Trespassing Flâneuse

Obviously, Trespassing depicts the filmmaker walking various cities in the world and encourages audiences to link the video with the practice of female flânerie, a term from the French masculine word flâneur. Baudelaire’s flâneur depicts a man who walks the city to experience, observe, understand, and portray city life through both of his participation and detached observation. Therefore, flâneur is both an active participant and critical voyeur to portray and examine city life in sociological, anthropological, literary and historical aspects. However, the concept of flâneur excludes women from the spaces of modernity. As Wolff comments, “The influential writing of Baudelaire, Simmel, Benjamin and, more recently, Richard Sennett and Marshall Berman, by equating the modern with the public, thus fail to describe women’s experience of modernity. The central figure of the flâneur in the literature of modernity can only be male” (1985: abstract). It is because sexual differences were expressed through the segregation of space of public and private, and women were often defined in the private sphere. The experience of walks in the city mainly accounts for the experiences of men. The exceptions are the “non-respectable”, the prostitute (D’Souza & McDonough 2006:19).

This excerpt from a critique of flâneuse in “Trespassing world cities”, Linda Lai’s video travelogue mashup, touches on an aspect of flânerie that pops up from time to time upon which I’ve focused very little. Perhaps I find it easier to overlook the gender bias of historic flânerie in favor of a gender-neutral modern conception of the flânuer. What do you think?

Read the full review at Floating Projects Collective.

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