Courtney Johnson‘s Cycle of ‘Cities 1: Collapse’ is the first installment of a nine-part body of work examining the life and death cycle of what makes a civilization great, namely it’s cities. As I mentioned in a previous post on her work Johnson uses a technique first developed in the 19th Century called cliché-verre whereby she hand paints on glass, or film, and then prints the resulting image on a light sensitive paper. In this series she looked at the collapse, the destruction of cities, at their past, and used that in the proccess of her work.
Johnson began by painting maps or topographic images of the relevent city onto a transparency and then destroying it by using water, fire or force depending on the city represented and its history. So, in her prints of Berlin, Baghdad and Hiroshima the glass was smashed to simulate explosions, in the case of London, Richmond and Nairobi she burnt the negatives and with New Orleans and Medan she submerged them.
This connection between the process and the historical event is visually arresting and highlights the universal themes and cycles of destruction and rebirth. As Johnson says herself:
These themes are incredibly poignant in 2012, as the Mayans prophesized that 2012 would bring death, destruction, and the end of the world, while many scholars believe this is a misinterpretation and that the 1,300 year old calendar actually indicates that the winter solstice will instead bring a renewal – the end of one cycle and the start of a new. Beyond their power to destroy, water, fire, and explosions are symbols of cleansing and renewal. But first there is collapse.
I look forward to the next installment in this series and will definitely start looking further into this technique which for me is mind blowing.
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