Letting the brush lead: Mark Cousins, film-maker of the floating world

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Publication details

JournalEmotion, Space and Society
DateAccepted/In press - 12 Jan 2021
DateE-pub ahead of print - 16 Feb 2021
DatePublished (current) - 1 May 2021
Number of pages10
Early online date16/02/21
Original languageEnglish


A hill of salt in the Belfast docklands shimmers like an iceberg at sea. A laminated photograph of Sergei Eisenstein drifts in front of a camera as it moves amongst the streets of Mexico City. A grey mist hovers across Stockholm, obscuring the city behind it. These three images are from a sequence of essay films directed by Mark Cousins. In this paper, I discuss the work of Cousins in terms of its floating aesthetics and mobile methodologies. Throughout his films, Cousins’s camera drifts through urban spaces, tracing the images and sounds of cityscapes that typically escape us. The films are attentive to the colours infused and refracted through their urban environments, prompting an understanding of cities as studies in fleeting colour, light and luminosity. I engage with Japanese aesthetic theories in order to draw out resonances between the historical art of urbanising Japan and the city scenes of Cousins’s films. This paper offers a reflection on the capacity of Cousins’s films to evoke an understanding of cities as lively, sensuous and evanescent harbours of a floating world.

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© 2021 Elsevier Ltd. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.

    Research areas

  • Mark Cousins, essay films, affect, embodiment, atmosphere, zuihitsu

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