Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away—an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures underneath the eternal flux. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.
Cut a chrysalis open, and you will find a rotting caterpillar. What you will never find is that mythical creature, half caterpillar, half butterfly, a fit emblem for the human soul, for those whose cast of mind leads them to seek such emblems. No, the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay.
During our lifetime, places that are special to us either change or become abandoned, decay and disappear. Visiting places that we used to inhabit is disorienting, as feelings of absence and loss mix with poignant memories, both happy and sad.
Photographer Rebecca Bathory, née Litchfield, seeks out neglected places, capturing a sense of this disorientation on a communal scale and documenting what remains of the memories of forgotten people and defunct communities. Her work is often identified as dark tourism photography. Some of her images have a romantic element that borders on the mythological, a power equal to those of more famous buildings in ruin, but much more unique. Many of these places will not survive the ravages of time much longer and there is no one who cares to preserve them. They are structures humanity passes everyday without much thought, their windows boarded shut, languishing and rotting behind tall fences and locked gates, marked only by signs that warn us to keep out. We are conditioned not to see them, but they have stories to tell. Rebecca has gained entry to them for us, bringing back surreal images that stir up buried emotion. These images not only have much to say about our ancestors and the world in which they lived, they also help us comprehend and come to terms with our own future.
The Show Must Go On
Symphony of Silence
All That Remains
Thy Kingdom Come
These powerful photographs are from a collection called Presence of Absence. Although the places pictured are empty, the memory of their inhabitants lingers, slipping away slowly in dark corners, fading from our world. What a precious thing, to catch a piece of human history before it is forgotten!
The Cavern of Lost Souls
Rebecca, who holds degrees in photography and graphic design, is currently pursuing a PHD in visual anthropology, linking her images with those of a century of documentary photographers and expanding her reach into new media and visual forms. Please spend some time on her website, where you can also order prints or a copy of her book, Soviet Ghosts.
Silence. It flashed from the woodwork and the walls; it smote him with an awful, total power, as if generated by a vast mill. It rose from the floor, up out of the tattered gray wall-to-wall carpeting. It unleashed itself from the broken and semi-broken appliances in the kitchen, the dead machines which hadn’t worked in all the time Isidore had lived here. From the useless pole lamp in the living room it oozed out, meshing with the empty and wordless descent of itself from the fly-specked ceiling. It managed in fact to emerge from every object within his range of vision, as if it—the silence—meant to supplant all things tangible. Hence it assailed not only his ears but his eyes; as he stood by the inert TV set he experienced the silence as visible and, in its own way, alive.
Rob Sato is a watercolor artist based in Los Angeles who explores cycles of growth and decay in his work. This gallery at visualnews.com is truly astounding. Sato’s work features a world in motion, constantly coming apart and remaking itself: exploding, rotting and sending forth shoots of new life from the wreckage. It is incredibly awesome.
Sato spends a great deal of time building up a backstory for a painting. He does in depth historical research, then allows this material to run around in his head and inspire flights of imagination and fancy. Once he sits down to paint, he often feels as if the work is drawn out of him, as if he is guided by something below his consciousness. This is very akin to the process we espouse here at Synkroniciti and we are so inspired by Sato’s example.
His new solo show, INTERINHABITANTS, will open on August 16 in at the MOHS Exhibit in Copenhagen, Denmark. If you are nearby, be sure to check it out.