The thread increasingly surrounded by darkness Riding out the winter (decline) of industrial civilization


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Racing against Time
The “zone” refers to the Tarkovshi film.
I have a lot of history with it—it was my first ruin. And it’s soon to be gone forever. Sad.
Primary project goals:

The book

The walking tour

Coverage of the demolition



10 images for gallery exhibition.

To do:
Phone calls—Iverson, Raine
18 tombs writing
no turning back
IT mailing list email:

Here’s what’s going on:

Final edit of cloud lapse and download

A project aimed at drawing attention to the cultural significance of a particularly photogenic ruin. A eulogy for an abandoned mall.

Pilgrimidge rides to abandoned ICMB silos

And a look at the country’s most expensive water diversion project: CAP.
Thank you emails

18 Tombs—the description of the deactivation is important—it’s the sealing of the tomb. The order is important—warhead, fuel, salvaged equipment—the raiding of the tomb—followed by a specific set of instructions for sealing—blast—viewing period—fill in—concrete plug-- tack weld the blast doors shut. Then the operation moves on—it’s a ritual.
Vanessa with the winged cleavers below her collarbones—that performance with the pole.
As part of the decommissioning protocol for the Tiltan II sites, grout—basically concrete, was to poured down the ventilation shaft that would have provided fresh air, and an escape route for the crew in the command center. This was to prevent entry to the three story command center. In the case of 570-3, this step in the tomb sealing ritual was somehow overlooked.

Well I appreciate your paper saving ways

Update #4: here are a couple additional photos I’d include.

With links

Getting into the curatorial spirit, I’ve been combing through Dixie Square imagery looking for photographs that convey
The author of Corporate Wasteland asks if maybe it’s not time to reexamine our motivation for “poking around” such places
For some there’s a higher purpose—to record ruins before they are demolished or converted to other uses
What was once a search for a rare authentic experience has become simply a search for a good picture.
He suggests that
Just urban tourism?

“empty picturesque”

a consumption of “the little differences in the lanscape”

Reexamine our motivation for poking around such places, once drawn by the prospect of an authentic experience, now merely looking for a good picture.

Most only value the intensity of emotion and sensation that these abandoned places afford them. Little more than post-industrial playgrounds. Nostalgia takes a back seat to the thrill of transgression.
This certainly describes the experiences with the Betteravia and the refinery. But with the play comes a kind of spiritual communion as well—touching the deindustrial sublime.
Michael Brown

Dark tourism

Loss and nostalgia

Abandonment is a powerful cultural motif in the modern world.

Some postmodern version of Fodor’s

“partitioned space” that was set apart from society and outside the usual dictates of time.

Among the most authentic and exciting playgrounds on earth.

Popular with young adults unhappy with the “spatial homogeneity” and commercialism of the modern city.

Provide a rare authentic experience

Higher purpose: to record abandoned buildings before they are demolished or converted to other uses

The aesthetic categories of the picturesque and the sublime—understanding the magnetism of the industrial ruins

The search for the sublime in the built environment is at EU’s very core.

“truly decay at its finest”

The genre of travel narrative

Urban explorers regularly compare industrial ruins to the natural world.

Values: the intensity of emotion and sensation that these places inspire

Urban explorers may not have traveled great physical distances (you are the exception), but they have traveled great social distances—

Politics often ambiguous

Engaged in the mystification of former industrial sites, transforming them into mythic ruins.

While the politics of urban exploration remains ambiguous, documenting ruins before they are demolished is often sited as its “higher purpose.”

While most photographs portray Dixie Square as a place haunted only by the invisible ghosts of shoppers, here are two images by Michael Brown reminding us that a living human held the camera.
Exterior (January 27, 2008)

Interior (August 28, 2008)
Why is this contingent of urban explorers so eager to climb around in a crumbling building guarded by feral dogs? Are they drawn by the prospect of a rare authentic experience, or is it about fetching compliments on UE websites with snapshots of peeling wallpaper? The authors of Corporate Wasteland suggest we reexamine our motivations for entering such places. Last Days will attempt to do just this.

do a mix CD of Take On Me covers—as gift.

Sharing a bowl of pomegranite seeds with Jeff. Radionics, curing botulism, frustration, patience and destroying the self.

Re-release brownlands extended mix—without ‘reflect’—maybe change the order.

