(wwl) wastelands: standing in awe 3/3

January 21, 2015 § 2 Comments

This is the 3rd and last part of a blog post I had written one or two years ago for a friend’s magazine and never published. It’s a gathering of thoughts about the feeling of fascination prompted by wastelands, abandoned places, sites that had once been threaded by life and are now completely empty, or seem to be.
1) Exploring frontiers
2) Contemplating death
3) Staring at the Uncanny

Staring at the uncanny

I think what engulfs us the most when walking around a derelict site is that we can physically experience the uncanny. Where the familiar becomes unfamiliar. Where you can tell people have lived and what they have done because you know the function of the place, and yet you cannot even see their ghosts.

The places we talk about are often left open and vacuous. Yet, they will always and forever belong to an unseizable dimension, they hold secrets we will never be able to crack out. They stand in a fragile shell, impregnated with people’s feelings and stories that will never surface again. Only our imagination can insufflate life into relics, or pretend to do so.

Sven Fennema, Trapped in Solitude, from “Habitat” series

Sven Fennema, Trapped in Solitude, from “Habitat” series

Here we are now. Crossing a frontier, looking at death and musing. Here we are now, walking in the steps of whoever we dare to imagine. And does it make us feel more alive?

To know more about Aurélien Villette aka Adonis’s work, please visit: http://www.adonis-photografic.com/
To know more about Sven Fennema’s work, please visit: http://www.sven-fennema.de/


(wwl) wastelands: standing in awe 2/3

January 21, 2015 § 2 Comments

This is the 2nd part of a blog post I had written one or two years ago for a friend’s magazine and never published. It’s a gathering of thoughts about the feeling of fascination prompted by wastelands, abandoned places, sites that had once been threaded by life and are now completely empty, or seem to be.
1) Exploring frontiers
2) Contemplating death
3) Staring at the Uncanny

Contemplating death

Part of our fascination, I believe, comes from the fact that contemplating abandoned industrial sites forces us to watch death in the face: where there once was life, now there is nothing left.

What we are actually faced with is our own death. Entering modern ruins equals contemplating our own decay. Most of these places were built less than a century ago and could have still been in use. They are not. They have been abandoned and most of the time, have been reclaimed by nature. This reminds us of what we fear the most: disappearance and oblivion. How could such buildings, who have seen men and women working to their erection, sheltered communities, enjoyed the presence of the living, decay that fast? By staring at cracked walls, rusty machines and broken windows, listening to the wind in the leaves, we meet our worst enemy: time.

Aurelien Villette, from “La renaissance” series

Aurelien Villette, from “La renaissance” series

So there is emptiness, there is obsolescence, there is what we fear the most: loss of control. So, is this what our postmodern world will look like? Will we eventually be engulfed into nature? And yet, who could call a decayed hospital, a ruined opera house, a collapsed gymnasium totally dead and empty?

(Read Part III – Staring at the Uncanny here)

(wwl) wastelands: standing in awe 1/3

January 21, 2015 § 2 Comments

I am sharing here a blog post I had written one or two years ago for a friend’s magazine and never published. It’s a gathering of thoughts about the feeling of fascination prompted by wastelands, abandoned places, sites that had once been threaded by  life and are now completely empty. Or, are they?
This falls into 3 “parts”:
1) Exploring frontiers
2) Contemplating death
3) Staring at the Uncanny

As far as I can remember, I have long hold a compelling fascination for abandoned places, industrial relics, wastelands. I believe I am not the only one, as more and more people reveal their thrill to explore these sorts of spaces, mainly through photographs, but also through actual visits. I wish to illustrate my reflection with the work of two photographers: Aurélien Villette and Sven Fennema.

Aurélien Villette, from “L’architecture oubliée” series

Aurélien Villette, from “L’architecture oubliée” series

The feeling awakening inside me when I walk into an abandoned place is almost impossible to describe. It is a mixture of thrill and passion, yet of fear and oppression. I daresay I watch them in awe, in the literal sense of the word. Here I am trying to understand why, today, so many people are eager to discover places that have been left to rot.

Exploring frontiers

We are explorers. If we were to be described, one would say Man is bound to go further and unveil mysteries. The unknown is fearful yet attractive. Today, most of the world have been mapped and confined. What is left for us to explore than what is not mapped any longer, then?

Sven Fennema, Endless Green, from “Over and Done” series

Sven Fennema, Endless Green, from “Over and Done” series

Places that have been left to decay possess the dimension of the unknown provided by the past. If we can’t tell our future, nor can we tell what happened in the past in one place unless we read or were specifically told about it. In industrial wastelands, we come to explore not only space but also time. We stand at a crossroads. Not only do we bring life into a dead spot by our own physical presence, but we also reach a frontier between life and death by facing what had once been alive.

(Read part II “Contemplating death” here).

(wwl) these illuminations next door

July 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

Chandelier tree silver lake 1

I was gazing yesterday night towards the screen of my computer, as each night when sleep is scarce. Silence was releasing the tension of the last days… I feel thankful for the upcoming week-end. As I was rummaging through the nightly contents of the Internet, I stumbled upon a sweet street installation: the Chandelier Tree.

