hey pretty

Ceci n'est pas une "dating blog."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Robert Polidori at the Corcoran

Last night, rather than attending happy hour I decided to shake things up a bit and attend a free lecture at the Corcoran by photographer Robert Polidori who is about to release After the Flood, which visits a portion of the physical aftermath of last year's hurricanes in New Orleans. The crowd was composed mainly of art students, who intimidated me just as much yesterday as they did when I was there age, and a bunch of old people. Interestingly, I seemed to be the only 20 or 30-something there. Don't young professionals know that free photography lectures are where it's at? Are they all too busy getting their happy hour on as I usually am? Anyway.

According to Polidori, the images he presented (from the book and in the lecture) are not so much of the homes devastated by Katrina, Rita and Wilma, but of the "trajectory of the lives" that their former inhabitants lost. For according to Polidori, we live many lives without physically dying. Defining events fall upon us that rip us from one life, displacing us into another. These images of homes destroyed by wind and water damage represent the remnants of those lives lost both literally and figuratively. Shooting mainly with 5"x7" sheet film, Polder's images are disturbingly beautiful. Many of them depict the interiors of homes abandoned by their former owners. Possessions are strewn about them haphazardly, roofs collapse inward, windows broken. Disintegrating sheet rock coats many of these rooms with an otherworldly white cloudiness, and most of the walls are mottled with mold in an almost painterly fashion. In one image, sheets of red paint peel off a bedroom wall like a shredded heart, an appropriate visual metaphor for what their owners, had the survived the storms, must have felt upon viewing their former homes.

Whereas so many photographs are flat to look at, Polder's exterior shots have an intriguing three-dimentiallity about themselves. As a viewer, you feel like you could reach in and move their objects around, and in seeing what they depict--homes that look like they've been dropped from the sky (often on to cars) like the house in the Wizard of Oz, your first instinct is to want to pick up their debris. The point, obviously, is that we can't.

In compiling this book Polidori says that his goal was to illustrate the lives of people's souls and how they change yet go on living. Although no humans are depicted in any of his images, their presence is alluded to in the destroyed possessions they've left behind. One sees in some of the shots homes where owners have obviously tried to salvage some of the mess, piles of furniture stacked in corners and abandoned beer cans telling us the ending of these discarded stories.

So much of the photography that has come out of last year's hurricane season has been of the victims of the storms. Polidori, who gained prominence for documenting the fall-out after the Chernobyl disaster is referred to by critics as an "architectural photographer." Yet nothing could be a more facile white washing of his artistic intent. Polidori is a portraitist in a more radical sense, not depicting actual people, but the artifacts of their everyday lives. In viewing his presentation, the word "Pompeii" kept on rolling through my mind--those videos they showed us in history class of the homes covered in volcanic dust, preserved as landmarks to a time before their disaster.


Blogger Irish Red said...

Looks like a jaunt to the Corcoran is in order...

3:28 PM  
Blogger Dave S. said...

So how can we get some media-types to start reviewing HP and offer you a job as a critic/advice/ entertainment guru?

Seriously, your writing style, enthusiasm and interest would be perfect for a publication. (Plus, then you'd get an expense account to go have fun in the city, and you could take along friends..)

4:00 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I was actually shopping for a wedding this weekend in New Orleans. Guess I would have been prepped in one sense or another. I didn't know about the lecture, (which sounds like something I'd love) but I'll have to check out the book.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Hey Pretty said...

Apparently, the New York Times shares many of my insights re: After the Flood: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/22/arts/design/22floo.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1158955583-YjV63Ex8263qGoJuLtFNTg.

8:14 PM  

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