Why are cities only beautiful at night?
“There clearly is an uncanny alchemy between dark representations and the urban experience, registered in the realm of images composed by photography, art, cinema, and architecture. For here it is that, as James Donald suggests, the familiar turns unfamiliar, the city of planning and order gives way to the unsettling influence of dark mysteries and memories. [..] portraits ranging from urban anxiety and nihilism to utopian desire, from scenes of dislocation and disposession to “warped spaces” in which the urban uncanny appears as the nightmarish crisis of the human. [..] a shadow always hung over the modernist halo. Inequity and oppression punctuated the drama of freedom on the street. The experience of immersion in the crowd produced feelings of enstrangement and routinization, and the gathering of the multitude could easily become part of the spectacle of mass society that capitalism staged. The rhythm of daily urban life might suggest a symphony, but it also spelled the boredom of routinization. The awesome promise of technology and planned futures was also terrifying. One way in which modernism expressed this terror was through the image of urban dystopia. Its dark visions of mass society forged by capitalism and technology, however, did not necessarily mean a forthright rejection of the modern metropolis but a critique of the betrayal of its utopian promise. The dystopic form functioned as a critical discourse that embraced urban modernity rather than reject it.”
Gyan Prakash: Imagining the Modern City, Darkly.
In: Noir Urbanisms. Dystopic Images of the Modern City (2010).