An evanescent urbanism: Mark Cousins, film-maker of the floating world

Authors: Daryl Martin*, University of York
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Floating life; Mark Cousins; city symphonies; aesthetics; mobilities.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 4:30 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Regency Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A hill of salt in the Belfast docklands shimmers like an iceberg floating at sea. A grey mist hovers across Stockholm, obscuring the contours of the city behind it. A laminated photograph of Sergei Eisenstein drifts in front of a camera as it moves, over three days, amongst the streets of Mexico City. These three images are from a sequence of impressionistic city symphonies directed by Mark Cousins: respectively, I am Belfast (2015), Stockholm My Love (2016) and What is this Film Called… Love? (2012). In this paper, I discuss the work of Cousins in terms of its floating aesthetics and mobile methodologies. Throughout his essay films, Cousins’s camera drifts through urban spaces, tracing the images and sounds of cityscapes that typically escape us. The films are attentive to the colours infused and refracted through their urban environments, prompting an understanding of cities as studies in fleeting colour, light and luminosity. Empirically, the films reveal the mobilities of each city, recording the quotidian movements of their human and non-human elements. Affectively, these films take one of the most representational of arts – cinema – and reconfigure it in a graceful, more-than-representational mode. In so doing, Cousins sketches urbanisms of enchantment, emotion and care. This paper offers a reflection on the capacity of Cousins’s films to re-calibrate urban imaginaries and evoke an understanding of cities as lively, sensuous and evanescent harbours of a floating world.

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