Monday, November 30, 2009


a lot of my friends know I get excited by spaces that are in the process of disappearing. I'll get random calls from people as they drive by a particularly wonderful abaondoned mansion, or mystical disaster site. in a sense they are registering a report with someone who cares.

(on a side tangent: I recently entered a juried show at emory U. it was called something really vague like HOME. . . one of the jurors was high museum curator of photography Julian Cox and I'm sure they made a lot of money in submission fees and all, everybody wanting influencial JC to have a look at their work. at the opening, the jurors bemused how many of the hundreds of submissions were of abandoned houses, and otherwise dystopic architectural spaces. but, they decided not to show any of those. . .too obvious, too cliché. and I thought to myself, well actually these curators have missed an opportunity. maybe they should be listening more carefully to what the majority of image makers were presenting, repetitive and un-original as it may be. what's significant is that the response to a show called "home" was to show photos of foreclosures and abandoned mcmansions. this could have been a way to honor a message from a group of artists, and not just a competition to prize individual vision, as is the 20th cent art tradition. ok tangent over. . .)

so I get a call from Eggtooth (Jeff Dalgren) in the middle of a recent week day, saying that he could see a most amazing flooded field of cars just off the highway in Austell, GA. and, did I want to go back and photograph it? well, this occurred over a very sunny couple of days after a bunch of rain. I imagined the blue sky and fall leaves reflecting off the watery surface around angled old cars. . . I was experimenting with my medium format camera just then. . .so, the timing was just perfect for an art adventure.

we chose the next sunday, and went out to find this strangely aesthetic place just off the highway. as we got on a parallel side street, I recognized the area. . .it is a regular route I take to go to sweetwater (that polluted, wonderful river park just downstream from Atlanta).

when we arrived at the desired location, the water had submerged and the field of cars, now covered in a dry coat of georgia mud, turned out to be a war set for paintball players.

(caption: "lastcall" featuring Joe "Dirt" Schulten by Freda Jones )

Eggtooth, wearing a camouflage baseball cap and khaki millitary-esque jacket, had chosen the perfect dress code. we parked and walked right into the paintball complex. a multi-racial, friendly group hung out at the snack bar and picnic tables around which were several large fenced-in areas full of paint splattered objects. One area had giant stuffed X's, another was filled with numerous wooden spindle shapes. we went out to the farthest field where there were junk cars, fake buildings and the remnants of an old gas station. the environment, artistically unified in color by the beige layer of dirt and detritus of paintballs, was aesthetically interesting, especially underneath that blue sky. we set out to take a few photos, when an older woman with thick, large circular glasses and a ponytail came by to check us out. I asked to take her picture and we got to talking.

she said she also loves to take pictures and would we like to see them? she pins the best ones up (two of which she gave us). we learned that paintball is an organized sport, played in teams. and we also discovered an outsider artist.

ultimately we were disappointed to find that what we thought was a natural disaster, turned out to be a planned fiction: a mundane set for paintball. But, either way, it was not altogether unrelated to art. . . this is a place that flourishes adjacent to more refined city culture and here it was expressing itself unapologetically, artistically. for one, we both thought paintball as an activity has a lot of potential for painters. that all over this place, there were surfaces being violently decorated with paint. but the sets themselves were wonderful installations, so real and raw. . .so much a product of the hinterlands still chuggin' along outside the borders of a globalizing world civilization, where hunting and warfare are not yet politically incorrect.

we all live inside set designs. we call it architecture and interior design. among many things, intown atlanta is often a fictional suburb of upscale Disneyland, and what we found here was its particularly piquant counterpoint.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I've been likening my trip to the scene in Dead Man (< "jim jarmusch 1995" >) where johnny depp takes a train ride from victorian civilization (cleveland 1850s) to the deep wild west. the people who share the cabin with depp, slowly change in attire and cleanliness, the landscape through the window shows an abandoned pioneer wagon in the forest, and then later, destroyed teepees on a plane. . .the women all disappear. . .until finally, near the end of the line, only gruff men in furry hats crowd over to one side of the cabin to shoot riffles at the roaming buffalo. "government says, killed a million of 'em this year alone. . ." (Crispin Glover).

I always think of American history as being recent and unsettled. (I mean, we removed an entire civilization of American Indians, used slaves and raped a most precious well-taken-care-of land to build our new nation! what have we done about that? ) I think of the american west as being wild, where things are still playing out in the hinterlands, where the seams of society are not so tightly put together.

but clearly, one can still travel east in Europe and find a similar rawness of history being processed in it's hinterlands. my trip from Berlin, Germany through Warsaw, Poland, and ending in Vilnius, Lithuania this fall. . . presented me with another much more recent place where the murder and destruction of the past is still being reconciled. "(see my flicker page )" such is the story of humanity on earth. . . I truly hope we will outgrow this mode of aggression. in the meanwhile, what occurred in eastern Europe in the 40s, is much fresher and just as unsettled as the strong ghosts that linger in our own west. what are the choices a place makes in how it deals with the aftermath of such events? as advances in media technology makes remote places and cloaked atrocities more transparent, perhaps we will eventually have to banish this sort of violence to fiction. . . .

the land in particular plays a role in healing. people must do their part to remember, forgive and move on. . . .(and there's is a danger in strict, swift erasure, which denies processes of remembrance, for it is when a memory is denied that it haunts like a ghost! ) the landscape, especially in more country places, also participates in the healing of past wounds. I believe it is the slow work of forests and open meadows that can disintegrate leftover negative energy signatures.

this reminds me of a forest I discovered in Lithuania, way out in the hinterlands above a very small village. this was a place where thousands were murdered. . .and yet the forest existed in a state of magical softness. clearly there was a sense of healing here.


beautiful, small mushrooms were abound.

the earth was like a welcoming green carpet. and the air was moist like a hug.