Another palace built with oil money. Long after Mukesh has fled his rooftop by helicopter and the hordes from Mumbai’s slums have gutted Antilia of every last salvageable scrap, her remains will provoke wonder at the depth of our greed.
Above is a construction photo I think makes the building look abandoned. Considering it’s been built to withstand an 8.0 earthquake, Mammon’s new temple could be standing for centuries.
Life expectancy of concrete structures.
Read construction milestones page for the structure.

Earthquake activity around Mumbai.

Kickstarter—fly to Mumbai to photograph the structure. Ten prints.

Mr. Mumbai—I’d like to shoot a movie in your home where hordes of slum dwellers tromp through your space.

the shell of this structure will persist
The aesthetic similarities in buildings—between construction phase and decomposition.
The sea wall protecting the Houston area—anther example of a highly engineered environment.
Hi everyone,
I’m still in Tucson trading my labor for a room at the Roadrunner Hostel—communal living at its most dynamic. The thread is currently pursuing three projects in various stages of completion:

Eighteen Tombs of Titan II

Overnights at decommissioned cold war-era intercontinental ballistic missile silos hidden deep in the Sonoran Desert.
C.A.P—The Central Arizona Project by bicycle

A look at the country’s most extensive water conveyance system.
The Last Days of Dixie Square

A retrospective of creative work inspired by the country’s most well-known dead mall. Here’s the project’s Kickstarter campaign page (34 hours to go as of this writing). Please pledge if you can, but have a look even if you can’t.

This cloud time-lapse video for Adrian Lux’s Teenage Crime was a summer side project. It’s a meticulously edited portrait of the monsoon shot over several weeks from the top of Sentinel Peak.

Removed 10.31.10

Here are the rules I’ve set structure:1. One vantage per session: one "set" or shooting location.2. Two takes per session: I’ll dance through the track twice.3. At least one time lapse take of the sky to work in as supplementary visual material.

Thank you everyone for your pledges. Your trust in me is humbling. I hesitate to include these because they both contain some serious inaccuracies, but to tie up loose ends, here’s what the press said:
U of C Grad Seeks Funding for Documentary of Dixie Square Mall

The Chicagoist (October 21, 2010)
Hope for Harvey

The Columbia Chronicle (November 1, 2010)
To be clear, I don't view the "redevelopment" scheme as a positive. Building big box retail on Dixie's grave is unlikely to improve the lot of Harvey’s residents. I'd much prefer the mall be allowed to continue deteriorating at its own pace. Getting others to recognize its value as a ruin is at the heart of the Last Days project.
I intended this quote, “If we’re finally knocking this thing down, it must mean the economic tide is changing,” to express the casual observer’s point of view—it's the "hope" that the demolition ritual is supposed to embody. But I don't see much actual hope for Harvey. In economic terms, things are more likely to get worse, not better.

Sky the witch and the run up to Halloween

Until I was her hoofing it down the block—her life tucked into a shopping sacs—Bag lady, not witch. But the pink feathered pointed cap?

Thank you for your pledge. It means a lot.

The universe said no this time, but 'The Last Days of Dixie Square' may yet be realized. Send me an email ( and i'll add you to the (seldom used) mailing list.
Check out my ongoing bicycle-mounted look at the decline of industrial civilization:


Yancey Strickler


Ken Parmalee


Kristine Roper


jessica Lah


Brett CC


Sameer Tolani


Edith Sauer Polonik


Lynn Tracy




Erin Tracy


Laura Montagna (Erin’s friend)


Katlyn Carlson


Marianne Morris (Grace’s mom)


Lisa Kopper (Coreen’s Aunt)


Grace Larson


Stacy Schreiner


Robert Shupe


Karen Kubey


sabrina downard


Pieter Pastoor




Michael Tracy


Matthew Remmele


Laurenn McCubbin


Jeremy Fuksa


Laura Davis




Brett Camper


Lawrence Lin




Update CV-- Scott’s show/DVD project

Formalize Last Days proposal

Write titan descriptions—the ravens at the last one

Finish No turning back

Jeff (add to mailing list + others)

Bike gang trios?

