Liam Young & Tim Maughan, Where the City Can’t See, 2016. Still from film. Image courtesy of Liam Young.

Liam Young, Where the City Can’t See

Year: 2016
Medium: Digital film
Dimensions: running time
Brief biography: b. 1979, Australia. Lives and works in London, England.

Where the City Can’t See is the first fiction film shot entirely through laser scanning technology.  Directed by speculative architect Liam Young and written by author Tim Maughan, the film is set in the Chinese owned and controlled Detroit Economic Zone (DEZ). In a not-too-distant future, Google maps, urban management systems and CCTV surveillance are not only mapping our cities, but ruling them.

Exploring the subcultures that could emerge from these new technologies, the film follows a collection of young factory workers across a single night, as they drift through the smart city in a driver-less taxi, searching for a place they know exists, but that the map doesn’t show. They are part of an underground community that work on the production lines by day, by night adorn themselves in machine vision camouflage and the tribal masks of anti-facial recognition, enacting their escapist fantasies in the hidden spaces of the city. They hack the city and journey through a network of stealth buildings, ruinous landscapes, ghost architectures, anomalies, glitches and sprites, searching for the wilds beyond the machines.

Where the City Can’t See is a cross platform production, which has manifested as live performances, installations and now as a short film. The project launched during AND Festival 2015 at Grizedale Forest (Cumbria, UK), as an open film set, where scenes set in the natural environment were recorded. The remainder of the film – including the industrial, urban sequences – was shot in 2016 in Detroit (US). The film brings together composites of these two locations, merging them to create a new, virtual landscape.  The film had its world premiere at The Invisible City: the Cinema of Surveillance, in St. Helens (UK) on 12 November 2016.

Liam Young is an architect who operates in the spaces between design, fiction and futures. He is founder of the urban futures think tank Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today and also runs the Unknown Fields Division, an award winning nomadic workshop that travels on annual expeditions to investigate unreal and forgotten landscapes, alien terrains and industrial ecologies. Liam also coordinates the Fiction and Entertainment Masters program at Sci Arc in Los Angeles.

View trailer for Where the City Can’t See.

Liam Young website:
Tim Maughan website:

Where the City Can’t See was commissioned by Abandon Normal Devices, St Helens Heart of Glass and University of Salford Art Collection. Produced by Liam Young and Abandon Normal Devices, with support from Forestry Commission England’s Forest Art Works and supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Logo for Abandon Normal Devices (AND)Logo for Heart of GlassLogo for Arts Council England