Johnny Savage‘s photographs from ‘Fallout’ take us on a journey through the aftermath of the property bubble and post recession Ireland, his pictures revealing the truth behind the Wizard of Oz and his princelings belief in the primacy of money over spirit and wealth over well being. Within the reflections of these desolate buildings we glimpse the ugliness of the state and the corruptive influence of those in power.
What’s so graphically visualised by Savage is the emptiness, disillusionment and hubris of a state that created a euphoria of spending and engendered a appetite for materialist appropriation above everything else. We glorified those who worshipped Mammon, we sought sanctuary in the banks, the property market, the acquisition of things. And we were left with nothing except increased unemployment, higher taxes, a broken economy and a debilitated spirit living on life support. This harsh reality makes these terribly sad pictures to look at for they remind us of the pain of reckless abandon. The devastation committed by a few on the many. And we’re still paying for it.
Ironically – but not surprisingly – the property bubble has started again. Prices are rising while people remain in negative equity and our young people continue to leave in their droves for Canada, Australia and anywhere else they have a chance to make a life for themselves. And it’s into this pit of despair that Savage casts his cold eye, deliberately turning his lens into the dying light of the sun to face these edifices of greed. He enlightens us, he gives us a glimpse through the gloom into an alternate reality that holds fast to the truth of an unreal world. Both the landscape and these monuments to greed merging to create a new world, a new Ireland.
Like film sets these photographs pull back the curtain on the Wizard and reveal the emptiness of his promises, homilies, twisted logic and give us a portrait of an abuse of power. Abuse. First the church, then the state and finally the developers and the banks. In 2016 we’ll be celebrating the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising and the Irish proclamation. But in truth we have nothing to celebrate. For all its noble principles have been destroyed by every pillar of this state. The foundations have been pulled down. Left idle, ignored. Just as these buildings remain in limbo, uncertain as to their destiny, so are we. The people of this country. Here’s what Savage has to say about his work:
Fallout is a series of photographs that considers the modern Irish landscape; a landscape where empty buildings stand like ruins, reminders of another time or place in history. Appearing like portals to a different world, they quietly haunt the periphery of towns and cities, anonymous, the same, in a limbo of dream and reality
You can see Johnny Savage’s ‘Fallout’ photographs at the University of Ulster MFA Graduate Exhibition 2014 until Sunday 21st September at The Gallery of Photography, Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland