This Is Not a House.
Photographs by Edgar Martins. Texts by Sacha Craddock & Peter D.Osborne.
Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2011. 108 pp., 65 color illustrations, 10½x13¼".
The US subprime mortgage crisis, which had its roots in the closing years
of the twentieth century, exposed pervasive weaknesses in the regulation
of the financial industry and the global financial system. At the end of
2008, as the fall-out from the crisis became increasingly widely felt, Edgar
Martins was commissioned by the New York Times Magazine to photograph
across the US in eight separate states and across sixteen different
locations. These carefully researched sites exposed the extent and impact
of the crisis on the US construction industry.
Martins approached the project as a photographic intervention into a crisis
and the resulting images go beyond pure formal investigation or documentation.
His interest lay in summoning a disquieting conjunction of realism
and fiction by ‘cutting into the real’. As the writer Jacques Ranciére states,
the real can only be unravelled and understood if it is first fictionalised. And
so the real must be transformed to be understood. The houses depicted in
this series do not refer to just the particular. They are images of spatial
assemblages, of kinds of stages on which a number of quite different
(and perhaps incompatible) narratives might be enacted. These images,
these houses, these ruins, reflect back at us the human constructs that
we project and impose on them.
This Is Not A House emerges precisely at that juncture where clear words
falter, where language is disturbed. The meaning of the world is no longer
carried on its surface, if indeed it ever was.