I was walking the neighborhood in the evening meeting myself at every corner and shooting self-portraits. Inspired by Vivian Maier's wonderful series of self-portraits.
If you walk to Shoal Creek streaming through Austin, you'll see a lot of fascinating things. Like Southern Louisiana Cooking and Shoal Creek Saloon: the last outposts of the Austin-as-we-knew-it that is increasingly surrounded by the Austin-as-we-did-not-know-it-but-soon-apparently-will.
It is rewarding to photograph Austin because Austin is full of ephemera that itself knows it would not make it into tomorrow. I am not too sentimental in regard to Austin, as this is not the place of my childhood or youth. But I do catch myself on a regret seeing how too many things are about to dissipate in the nether. It is fair to say that I did not pay these things any attention apart from an attention of regret.
Shoal Creek is a shallow creek quietly streaming its greenish waters across a basalt plateau.
The promenade along Shoal Creek is marked as Shoal Creek Greenbelt Trail. The creek will undoubtedly see changes quite soon. By now, some parts of the creek are swallowed by verdure, and for a moment the spring greenery affords you a possibility to forget that you are at the heart of the city - its less frequently visited part anyway.
A combination of lush verdure and green water against the modern buildings produces a strange effect between the feelings of being present--and absent. It is as if you're walking through a prehistoric garden with skyscrapers populating the horizon. Even if you know that the garden is very much "historic." Of course, it has a history. When I first came to Austin, Austin often evoked in me the phantom memories of dinosaurs roaming prairies. Not only that, but contemplating the strangeness of the Western civilization on this continent, I acutely felt that this land belonged to other peoples.
Shoal Creek is no doubt a gentrified creek, so to say. Farther from here, across the 5th street, the creek has been taken into a vortex of constructional activity. The pavement is being constructed further on. At the sight of this frantic activity (beyond the lens of the camera), I could not help but wonder about the temporality and ephemerality of one's existence, of the human body. What is a human being against this mazelike multi-story cemetery, which is a city, endlessly perfected by those who will be dead tomorrow?
Cities are merciless; cities outlive citizens. As I sometimes do, I take on an imaginary point of view of my son who is walking these shiny streets with me. He is a child, and he witnesses Austin as a child; Austin observes him in its turn; Austin sees a child. If we are all happy, my son and Austin will outlive me--and then (I hope, in some impossibly far-away point in the future) Austin will outlive my son.
Austin is not a city of my childhood, but it is the city of the childhood of my son. It makes Austin special to me. And I want to picture the young city and my young child, together, as if for a family album that I know we will never have. A photo album is an almost entirely outmoded form of hosting, managing, and dare I use this funny, fashionable verb, curating memories.
The passage to the other side of the 5th street is currently closed. One should switch the shores of the creek, turn around, or ascend the stairs to reemerge in the city.
For several years now I have been looking forward to photographing the enterprises that I passed riding an LA bus, now 663, to the university every day. The enterprises bear the proud names: Austin Urban Pet Center and Kung Fu Saloon. I wanted to picture them for two reasons: the cuteness of their designs and decorations that compliment the motto Keep Austin Weird so well. And the knowledge that they will not sustain here for long. And I did. I photographed them both, when it was almost too late.
A new high-rise building that sports a truly weird slogan Packed With Amenities. Not People on one of its sides, apparently displaced the Center. Amenities, not people (neither animals) should appeal to the new inhabitants of the neighborhood.
Kung Fu Saloon has a from-the-get-go-nostalgic SCORE 20120919 and rows of pixelated shuttles and critters on the black wall. Kung Fu Saloon is next to be demolished. It is already surrounded by the fence.
What now? Do I want to subscribe to the urban nostalgia always rising its voice whenever another enterprise that you never even visited gets destroyed? To do so will be a ready response not in any way more profound than the proclamations that the new amenities-driven and conveniently peopleless urban spaces should take upon the place of these dubious little businesses. I do not have to subscribe to either of these narratives... I am not selling anything. But where do my affinities should lie? Is a balance between "the new" and "the old" possible? Is it even desirable? Should not we clear the road for the new? Should not we, to the contrary, regret and fondly remember the past? Both? Neither?
But the stories of gentrification and construction, of progress and modernization always unfold on someone else's territory and at someone else's expense. They reproduce the familiar patterns of injustices and inequalities. That is what Austin faces today, and to that the city should, and will, one way or another, respond. I will be there - to observe and to record.
There is Castle Hill in Austin, perhaps called so because on the hill there is a castle-like mansion. The place is popular with Austinites because the ruins of the building (whatever stood there before), have been adorned with graffiti. A lot of it was masterful, and Austinites loved this place.
Austin explodes at enormous speed, lately somewhat slowing down but far from reaching the point of stability. More than one hundred people move to Austin each day. The city is growing, and it will continue to grow. Spots that Austinites liked before drawn, submerged by new high-rise buildings and condominiums. Such is the fate of the Graffiti Park at Castle Hill: it is moving out of the prominent space, close to the center of the city, to what now is the outskirts, at the Airport.
But what does it mean to move a graffiti wall? Clearly there is no way to move the graffiti as such; only to designate a space where new graffiti could be painted. There are murals in Austin being destroyed regularly; painted, repainted, covered by another layer of unpretentious tags and posters, and then disappearing altogether. Some drawings reemerge and acquire a new life, commodified as brands, other are lost forever.
