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Wim Wenders: A Notebook on Cities and Clothes


Image of a city car journey, with a playback of a second journey shown on a handheld camera in the passenger seatYesterday
I watched Wim Wenders’ film ‘Notebook on Clothes and Cities’ (1987) a 79 minute essayist documentary reflecting on the creative process, cities, identity and the digital age through conversations with Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. 

I found Wenders’ opening monologue of particular interest in relation to the self and digital domains.  It distills some very difficult ideas very simply.  The opening sequence is available to watch at the internet movie database. I have also transcribed the ‘chapter’ in full below.

"You live wherever you live,
you do whatever work you do,
you talk however you talk,
you eat whatever you eat,
you wear whatever clothes you wear,
you look at whatever images you see…


“Identity” …
of a person,
of a thing,
of a place.

The word itself gives me shivers.
It rings of calm, comfort, contentedness.
What is it, identity?
To know where you belong?
To know your self worth?
To know who you are?
How do you recognise identity?
We are creating an image of ourselves,
We are attempting to resemble this image…
Is that what we call identity?
The accord
between the image we have created of ourselves
and … ourselves?
Just who is that, “ourselves”?

We live in the cities.
The cities live in us …
time passes.
We move from one city to another,
from on country to another.
We change languages,
we change habits,
we change opinions,
we change clothes,
we change everything.
Everything changes, And fast.
Images above all…

change faster and faster and they have been multiplying at a hellish rate ever since the explosion that unleashed the electronic images. They are the images that are now replacing photography.

We have learned to trust the photographic image. Can we trust the electronic image? With painting everything was simple. The original was the original, and each copy was a copy – a forgery. With photography and then film that began to get complicated. The original was a negative. Without a print, it did not exist, just the opposite, each copy was the original. But now with the electronic, and soon the digital, there is no more negative and no more positive. The very notion of the original is obsolete. Everything is a copy. All distinctions have become arbitrary. No wonder the idea of identity finds itself in such a feeble state. Identity is out, out of fashion. Exactly.  Then what is in vogue, if not fashion itself? By definition, fashion is always in. Identity and fashion, are the two contradictory?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 22/09/2008 10:37 pm

    I just watched that movie..Really interesting..I love that metaphore/parallel of life in all that composed our everyday life


  1. Notebook and Cities and Clothes « Neutral

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