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A Slipping Glimpser

What makes the urban available to the gaze? Cities are an example of phenomena too extensive in scale to be empirically visible to the human eye in one glance, yet are taken on a sort of visual faith which makes the overall unseeable city part of what Taussig calls a ‘public secret’.

Its Visualicity transcends the merely visible.

The Glance might serve to remind us of the strange qualitoes of visualicity which always attempts to surmount the present and empirically visible to see forward into the future. A glance, coup d’oeil, is a different habit and gesture from the gaze. Whereas the Gaze is directed at a focus, an icon, the glance surveys a field, a context. It is a rapid scan, Restlessly striking first one element then another, knocking them out of the context or background into the foreground, continually interrupting the current focus of attention. The glance is visual flaneurie. Scanning the horizon, the literature of urban visualicity is packed with notes on the surveillance of the present for contrail traces of the future – Baudelaire’s love interests passing by in the nineteenth-century metropolis, Benjamin’s commodity enticements of the Arcades, the hazards of any stroller.

It is Paris… a cultural theorist steps off the curb and is it by a milk van. We need to pay attention to the glance, not just ‘the gaze’…

What will be the glance in the digitally-augmented city?