Empty Cities

Speaking of Singapore (as I was earlier today), the August/September 2007 issue of Polar Inertia features a series of photographs of momentarily abandoned commercial spaces taken throughout the island metropolis by Heman Chong. As the photographer explains: "The idea for this series is to document shops in shopping malls in Singapore at moments when they are completely empty. The eerie emptyness presented in the photos is a spectulative essay on the fantasy of walking through shopping malls and not encountering anyone. This photographs are taken without any prior consent from the owners or any kind of setup or planning. Considering the density of the city (4.5 million citizens on a really small island full of shopaholics), its practically an impossible feat at times."

The photos in "The Abandoned Singapore," as the set is titled, really do a wonderful job of capturing a very eerie, almost post-apocalyptic feel. After three or four pics, you start to feel uneasy...somewhere around ten or twelve, a shiver runs down your spine. By the time you reach the supermarket image above, you'll want to look out your window just to make sure that there are still people walking around; that you haven't woken up on a deserted planet.

That feeling reminded me of a post at Interactive Architecture dot Org that I read earlier today about digital architecture and "information pollution" (you would think there'd be a convenient portmanteau there...I've tried, though, and nothing quite rings true). The post made mention of the now near-legendary law passed at the beginning of this year in São Paulo which banned all advertising -- or what the mayor called "visual pollution" (much less interesting term, that) -- from the city's notoriously cluttered streetscape. IAdotO explained how "the city of approximately eleven million people, South America’s largest, awoke to find a ban on public advertising. Every billboard, every neon sign, every bus kiosk ad and even the Goodyear blimp were suddenly illegal."

I am thoroughly bemused with the way this event has been described in the media (where I'm guessing IAdotO picked up the language), as that is at least the fourth or fifth time I've seen the word "awoke" used in referrence to the day the law went into effect. Paulistanos were apparently came home after a night out celebrating the new year and were lulled to sleep by the buzzing of a thousand tubes of neon and argon, their rooms glowing dimly from the ambient light of a million backlit fiberglass logos filtering through the thin curtains...only to awake the next morning to find that the sinage had simply disappeared. Ad Rapture!! Millions of golden arches and blue half-torn movie tickets and silver apples snatched up into the clouds in a blast of white light, never to be seen again (or at least not until they land in a tech dump in Guiyu). É impossível!

My brain is wandering now, because it's late...but isn't that a fantastic image? I really do love it.

We end tonight with a more tangible image from another set from Polar Inertia; the zine has a compillation of photo collections from the LA/SoCal area, including a set from March of 2006 called "Oblivion." Photographer David Maisel depicts Los Angeles in unnerving inverted black and white. It gives the city a sort of desolate, alien appearance...and it's gorgeous. Maybe this is how LA was supposed to be viewed all along...

Polar Inertia
- The Abandoned Singapore
- Oblivion

MediaArchitecture - Media Urbanism (IAdotO) (Oh, do read this one! I sort of did it a disservice by pulling one tiny, irrelevant detail from a very solid post, so I am counterbalancing that by insisting that you follow this link).

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