The Graffiti Park was a space of duality, a space functioning in a dual capacity: the majority of it was done by professional artists, and then on some margins of the space amateurs tried their hand. Recently, however, since the Graffiti Park is not going to survive here long, given that it occupies a luxurious spot, Austinites seized the day. They themselves destroy the graffiti. Everyone now in these last days can paint something above the layers of the palimpsest. "I should have written Seva was there," Seva remarked as he spotted someone else's phrase to this effect. Someone was there. What is in the name that you want to leave it somewhere, to shine, to certify your presence--transient, here, and slightly more permanent, in the world?
We were not planning to draw anything, but wanted to take a look on the place before it is demolished -- or renovated, whichever way you want to look at it. But a serendipitous encounter happened: passers-by gave us two bottles of spray paint--they already had their fun and we could keep them if we wanted. We did not refuse.
I selected a spot on the wall that was already covered with indiscernible things. I decided to draw a little monster.
The spray was gone before I could finish my work, doomed to impermanence. It was difficult to press the spray, I found, even for a relatively short period of time. It required a physical effort. Most of all, it required a certain plan. I like improvisation in painting, but the graphics is a perfect medium for improvisation, provided the artist already has some skills. Nonetheless, the best graffiti paintings are done after careful consideration and assiduous drawing of series of sketches. There is a very nice plasticity to the spray painting, a coordination between form and movement.
Plants were also sprayed
On the top of the hill, a lot of empty spray cans were scattered, and the video cameras were covered with paint
I was fascinated by the spontaneous color compositions of the detritus
As you go away from Castle Hill, you encounter standard urban objects, painted, but as you progress away, they become more sparse, until another whirlpool in the streets of the city where once again there will be a burst of graffiti--but no place is as prominent as the Graffiti Park. The Austinites will no doubt sorely miss the park in the place where it is now. As I walked away, I spotted that my little monster already had a mark of letters across its face. I knew about the ephemerality of the critter; still, for a second, the intrusion reverberated through me as a pang.
The photographs are taken on her phone by the author, Vasilina Orlova
It was evening, and the light was not favorable. I had my phone on me but not a camera. But just as they say the best camera is the one that you have, the best light is the one that you have also. It was impossible to pass an unusual adornment of the city space in the town of Victoria, Texas: clusters of girls replicated along a wide bare wall.
My son seemed to be as thrilled as I was. He froze for a moment in front of the wall as if we were transported into a museum. Graffiti appeared to be art woven into the texture of everydayness, even if a controversial art existing between assault of the public tastes, vandalism, and high culture, whatever that means.
We carefully examined girls in mackintoshes and girls in white dresses. They all looked alike, spooky twins of the artist's imagination. They marched somewhere with bombs and bottles of what appeared to be poison (an obvious Alice-in-Wonderland reference), and they were connected with patterns of arrows and rainbows. Girls' lonely, lovely faces appeared in the sky surrounded by bursts of magenta hearts.
Despite that the figures were replicated, there was a significant variability. Some of the girls sent rainbow rays out of their eyes or mouths, and some of them sat at a lotus in the sky, evidently meditating.
Familiar and inevitable signs Customer Parking Only had the name of the business blanked-out. It seemed like the signs and the exit of the ventilating trunk (?), as well as yellow marks defining the parking spots on the ground, participated in the work of art and in the organizing of the urban space in equal measure. The mural left a weird sense of something going on not quite graspable in the town of Victoria. The mural was a manifestation of something that to what I did not quite have words.
Abandoned places contain an enigma that remains unanswered even if you know the story—most often, however, you don't know the story.
Who lived here? What did they fill their days with? What books did they read? What did they talk about? Why the building is abandoned?
Things that accumulate around abandoned buildings receive a new life. Broken glass looks as if someone arranged a composition on the stairs.
Post box remains intact while the lantern leans to one side.
The gallery must have looked lovely in the evening.
Life outside goes on as usual. And only in these abandoned spots it seems like time stopped its run. What is appealing, what is attractive in ruins, in dilapidated buildings, and old cars is a promise of the possibility. As if by reinventing the past one might reimagine the futute. As if there is always a chance that either those who lived here or thouse who will live will do something differently. As if this is an entrance to another world.
But is this so? Is it possible to imagine another world, another life? More fulfilling, more meaningful? What would people living this more fulfilling life do?
The name of the owner of the mansion remains written on a concrete tomb. An abandon building is a mausoleum of the life past. Letters inform without informing. Windows are broken and shielded with plywood. What was here yesterday, is not here today. What is here today, will not be here tomorrow.
This machine, as if from The Matrix, is not discarded for life, but waits to be renovated
The car, or what was left of it anyway, was called Christine. After Stephen King's book and movie. Christine was a conscious evil car. It killed people. This car, a real car, was responsible for the death of three people. First the father, an electrician, got hit by a charge while working on a pole and fell on the roof of the car. His son buried him and repaired the car. He got into an accident and died. Then someone took the car, but as he was repairing it, he accidentally touched a naked wire and died.
Christine, the evil car, gets wrecked in the end of the movie. As it drowns in the pile of iron waste, we see how its lights eerily turn on. We understand that it is still alive.
He said people asked him if he hoped to sell the car with such a history. No, he did not. It will be rusting for a long time now. On the roof which was convex, damaged, a puddle collected. The green sign with a town's name reflected in the puddle.
He had been working for fourteen years on the road gluing "cat eyes" to the road—"these things in the middle of the road" he said assuming (rightly so) I wouldn't know the term—before they learned how to robotize the process. He was glad to work there, because it was a free travel all over the country.
His family was big, but many members weren't on speaking terms. "Why, politics?"—I asked. He doesn't care about politics. The state should be abolished, he said. We do not need state. "So, you're an anarchist," I said. "Somewhat," he said.
He showed with his hand where he would cut parts of the car frame that rusted through. Then the new pieces will be glued onto, scars, polished.