Tucson: Max, James and I

San Jose: Sameer, Eric, and I

But you can’t be in both

Thank you everyone for your pledges. Your trust in me is humbling. I hesitate to include these because they both contain some serious inaccuracies, but to tie up loose ends, here’s what the press said:
U of C Grad Seeks Funding for Documentary of Dixie Square Mall

The Chicagoist (October 21, 2010)
Hope for Harvey

The Columbia Chronicle (November 1, 2010)
To be clear, I don't view the "redevelopment" scheme as a positive. Building big box retail on Dixie's grave is unlikely to improve the lot of Harvey’s residents. I'd much prefer the mall be allowed to continue deteriorating at its own pace. Getting others to recognize its value as a ruin is at the heart of the Last Days project.
I intended this quote, “If we’re finally knocking this thing down, it must mean the economic tide is changing,” to express the casual observer’s point of view—it's the "hope" that the demolition ritual is supposed to embody. But I don't see much actual hope for Harvey. In economic terms, things are more likely to get worse, not better

In six months’ I’ve conditioned myself to live with almost every conceivable personality type—but it’s exhausting and I’ve suffered tonsillitis, the flu, and an antibiotic resistant staff infection that caused deep boils to form under the skin of my face. (I have a scar on my jaw that doesn’t grown hair anymore to mark the occasion’s suffering.)

You ran a good campaign I think. You won over a few. There will be another.

The white surveillance blimp. The white diamond

What happens to the useless people in a contracting world?
Artist seeks funds to document the decline of industrial civilization.

I think I could get along with your employees.

I’m attracted to you.
A population on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Throwing down meat for the dogs
Stop flying those planes overhead.
The passing of a train.
The sound of gunshots and the squealing of tires.
It’s the west man you gotta be hard. Where are the boots?
You can’t go over because her roommates don’t like you.
It was several things—his last words.—If I die. tomorrow I write these as my last words.
Recordings of a train—and I want really badly to impress you. He’s clearly the oldest.
not afraid of death.
They’re the —print a hard copy.
I also need to stop staring into a computer screen, which makes me even more likely to be a happy employee.
I have a hard time selling my time—and would prefer to trade it for something I need. New walk. With boots.
The species.
At night she sits on the counter

The next morning for breakfast she sits on a stool at the table—terrifying. November 1.

More and more self aware—as if the walls were closing in on you. Forget the self you hypocrite.
I’ve walked in their shoes dude.

[picture of the moccasins]

You’re asking to get fired. With those shoes on the counter. Not listening to anyone’s stories. But remaining humble For whatever it’s worth.

Things get done—things move forward. Put the brains at the front—it’s the part of the body that hits the danger first. So much militarization at this here border. Bought some helicopters.

It’s too hard.
Fund a hard copy.
Don’t think of this as a high responsibility thing, but could you print a hard copy of this* in either of these two scenarios:
I should need it.

I’m crushed by an automobile or die by some other means.

A many-page word document containing quotes compiled in recent months plus personal reflections. file* [updated often]


Henry Lefebvre's Urban Revolution

Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse
What’s with you and Kevin Bacon? Footloose and Quicksilver?

Import email exchanges

How come everyone gets in touch after the campaign, after it’s over! Fuck people!
Asbestos abatement.—leave it where it is—it’s benign until its disturbed—the dust allowed to float about.
All souls – everyone drives in, paint themselves as the dead for a walk through the town’s commercial district—then returns to their cars and drives home. Image of all souls driving their car home in the dark. It’s including the drive to and fro in the ritual.

Christopher’s Betrayal

I'm sorry I haven't replied to your e-mail sooner; I've been very busy at work, and thus have been somewhat lax about checking some of my e-mail addresses. I checked out your video. It's very well done, and did, indeed, explain your project quite well. I did notice that the time elapsed without raising the necessary funds; how does this affect the status of your project?

You probably know that I spent over 3 years photographing Dixie square, starting in 2000. Much of that work (more than 50 images from the series, plus historical info/photos of the mall, essays, and personal commentary) saw publication in my book back in 2008. My last trip back was in 2009. Much had changed, but not for the better. To make a long story short: though I developed quite a fondness for Dixie during my many hours there, it's way past time that the structure was demolished and the surrounding community was able to move on. So many people see Dixie Square as something exciting: a cool urban ruin, a time-capsule of 1970s retail architecture, or a place of pilgrimage for Blues Brothers fans. But to the people of Harvey, who live there day in and day out, it's just a dangerous eyesore and reminder of the economic inertia gripping the area. I'll be happy to see it go, assuming that THIS demolition attempt pans out (and isn't just election-year grandstanding by Pat Quinn). I'd be glad to further discuss my experiences and work there if you'd find it helpful. Feel free to contact me at this e-mail address or via phone at (205) 435-0648.

There are some other people you might want to contact. Chuck Janda also spent a fair bit of time photographing Dixie Square:
Paul McVay (a Columbia alumnus, I think) completed a documentary film about Dixie Square that has yet to see release. I think you can find him on Facebook; I can try to dig up an e-mail address for him if you like.
My book has a Facebook group as well:!/group.php?gid=37301811510
Do let me know if I can assist you further in any way. I wish you the best of luck with your project.



