Thursday, January 29, 2015

Art of the Mega Sprawl

Art can be mirror.

It shows us all of life's beauty and imperfections. It may also show us the exit we needed to take somewhere a mile or so behind us. In light of all this, we should find the work of Marcus Lyon to be at best thought-provoking and at worst distressing.

As profiled in Wired, Lyon's photographs are of inhumanly dense megacities and endlessly stretching highways and runways. The photograph above is actually Shanghai, China as seen from above. No, that's not entirely accurate. It is actually a composite of many photos, hundreds of images all affixed in sodality to one another, creating an oppressive effect. According to the article, Lyon actually spends years planning out these composite shots, minutely planning each detail.

After a single flight over an area, photographing as he goes, Lyon then digitally pieces together as many as 1,000 pics to form images of the above type. You can see a full portfolio of the photos at the article.

“Emotionally and environmentally these mass ideas, actions, movements of people, production processes, and the titans of political and consumer power that house them, are so huge that no single image can define their influence,” Lyon says of the work. “So I have endeavored to create new visual languages within which I can communicate a deeper truth.”

While almost all art is open to interpretation, the takeaway here seems pretty obvious: we just keep pushing it. I am a fan of city living, but it does not take any special divination to see what each building placed right next to a building, what each two car family, and each plane in the sky are doing to our world. It would also be difficult for the informed observer to not begin to imagine the social and economic pressures facing the citizenry, the tiny dots deep inside each of the collage images.

Before you say it, no, I do not advocate a return to a sort of agrarian or arcadian lifestyle. I am saying there needs to be accountability and responsibility along with our developments.

Interestingly, I am reminded of something of a bookend to Lyon's work. A few years back, I came across the lithographs of Hisaharu Motoda. Motoda's portfolio of Neon Ruins Tokyo features photographs of familiar Tokyo locations altered to give a post-apocalyptic effect. Here is Ginza for example:

Again, art is open to interpretation. I can imagine many calling Motoda's images "depressing" or "off-putting" in that they suggest a complex of humanity. For me, they're realism...even though they haven't happened. Yet. They are warning shots across our bow, similar to what Lyon is doing. This is where things are headed and I don't think that I want to go there...not even to wander about, pointing my finger and scoffing "I told you so."

In way, there's something very Vonnegut about both these works. I leave you to chew on what I mean by that in the comments section.

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