Media In-Between: Introduction

Image: Slaveya Minkova.
In their introduction to the dossier, Zizi Li and Slaveya Minkova reflect on the concept of the "In-Between" as a framework for thinking about media, space, and place.
“The space in between things is the space in which things are undone, the space to the side and around, which is the space of subversion and fraying, the edges of any identity’s limits.” (Elizabeth Grosz)1Elizabeth Grosz, Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), 92–93.

This dossier engages with the generative space offered by the “in-between” – in between material and immaterial, in between physical and digital, in between infrastructure and media text, in between landscape and screen, in between disciplines and fields. The notion of the “in-between” can at once offer up compelling intersections and illuminate vital contradictions. How can we theorize the “in-between” in relation to image construction and its ghostly traces? In what way does the sphere, or ecology, of audiovisual media impact or complicate issues of labor? How does a media studies lens reveal tensions between material and immaterial approaches to landscape and notions of the “urban”? The dossier navigates materiality from the standpoints of media labor practices, infrastructural approaches, exhibition contexts, experiments in close reading, and methodological challenges, facilitating a generative discussion of how cinema and media studies as a field can address and respond to urgent transformations of the conception of the “urban” in the contemporary moment.

The “in-between” has emerged as a key concept in the last few decades, with increasing relevance to ways we may reshape established definitions of space, place, and identity. In her seminal book, Architecture From the Outside, Elizabeth Grosz writes, “The space of the in-between is the locus for social, cultural, and natural transformations: it is not simply a convenient space for movements and realignments but in fact is the only place – the place around identities, between identities – where becoming, openness to futurity, outstrips the conservational impetus to retain cohesion and unity.”2Grosz, Architecture from the Outside, 91–92. Doreen Massey has similarly written of a reconfiguration of our understanding of space itself as incorporating “loose ends and missing links,” suggesting a necessity for openness rather than an emphasis on holism.3Doreen Massey, For Space (London: Sage, 2005), 12. More recently, Andrea Muni Brighenti has emphasized the interstitial positionality of the in-between, gesturing toward the potential held in its status as “surrounded” by other entities and spaces.4Andrea Muni Brighenti, Urban Interstices: The Aesthetics and the Politics of the In-Between (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013), xvi. For us, the in-between offers a kind of complex theoretical and methodological flexibility. It affords a sideways approach, one which is destined to remain open due to its multi-planar orientation – in between multiple contingencies.

We’ve chosen to organize the collection of articles to illustrate a relational tension between urbanism and landscape. As outsiders to the disciplines of urban planning and architecture, we’re offering a media studies reconfiguration of both urban and landscape as concepts in relation to one another, and as vehicles for navigating media about and in proximity to the city. Our spectrum of “in-betweenness” thus begins with the pieces which are most readily identifiable with urbanism in its city form, and ends with those which lend more emphasis on the conception of landscape as in-proximity to what has been termed urban.

The first set of articles navigates city spaces through screens of different scales, from handheld devices to large public displays, blurring boundaries between inside and outside, public and private, commercial and non-commercial. Our first contributor, Andrea J. Kelley, examines alternative makeshift screens and screening environments in the moment of COVID-19, emphasizing a reconsideration of the materiality of moving images. Patricia Ciccone’s work builds on the discussion of what constitutes a screen and how public art interfaces with city mobilities, addressing Mierle Ukeles’ COVID art piece “For ⟶ forever” and looking at questions of vitalities and movements in the city during a moment of crisis. Zizi Li similarly addresses issues of materiality and engages with the notion of the “interface” by taking an infrastructural approach to unboxing videos, exploring nested labor buried by spectacular images of boxes as advertisement mediascape and logistical imaginary.

The dossier then pivots to foreground landscape. Here, we want to propose landscape as a vehicle for considering how spaces have been shaped in proximity to the urban. We are thus not thinking of the absence of the city as excluding a discussion of urbanism, but instead pointing to how the ghostly traces of the city can be located in places that escape the “urban” designation. In this line of thinking, Slaveya Minkova offers a spatial analysis of production logistics of the horror film Barbarian, unpacking the irreconcilable logic of displacing imaginaries of Detroit onto a street block set in an agricultural field in Bulgaria. Slava Savova’s piece offers a different take on the tension between urban and rural, examining the ecological and social legacies of the abandoned industrial site of Kremikovtsi near Sofia, Bulgaria, through a methodology interweaving theory with an audiovisual approach. Finally, with the concluding piece of the dossier, Jasmine Trice elaborates on the dialectical relationship between Indigeneity and urbanism, offering a reconfiguration of Western genre tropes and a close analysis of landscapes and temporality in Chloe Zhao’s 2017 film The Rider.

The participants in this dossier each address im/material media, residues of urbanism, and the notion of the in-between, offering a variety of perspectives and methodological approaches, as well as vital multidisciplinary intersections.

Notes

Notes
1 Elizabeth Grosz, Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), 92–93.
2 Grosz, Architecture from the Outside, 91–92.
3 Doreen Massey, For Space (London: Sage, 2005), 12.
4 Andrea Muni Brighenti, Urban Interstices: The Aesthetics and the Politics of the In-Between (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013), xvi.
Li, Zizi and Slaveya Minkova. "Media In Between: Introduction." Mediapolis: A Journal of Cities and Culture 9, no. 2 (June 2024)
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