The Transportation of Place.
Photographs by Andrea Robbins and Max Becher. Essays by Maurice Berger and Lucy Lippard.
Aperture, New York, 2006. 156 pp., 130 color illustrations, 11¾x10".
Signed copies available!
The Transportation of Place is vexing in the way that
often the quietest people have the most to say. Postcard
picturesque scenes describe regional character—Bavarian
window details, the imposing columns of financial institutions,
rustic wooden facades of a ghost town. People
gather in the streets under beyond-blue skies and perform
quaint social dances in brightly colored costumes.
Compassionate voyeurs, we gaze into shacks with
newsprint wallpaper, our eyes drawn to the discolored
corner of a mattress. Then
there's the bearded and
feathered figure isolated
against part of a backdrop,
and the slightly distanced
of dignified poor.
Single-page, plainly written
historical text panels
preface each section of the book. Robbins and Becher
play with expectation, with the history of picture making
and use our tendency to overlook what we think we know.
As the title implies, the sites and subjects describe
places out of place or found “sociogeographic collage,”
as Lucy Lippard describes in her accompanying essay.The text and images reveal their subtexts: a tiny
American flag tops a 200-year-old Dutch windmill with
German bullet holes in a field in Michigan, where the
rural community has embraced at least the conservative
parts of what it might mean to be Dutch. In this atlas of
displacement, we learn about a depressed logging town
that reinvented itself as a Bavarian village to exploit its
alpine location. We find Namibian women wearing
fuchsia hoop skirts in a procession that celebrates a
courageous rebellion in the face of genocide by
colonists. A village of shacks turns out to be an educational
theme park about global poverty. The park is
located in Americus, Georgia, where 44% of youth live
below the poverty line. The histories and situations of
place are richly complex, while the images look simple
and lie with transparency. An essay by Maurice Berger
connects the work with the Surrealist ethos to disrupt
Published in the contemporary context that finds
identity performed and pictures influencing life, New
York in Las Vegas and New Mexico in Spain, the book is
an important contribution considering issues of place,
its nuance and erosion by powerful forces past and
present—colonization, tourism and globalization. It’s also
important food for the perennial problem of the document,
further complicated by the fluidity of cultural signification.
Read Publisher's Description.