The Transportation of Place.  Photographs by Andrea Robbins and Max Becher. Essays by Maurice Berger and Lucy Lippard.
The Transportation of Place.  booktease preview.

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".

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 environmental portraits 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 “visual certainty.”
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. JULIE ANAND

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