THE EMPTY CENTRE
Returning to Britain in 2017 for my first extended visit after several decades away, I see my native land to some extent with the eyes of a foreigner. This is also a time of national disquiet. While the country and its leaders wrestle with the absurdity of Brexit, the indelible burned-out Grenfell tower symbolizes a social fabric shredded by bonanza capitalism, de-industrialization, and the politics of division.
The brittle glitz of provincial British city centres, sadly pretentious and socially bereft, seems to me an image of, and a factor in, these discontents. After the bomb damage of WWII, developers, city planners, and councils seized their opportunity. Historic, civic, ecclesiastical, and vernacular buildings were demolished, together with the communities that had created them, to make way for inner ring-roads and Brutalist shopping precincts, multi-story car parks, and office blocks. After a couple of decades many of these properties were decaying failures, leading to more, and ongoing, clearing and development.
My practice centers around the challenges and burdens imposed by history. Recent understandings in embodied psychology suggest that people and societies are profoundly formed by the spaces where they live, work, and play. U.K. cities have been dramatically shaped by industry, war, commerce, and British social structures. Their formal and visual characteristics reflect this past - but also construct the present and future of the nation and its citizens.
At night the emptiness of these spaces registers most clearly. Fragments of older city juxtapose with recent constructions. Night-club patrons and homeless people bedded down in doorways often provide the only human presence.
The photographs are taken with a digital medium-format camera and printed at 27 x 36 inches (68 x 91 cm) to show their details and texts some are not readable at web size),which often supply the titles. I will continue the project, which currently includes thirteen cities, on future visits