by Francesca Gavin for Tank Magazine
America is no longer land of the brave. It is a country in decline. The power and strength, once manifested in the architecture of the American Dream, is falling apart. If buildings are strongholds of safety – a projection of a stable economy and society – it is no surprise that American architecture is depicted in contemporary art and literature as a dark, decaying mess. American Gothic is no longer the haunted houses of the deep south but reflected in urban or suburban collapse. In Bret Easton Ellis last novel ‘ Lunar Park’ the main focus of horror was his home, an eerie reflection of his disintegrating mind. Here walls insidiously morphed from wood to stucco to wallpaper, a ghostly physical attack on Ellis’ psyche. Home wasn’t safe any more.
One artist who depicts the modern American landscape in decay is photographer Pablo Power. Power is drawn to the innate narrative found in forgotten spaces. One fascinating series he is working on examines derelict areas of Detroit. This is Motor City without any motors. All that is left is poverty, ruins and atmosphere. Wooden buildings falling apart. Shells of factories with smashed windows. “The unique thing that attracted me to Detroit was how entire city blocks and almost whole neighbourhoods have been abandoned, and are being reclaimed by nature. Although it’s a huge city, it’s almost like there’s nowhere close enough left to walk anymore. Vast parts of it are almost completely devoid of people. In that type of landscape the buildings can anthropomorphise into characters, and start to tell stories themselves.” Power explains. “There was a constant feeling of either having barely missed all the action, or being the only person in the entire city.” The images veer between suspense and emptiness. The realisation that the fine thread that holds sanity, structure and society together can break so easily.