Oblivion© David Maisel
The urban dweller of Southern California now exists in what Mike Davis terms “the fastest growing metropolis in the western world, with a built-up surface area nearly the size of Ireland, and a GNP bigger than India’s.” Themes of development as a self-generating, self-replicating force that exists outside of nature are encoded in the photographs in Oblivion, which view the empire of Los Angeles as both a specific site and as a more generalized condition.
The inversion of tonalities in these works de-familiarizes the images. It also subtly refers to other ways of imaging — like the x-ray, which sees within the structure of an organism or body — or other modes of seeing — like the flickering negative images in an atomic blast, when the shadow world is revealed and released.
From above, in these aerial views, we see encrypted within the city’s code the elements of our own vulnerability. The images describe a potentially desecrated urban fabric, even as they transcribe the commonplace. The city’s circuitry becomes a day-for-night version of reality; the water seems made of metal, the city made of ash.
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