The Ephemeral Cities Research Group is an interdisciplinary community of graduate students, writers, artists, and filmmakers formed in 2014 in London. We research and write about the urban condition by reading cities both in, and as, texts and cultural representations.
Our interdisciplinary approach interrelates history, visual studies, and spatial theories with the aim of rethinking the interplay of political, economic, social, and everyday negotiations that take place within the city, from the nineteenth century to the present.
We explore notions of wasted and marginal space and place, heterotopia, non-space, and warped architecture as well as fugitive moments of spatial experience in the city in flux. We consider the ever-changing nature of social and urban fabrics to investigate issues such as urban decay and renewal. This encompasses abandoned and repurposed architecture, otherness and social exclusion, architectural boundaries, gendered space, public/private space, technology, and surveillance.
How do buildings change us as we live with them, in them, on them and move among them? What do visual practices do for us as we seek to navigate and make our way through the material environment of the city? What are the marginal spaces of this city and how do they shape their inhabitants? How can marginalised space/place be transformed through representation?
The city is not etched in stone. It is in a constant state of negotiation, reconfiguration, and transformation. Through the study of film, photography, painting, architecture, sculpture, and other visual media, we seek to grasp the ephemeral which, in its lack of permanence, is often prone to evade attention, yet which forms a crucial part of urban life.
Ephemeral Cities are deeply grateful to everyone -academics and artists alike – who had a hand in laying our foundations. The idea of a project which would focus on urban fluidity and visual expressions of the city was born out of research into Modernity, sustainability and urban space, and was originally put together by Dr Jann Matlock, Dr Richard Taws and Dr Barbara Penner at UCL. We would like to thank the originators of this early incarnation of the project for all their inspiration in the early stages of what was to become the Ephemeral Cities Research Group, and Dr Matlock for her ongoing support and mentorship.