Alongside the inner ring road in my home town is a skeletal structure which, to a visitor to the town, looks like a building on its way to completion. Yet to anyone who isn’t just passing by they know that this structure has been in its current form for nearly 4 years.
Its skeletal state gives it a ghostly look of something that is dead but haunts on not realising this.
Even over 2 years ago this ‘Mary Celeste’ looming over the town centre brought concern, even if this concern was more about practicalities; a friend of a friend told me about the huge daily cost of crane hire; the accompanying crane is still there, waiting in vain anticipation.But the costs merely seem to add to the farce of the world that left it stranded. The building is a haunting from the world that was before the economic crash. Stood there, waiting to be clothed with walls, furnishings and busy, busy people. But just like the uneaten breakfast on The Mary Celeste, it doesn’t look like the builders are returning to finish off, as if they also vanished when that pre-collapse real was shattered.
It’s strange when thinking about how the crash happened nearly 4 years ago. It doesn’t seem that long ago; when we are wrapped in a mediated-sensibility that is forever anticipating the return to this reality, for things to ‘get going again’, it feels like that event has never ceased being ‘what happened yesterday’.
Of course, back in ‘The Noughties’ things were far from being easy; it didn’t take much to notice the transparency of the business ethic that was draping all institutions in its shiny vacuity, and it didn’t take much to notice how many were excluded from this all smiles world when one walked around their town centre after 6pm and saw the distinct lack of smiles there. It also didn’t take much to realise that wars for oil and stupidly hot summers were clear indication that the finite planet would put an end to these capitalist fun and games.
Of course, I wouldn’t be making the point that it was OK back then anyway, and this isn’t the point of this bit of writing. However, before the crash, if you squinted hard enough, to only see the lights of the brightest/tallest buildings, and smiles of those able to afford teeth whitener, and also managed to squint hard enough to squeeze out the truth about your own alienation, one could momentarily lie to themselves and think “yeah, it’s not too bad yet, and I’m sure things’ll get sorted”.
This world is very similar to today’s, yet at the same time it also feels a million miles away. We know that things are going to get worse under the same set of rules, and we know we are going to have to fight really hard to make for something better – and this is really, really daunting to people who can’t quite fully believe what they know: that they have nothing left to lose (at present I am still one of these people.)
When I see this Skeleton and its crane I am reminded about the sadness of the passing of time, and the utter strangeness, the other-worldliness that can hit you when you give something like this building more than a fleeting glimpse. For this skeletal structure time seems to have frozen, allowing us to glimpse back at a place that is over 4 years from us now, a place made to feel closer to us through the ominous anticipation of its return, but the sheer oddness of thing frozen in time makes this place seem more like another world away, and I think this is closer to the truth.
This article was originally published March 9th, 2012.
John Ledger is a visual artist and blogger from Barnsley, South Yorkshire. He claims his works ‘are an obsessive reaction to crises inflicted upon the self in the perplexing, fearful, empty, and often personality-erasing human world. My artwork tries to picture the human landscape under unaccountable capitalism; as something that saturates, subjugates and eventually destroys everyone; landscapes where no-one in particular is to blame, yet some live in utter luxury whilst others scavenge amongst what remains of the wasteland capitalism leaves behind it. Strangely enough, it’s creating such works, writing such things, that keeps me positive-enough to function within this world.
John recently exhibited as part of the Unofficial Alumni at Redbrook Art Space – an unofficial look at the last nine years of University Campus Barnsley art graduates. Most recently John’s work has had recurring themes of psych-geography, which has included maps, video, audio and installation.
Read more about John here johnledger.wordpress.com
For further reading on the Unfinished ‘City Reach’ Apartments, check out this page on 28Days Later, the UK Urban Explorer fourm.