Buffalo, in New York state, is 'ineffable': a typical city in transition between its past and future. It is a classic example of one of many 'shrinking cities' in North America and elsewhere which once prospered because of heavy industrialization, but which now have to deal with various degrees of urban decay. Bringing together a range of scholars from the humanities, the social sciences, art and architecture, this volume looks at both the literal city image and urban representation generated by photographs, video, historical and contemporary narratives, and grass-root initiatives. It investigates the notion of agency of media in the city and, in return, what the city’s agency is. This agency matters particularly as it is both transforming - shrinking, fading, being redefined - and being shaped through its visual and spatial mediation. While illustrated by Buffalo in particular, the book examines a broader phenomenon: the identity of those cities that were built and blossomed during the late 19th and early 20th century and are now in different stages of decline and disintegration. However, while such cities are all confronted with complex issues of economic instability, social and racial segregation, urban sprawl and shrinking processes both in the inner city and more and more in their ex-urban belts, they are too often described through dramatically simplifying visual and linguistic tropes. In Buffalo such tropes refer dialectically either to the city’s past glory or its presumed current cultural, political and economical stasis and decline. This book takes such tired, and familiar tropes and questions them.
’Ineffably Urban: Imaging Buffalo, challenges and complicates the usual imagery and discourse surrounding today’s shrinking cities. Here artists, designers, and activists as well as academics probe what remains unexpressed about Buffalo. Excavating the many lives and places nested within the city’s past and present, this collection imagines another kind of urbanity, at once complex yet sustainable, for the future.’ Mary N. Woods, Cornell University, USA ’A touching homage to the decaying grand metropolis on Lake Erie, this book’s stories, case studies and historic accounts could similarly be told about other American cities. Besides the devastating effects of industrial restructuring in the 20th Century, the much older American ambivalence towards the urban still casts its shadow. There are heart wrenching dramas of decay and loss and also - again and again - inspiring stories of new urban initiatives and creative beginnings, of works of art inspired by local space and territory.’ Dietrich Neumann, Brown University, USA '… Ineffably Urban: Imagining Buffalo, an extraordinary collection of essays on the city by 14 artists and thinkers … These are all easy stories to tell and to repeat, and each one contains some grain of truth. Imagining Buffalo� includes bits and pieces of each one. But its great and enduring value is in its inclusion of more nuanced reactions to those simple stories, each one beautifully flawed in its own way, and its insistence on encouraging readers to think in more critical and complex ways about this critical and complex place.' The Buffalo News
Contents: Preface; Prologue, Andreas Huyssen; Introduction: ineffably urban, Miriam Paeslack; Part I After-Urban: The world according to rubble, Jeff Byles; The Fargo house, Dennis Maher; American pyromania, Jean-Michel Reed; Peripheral spaces, Julian Montague; Excavations: Last House, Carl Lee. Part II Retro-Urban: Imagining the managed city: representing Buffalo in transformation, 1804-1929, Peter Bacon Hales; Portraits of the ineffable city: Milton Rogovin’s serial photography, Michael Frisch and Miriam Paeslack; The grain of the image, Hadas A. Steiner; Thoughts on A, Gregory Halpern. Part III Future-Urban: Buffalo: a place in search of a brand, Mimi Zeiger; Nature resurged: Buffalo’s new pastoral, Aaron Bartley; Urban decodings from the inside out, Dorothea Braemer; The Tough stuff from the Buff film and video tour, Julie Perini and David Gracon; Mapping refugee urbanism. Visual languages of sensing, play and immigration policy, Jordan Geiger; Afterword, Mark Goldman; Index.