Deserted Cities of the Heart

For a long time, world city with a heart – “Weltstadt mit Herz” – was the official marketing slogan of the city of Munich. Nowadays, like any city subject to a stay-at-home-order aimed at mitigating the impact of the Corona pandemic, it is more akin to a deserted city of the heart.

The eyes of the few observers who dare (or need to) venture into the city center see the buildings, streets and infrastructure as they have never seen them before. They seem depleted of their magic that used to attract as many people possible from as many places conceivable. #desertedcities is a popular hashtag on Instagram, as is #ghosttown. The eye gazes solitarily along the facades, almost as if one had been shifted into a painting by the Italian master of the scuola metafisica, Giorgio de Chirico. In his art, as in the present, the cityscape is laid bare, devoid of human life, exposing the skeletal structure of urban culture. Gaze wandering, we are startled. In the words of British rock supergroup Cream, “if I could catch your dancing eye, it was on the way, on the road to dreams, yea.” Perhaps it is an urban dreamscape we are witnessing – we might as well hope for a gentle awakening.