual narrative involves memory as much as the act of seeing. It is a process in which visual sequences are perceived and are coordinated in the imagination. Insights are also shaped by how environmental and urban perceptions influence this interplay. According to Giedion (1982), a conception of space is not developed independently of forms, nor is it entirely autonomous. However, the space-time perception of the elements of internal and external spaces or the connections between them always reflects the visual narrative’s conditions. Finally, this research line should offer theoretical, critical reviews and an in-depth analysis of the socio-historical importance of practical possibilities for environmental and urban spaces.