30 April 2012

En plein air

In recent years the metaphor "road to nowhere" has come to take on a lot more contextual laterality. Perhaps because its figurative dimension of the expression often has a literal counterpart in the real world. Aside from what I was saying a while back on this topic, the images here represent another thing I saw a lot of as I walking various routes around the city a couple of years ago. I don't doubt that it's a familiar sight to many, common in almost every city. The circuitous pavings of communities-to-be, sitting empty and overgrown in the nearly four years since everything ground to a halt.

Here we have two recent series of photographs dealing with the post-crash landscape of Spain. The first series (above) was done by Luis Galán García & Daniel Fernández Pascual and appeared about a year ago at the deconcrete website. Documenting the aftermath of the housing boom in and around the city of Madrid, the authors wonder if these "failed urban speculation [might possibly] be turning into natural reserves for the city," and explain the purpose of their project thusly:

"Our series of photographs illustrate these contemporary urban voids placed back in a rural context. We propose to learn from the beauty of the unfinished. Decaying urban contexts, which tried to be a city, are mutating into a bucolic landscape. Former networks of pathways that were destroyed come back again; extinguished native plants become the true green areas for the metropolis, whose wild growth has not been avoided; place names evoke a narrative of a landscape to be recovered, sounds of an interrupted nature... We foster the unexpected, where the uninhabited used to be."

* * * *

The second and more recent series is by Bercelona-based architect Julia Schulz-Dornburg, entitled “Modern ruins, a profitable topography.” About her project in-progress, Schulz-Dornburg writes:

"The massive implementation of leisure resorts and residential complexes in the recent decade has transformed vast costal regions of Spain and spread far into its interior provinces. ...The unfinished buildings that colonize the profitscapes in question are certainly a type of their own. These constructions, some barely begun, were never finished and therefore never fulfilled their purpose of shelter. Does their lack of history – nobody ever lived in it and nothing ever happened within its walls – render this type of ruin obsolete, without any chance of transformation, or can it end up acquiring some significance or value?"

I'm sure "Potemkin villages" is an incredibly weak and inaccurate analogy, but still it's the one the one that leaped to mind when I first saw each set of the photos above. At nay rate, can't help note that Schulz-Dornburg's text is thick with textbook Romanticisms in its discussion of ruins. Which has been such a recurrent trope of late -- be it in discussion of Detroit-ism "ruin porn" and other unrelated items.* On the other hand, García and Pascual forego any suggestion of a quasi-sorta-maybe-apocalyptic "sublime" and opt for the mundane -- - some sort of new, era-specif Barbizon School of outdoorsy verism. But with a deeply perverse twist.

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* Not to slight her, not at all...but that sort of thing has become the too-obvious starting-point in trying to access or address or analyze things of this nature. I've been guilty of sifting through it in prior posts, if only because I found it vaguely applicable as a starting point, yet naggingly inadequate in so many ways.

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