Thanks for getting in touch Chris. With Kickstarter, the funding is all or nothing so i'm back at square one in terms of backing. But i've made several contacts and become aware of a lot of amazing work. I imagine it coming together and furthering the dialogue surrounding the life and death of Dixie Square.
I see no evidence that the "economic inertia" gripping Harvey will in any way be reversed by building bigbox retail on Dixie's grave. With entrenched unemployment, who's going to shop there? Have you spoken to any of Harvey's residents? Do they actually believe that building a Home Depot on the site is going to improve life in their town? I don't mean to be insensitive, but this country needs to distance itself from false promises of a pending economic sea change, and accept the reality that a  growth economy based on consumer debt spending is not coming back. Especially not to Harvey. The sensation of "moving on" invoked by the $5 million-dollar demolition spectacle will be shallow and transitory.

Breaking up a section of the mall's parking lot and establishing a community garden could quickly change how it's viewed. Tuck a skill sharing center in a reinforced corner and Harvey's residents begin to derive real value from the site; on their own terms. This is only one scenario, and it's not without precedent. The Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Design posed this very question in a design competition exploring ways to "re-animate the dead and dying regional mall." None of the finalists proposed building more of the same architectural garbage the American landscape is currently choking on ( Germans have been creatively repurposing their contemporary ruins for some time now.

It's important to be reminded that decomposition completes the cycle of rebirth and renewal, even for buildings. Dixie Square has many more seasons of dramatic decay in front of it and it's unfortunate the process will be interrupted.
Your thoughts wold be greatly appreciated.

and to Lisa:

Notice that Chris fails to include himself in the "so many people" interested in Dixie, and champions its destruction despite clearly having developed close ties to the place.  My guess is that he'd like to see the mall razed so that his experience with it becomes unrepeatable and his book becomes the definitive text. He of all people should know it's value yet he's willing to betray it-- advancing the pretense that its demolition is in the best  interest of a poor black community he knows little about. I've noticed this possessiveness with other artists documenting ruins-- it's pretty interesting.
How can it function as the reminder when the whole region is in some form of decay. This is not the key to reviving the whole south Chicago region and it’s dangerous to believe that it is.
The uniqueness of the mall’s decomposition process backed up by the amount of creative work it has inspired—there’s something special going on here.

Cognitively move on, it’s been 30 years!—see and acknowledge its new identity.

His experience becomes a unique one– one that can no longer be had. an arrogance moving forward—wants to cut off the experience for others.
paper over the decay-- the illusion of continuity
It's just reinforcing the idea that we've conquered time-- decay, and death when really we're just interrupting the cycle—the organic process

(a. (instead of expecting a  be activating the site leave the rest of the structure to continue breaking down-- becoming more alive in the process. 

Be carful how loudly you champion Dixie's destruction Chris. I understand you've had your time with the mall and may want to close the chapter in your own life, but don't close off the experience for others under the pretense that it's in the best interest of a community you don't belong to. 

There are fewer and fewer places in America's urban landscape that provide an authentic experience.  others the experience. sell a few more copies of that book

Witnessing Dixie's ongoing deterioration may actually promote healing. 
a process like this should not be interrupted under false pretenses.
A monument to shallow consumerism becomes a garden of rebirth and renewal. What about literally establishing a community garden in the open space surrounding the mall (preserving a fair section of parking lot to watch breakup)? A community skill sharing center tucked unobtrusively in a reinforced corner of the mall. The rest allowed to complete its decomposition cycle while the process is witnessed.  It want's to go this way. Harvey's resident's will be playing an active role.
the interruption if an organic process under pretense.
You of all people Chris!
get adbusters involved
people need to see that decomposition completes the cycle-- especially for buildings as alive as dixie square.
i doubt its still a reminder-- having long since become a part of the landscape.

They must see the white people come and go with their tripods and camera bags. Do they wonder what compels them to come?

"it's time to talk about what you want out of your toilet paper."

very important to see this process-- should not be convinced of the illusion of continuity-- the energy into preserving the finished facade.

its like cutting back the streets of California city. upholding the illusion of continuity---the illusion that nothing ever rots. that we've succeeded in freezing time. this is part of what people need to see. it's the root of a deep anxiety. The cycle appears incomplete.

And let's be honest: explored with common sense, Dixie isn't really that dangerous.

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