Shandor Hassan’s photographs are of places that seem haunted. The feeling comes not only because we see the places at night, and devoid of people, but from a different kind of emptiness, one that is haunted by a non-human presence, or rather, by the ghost of something more vague, more abstract. This ghost is not at rest, as the stillness of the images suggests. We sense its uneasy presence, even if we do not think or speak of it.
These are not places we like to be. Yet they are here, ostensibly for us. The elements that comprise them are, if not exactly friendly, then at least familiar. They were made for us to use and appreciate. They are intended to welcome us, yet they do not. We enter these places reluctantly, only from necessity. Then we leave as quickly as possible.
But what, exactly, haunts them? I believe it is the ghost of American modernism.
It is the ghost of a once-upon-a-time promise of a better life for everyone, a promise that never delivered. The convenience stores sell junk food that makes us fat. The service station dispenses endless fuel for our gas-guzzlers poisoning the atmosphere. The franchise restaurant is everywhere but belongs nowhere. The pawn shop may be easy, but it reminds us of our, and others’, desperation. The promise haunts us and its ghost lingers at the edges of night, dreamlike and restless.
Then we come to the little illuminated house. How cheerful it is! But the ghost is there, too, mocking our optimism and good cheer.
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- January 13, 2008 / 1:46 am
- Lebbeus Woods