Art and artists in cities are often considered in urban studies in relation to gentrification, be it to prove, to assess or to contest their role as gentrification drivers (see for example: Zukin, 1987; Ley, 2003; Vivant and Charmes, 2008; Mathews, 2010; Debroux, 2012). Interestingly enough, all the papers presented in this issue chose not to address the relationships between arts and cities solely through the lens of gentrification. They focus more generally on the urban dynamics that arts – taking place in cities or representing them – might reveal and participate in, on various scales.
Debroux’s prospective paper is particularly relevant in that matter: by investigating art galleries from the street level to the international one, it questions their spatial, economic and symbolic strategies and the consequences of such strategies on urban dynamics (and reciprocally). By doing so, Debroux highlights the economic and property constraints that art galleries have to face in order to access symbolic urban spaces, especially in a dense city like Paris (France). In the case of Toulouse (France), Balti more particularly explores the alleged ability of cultural infrastructures, and more specifically of an amplified music venue called the Metronum, to foster the development of peripheral urban spaces so as to balance the cultural scene and the urban fabric. Even if this venue contributes to the redistribution of the cultural and metropolitan functions within Toulouse, its persistent lack of connection with the neighborhood and the local music scene, which is still more active in the city center, jeopardizes its long term impact. But, regardless of the effective influences of arts on urban dynamics, what is already certain is that – as shown by Bouhaddou and Kullmann (in this issue) and Arab et. al. (2016) – the integration of arts into urban projects transforms the urban stakeholders system and consequently the ways cities are produced and imagined.
By questioning the similarities of the representations of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in contemporary popular movies Tropa de Elite 1 and 2 and in dominant urban discourses, Lebel examines the extent to which cinematic representations can reveal and influence the way the city is conceived. He demonstrates that the diffusion of violence from the favelas to the city center in the two movies challenges the opposition between formal and informal urban spaces and exposes the violence the inhabitants were confronted to in relation to the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics urban projects. Arts could thus be a tool to better understand the ways cities, on the one hand, are imagined and, on the other hand, experienced. In this regard, Guillard and Pleven analyze two contemporary movies (Wassup Rockers and ATL) in order to investigate the representations of American cities (respectively Los Angeles and Atlanta) through both image and sound. They stress on the capacity of cinema to give visibility and tangibility to the ways inhabitants – and in those cases teenagers from deprived areas – experience urban spaces that are characterized by socio-spatial discontinuities. By adopting the teenagers’ points of view, these two movies offer counter narratives and representations that can participate in reinventing the dominant urban imagery associated to socio-spatial dynamics such as urban fragmentation. Similarly, Palestinian graffiti in refugee camps studied by Lehec can be seen as a way to symbolically and physically contest the existence of borders and the ways they are implemented if not imposed by the State of Israel.
The analysis of the presence of arts in cities and of cities in arts thus appears as a means firstly to highlight the urban dynamics at work not only as they are, but also as they are represented and lived, and secondly to act on them.