Night Moves: A Mise-en-scène of a Luminous Economy

Nayan Kulkarni

PhD Viva completed 2019-2020

Nayan Kulkarni

Nayan Kulkarni: Night Moves: A Mise-en-scène of a Luminous Economy


Since the general electrification of ambient urban lighting in the late nineteenth century, complex arrangements of functional and aesthetic lighting have become increasingly deployed to intensify the capitalization of the city at night. Contemporary solid-state lighting integrated with networked control systems means that scenic effects once contained within theatrical and cinematic production, have infiltrated the built spaces that we occupy. As digital imaging technologies converge with the built environment, the city at night can be considered as a moving image. This research considers the implications of the nocturnal city when it is understood as a manufactured atmosphere, where the distinctions between media interfaces and the construction of urban space are no longer distinguishable as distinct zones of experience.

By employing Bertolt Brecht’s and Antonin Artaud’s concepts of a mise-en-scène of light as a critical and transformational tool, the thesis develops connections between current theories of atmosphere and post-cinematic urbanism. The thesis proposes a practice-based analytical and critical mise-en-scène that draws on embodied empirical methods for creating lens, light and sound-based artworks within installation art and the urban environment.

This research explores the effects of light and digital projection on urban subjectivity and its representations. Recent formulations of atmosphere in Gernot Böhme’s phenomenological conception of architectural atmospheres and Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos’ theorisation of lawscape are integrated into a broader corpus of analysis and theory through empirical, theoretical and historical modes of enquiry.

Together, the written thesis and body of practice provide the framework phototropia. This aims to establish a transversal platform for critical thought and practice from which to think and remake the city at night. From the perspective of a material practice this method offers ways of understanding the changing relations between imaging technologies and contemporary urban subjectivity.

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