University of Innsbruck – University of New Orleans Annual Symposium


Innsbruck, June 25/26, 2014





       The “spatial turn” in history has turned landscapes into a relational concept. Landscape from this perspective is a culturally coded historical concept with multiple meanings. What are the geographic, physical and material conditions inscribed in landscapes? Moreover, the social and cultural layers of landscapes are explored, along with their historical and mental conditions. Taken from this vantage point traditional opposites are transcended: natural vs. cultural landscapes, objects vs. persons, city vs. countryside, civilized vs. untamed landscapes. The focus is on “cities in between” (Zwischenstädte), which have both appearances of cityscapes and unbuilt space – intermediate spaces where new ways of urban living occur. This new theory of landscapes speaks of “micro landscapes,” namely landscapes that function as agglomerations of many different, constantly moving perceived environmental states, including people who live therein. In this sense, landscapes are social categories.

            North American Cultural Landscape Studies have opened up a new sense of landscapes. Cities as a microcosms of multiple landscapes are at the center of attention of these new discourses of landscape. Theorists like Richard Sennet have drawn the long trajectory of citizens living in Periclean Athens (“the relationship between “flesh and stone”) down to the social body of multicultural New York. He sees modern cityscapes being neutralized and standardized through high security precautions and thereby losing their stimulating urban condition. People feel isolated in these cities without movement. Martina Löw see cityscapes as silhouettes  producing images of themselves in the world. Karl Schlögel recognizes a return of the material in post-9/11 cityscapes.

            Innsbruck and New Orleans will serve as case studies to explore these spatial issues in modern cities. Both offer highly complex landscapes. Both stand for prototypical deeply-rooted local and regional identities. They are part and parcel of multicultural exchanges in the urban landscape. Both have a reputation for their images in the world as places with many historical legacies and profiting from spectacular landscapes around them. Both Innsbruck and New Orleans face many environmental and technical challenges. Discourses about security in these cities are coupled with both aesthetic (cultural inheritance) and ecological discourses. On the occasion of a number of anniversaries in 2015 (40 year UNO International Summer School, 20 years Innsbruck – New Orleans city partnership, 15 years art exchange) this symposium wants to draw attention to the profound connections between Innsbruck and New Orleans by looking at the two cities through the interdisciplinary spatial lense.