For many years I have been fascinated by photographing inner-city redevelopment sites, as buildings disappear and the land beneath is revealed, before new structures are built. In these places, during these brief and unique windows of time, there exist idiosyncratic structures divorced from their functional purpose, unusual views, and different marks in the containing built fabric. I like to photograph them both as source for art-making, but also as a visual record.
Demolished buildings appear first as fading shells of previous uses, their textures and forms speaking of the past, encrusted with marks from use, weathering and graffiti. Next they become partial, teetering, un-functional structures, as they are destroyed, sometimes violently, sometimes in a gradual dismantling, and often hung in filmy fabric. Then the ground beneath is laid bare, perhaps with skeletons of older foundations scratched up by archaeologists. Some sites remain dormant, engulfed by weeds and accumulating detrius. Finally, the earth below is gouged out, great deep holes cutting into layers of soil and rock. And then the construction of new buildings start.
Visually, demolition shares some of the interest of the ruin: the frisson of peeping into or walking through an unregulated and forgotten landscape; the juxtaposition of different forms, materials, marks and colours; natural forms inserting themselves into built form; evidence of the passing of time; exposing of layers of occupation - and other evocative aspects which many authors have described.
However, planned demolition, in an inner city has some different qualities (even aside from the presence of human and mechanical movement from the demolition and construction workforce) . It is more contemporary: the building elements and forms remains are usually more vivid and less desiccated, with marks of use, wallpaper, paint, wooden linings, and outlines of other structures able to evoke human habitation more readily than in a ruin. It is more revealing of the process of taking apart, because it occurs in an evident and careful reverse building process: top down, for instance, or inside an outer shell, or by removal of lighter elements leaving a frame structure standing. A demolition is more orderly than a ruin: compared to, say a bombed out building, it shows the bones of the previous edifice more clearly.
Builders netting and plastic sheeting create curtain-like, moving elements making air currents visible and made more visually mobile by the play of sunlight and shadow. The fabric also creates the impression of a stage or theatre. Scaffolding and temporary stairs add lacy and linear elements.
Observing demolition sites has helped me develop several artistic strategies: deliberate making, fragmentation and re-assembly of objects; constructing installations into which one peers through small apertures; constructing installations of netting fabric; making paintings by a process involving peeling and flaking paint in layers; and making collaged and overpainted digital photographs.
More images from some demolitions I have photographed at
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