This magical tree grows up at the corner of a street in the neighbourhood of Silver Lake, LA. It’s growing big and strong, but the most impressive is that… it grows chandeliers! Yes, yes, it does. And these lights illuminate the streets in a soft serene glimmer. The creator of this peculiar installation needed 6 days years to set it up. He hanged the chandelier with the help of his roommate. I like the sparkle in his eyes, he has laughing eyes. They hanged the first chandelier above the street, so that the neighbours could see it (and to test their reactions). And they loved it. Adam Tenenbaum wanted it to be “unique but not overwhelming and gaudy.” Some of the chandeliers were given by people. Some of them are broken, some other were built from scratch and some even have names given by children from around!

Chandelier Tree Silver Lake 3

As it requires quite much power though, the neighbours are invited to participate in the effort of making their environment sweeter… and can contribute by dropping coins in a repurposed parking meter. It’s such a beautiful way of sharing light and goodness. Art making people’s life sweeter. We humans love and need light. We’re fascinating by lights that draw us away from our own shadows.

It’s such a beautiful idea. I wish we could all enjoy the lights and shadows of such a chandelier tree. I would gaze in wonder at its quiet baroque flames, and softly close my eyelids to think how we can make our world a bit more beautiful.


(wwl) these animal sculptures that are narratives

June 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

I have fallen in love with Ellen Jewett’s sculptures. They seem to come from another world, I love the aesthetics and their dream-like appearance. As her bio says, “she grew up among snails […] To Ellen, sculpting has always been about life; biological narratives, emotions, movement, balance and observations about life’s subtleties and overtures. Her aesthetic ranges from the hyper-real, to the surreal,fantastic, and the grotesque.”. I find her work thrilling and fascinating. As if a whole ecosystem was coming to life from the insides of the sculpted animals.

Swift cat

Bison with crows

Willow wolf

Ethereal bird

Caribou of burden

Tall tiger with lanterns

River otter

I don’t know why, these sculptures speak to me in the bowels (crude formulation but I’m feeling exactly this), as if they were telling me a deep, smooth and intense fairytale. I love the movement the animals make, their postures are both natural and surreal at the same time. They seem to come from a world of ambiguity, half-way from reality and dreams. They are proper fairytales! (can you feel my enthusiasm?)

>> To see more dream-like animals, please visit Ellen Jewett’s Portfolio.

I discovered this via designtaxi.com

(wwl) this is wonderland

May 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

Pre-post: As I am writing this, I am listening to Loreena McKennitt’s The Lady of Shalott, and I suggest you should do the same while reading me, if you feel a bit melancholy tonight.

I must share this series of photos by English photographer Kirsty Mitchell, who shot the pictures in memory of her mother who was a teacher and a storyteller. She chose to tell her story through fairytales. The colours are vivid and the feelings compelling. It is a magnificent interpretation of Wonderland, vibrating with intensity.Kirsty-mistchell-the-storytellerKirsty-mitchell-the-patience-of-treesKirsty-mitchell-the-lady-of-the-lakeKirsty-Mitchell-Gammelyns-gaughterKirsty-Mitchell-the-queens-armada

A whole literature survives through these pictures.

> To view the entire gallery, please visit Kirsty Mitchell’s very nice website.

> And there are also many “behind the scenes” selections, one in particular dedicated to the costumes behind “Wonderland”, that are completely stunning.

All her art transports me into her magical universe, half-dream half-nightmare, for there is always a darker twist in her photographs, I feel. The stories that accompany them confirm this impression… As if magic was not free, as if there was always a price to pay.

(wwl) family oddities

May 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

Not long ago, I was in Marseille enjoying the various installations and exhibitions organized there for Marseille-Provence 2013 (Marseille being the European capital of Culture this year). There I discovered a short photographic exhibition of Delphine Balley‘s work, a French photographer from Romans (south of France).

L’Album de Famille (“The Family Album”) was quite an experience. Although only some of the pictures were exhibited, the series was quite captivating. In this collection of photographs, Delphine Balley stages her family after a fictional event: her own death (by assassination). This is the starting-point for a narrative that will allow interpretations and distortions of family stories.

L'assassinat (The assassination)

L’assassinat (The assassination)

Set in a traditional French house, the photographs convey a feeling of oppression and strangeness more than anything else. But at the same time, the images are meticulously arranged, so that every little detail seem to tell their own version of the story. The family history here seems to become legendary and symbolic through a narrative close to the detective story (someone is trying to find out who killed Delphine and why – and the answer must lie in the darkest corners of the house).

Les tâches quotidiennes (Daily occupations)

Les tâches quotidiennes (Daily occupations)

The series possesses a sense of the macabre, of course, since it is all based on the artist’s death. But most of all, through its blind characters, it evokes the sensation one can feel when prisoner of one’s family. It is interesting to note that the series is marked out with either translucency or obstruction (e.g. The transparent child or the husband-hider), so that (clear)vision is never easy. Masks are everywhere, elements indistinct, thus suggesting that secrecy lies in the corners of the family house. Of course, every family has its secrets, as is well known.

Delphine Bailley’s photographs embody the uncanny in its most literal sense, since the familiar becomes completely strange through the prism of her lens. It is all the more captivating than the family is twice, if not thrice, exposed (as in a mise-en-abîme) to observers: to Delphine Bailley herself, to her interpretation through the camera and eventually to the eye of the stranger who enters the cracks of a hidden story.

La réunion de famille (Family reunion)

La réunion de famille (Family reunion)


To read a short presentation of the series: http://www.delphineballey.com/l-album-de-famille/

And to view the full gallery and the fictional short story of Delphine’s death (in French): http://www.delphineballey.com/l-album-de-famille/galerie/

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