The contemporary construct of the international city is the ur-image of progressive modernism. It has been the subject and content of advanced art practices since the 19th century, the source and site of many of modern art's most enduring works. Architectonically, as it continually tears itself down and builds itself up, the new city produces a phantasmagoria of renewal and progress even as it obliterates its own lived history. Produced through the fluidity of international global capital, the modern city becomes universalized even as its idiosyncratic particularities are reproduced as tourism. The core of this built environment, even with the suburban expansion of mall destinations, remains committed to consumption and the commodity as its raison d'etre.
The vanitas image of the human skull has, at least since the Dutch 17th century, carried an allegorical signification of ephemeral mortality and the futility of worldly aquisition. Even the devalued ubiquity of skull imagery in contemporary popular culture retains the trace of this mnemonic injunction. The delirious image of the spinning skull provides an imagistic equivalent to the dynamism of the rising and falling city which, finally, produces an endless reproduction of itself. Et in urbis ego.