Wednesday, June 01, 2011

peripheral vision - the yellowknife project

the suburbs as a state of mind (a mild retrospective continued....)

There no longer appears to be a clear division between the suburbs and either the urban or rural environment. There now seems to be a generic suburban condition that may be a potential quality for all inhabited spaces. This extended suburban condition does not easily show up on maps, it is in many ways more of a suburban state of mind than a topographic location.

Yellowknife - a city perched on the Canadian Shield and surrounded by Boreal forest is like an isolated specimen of this condition - the idea of the suburbs. Wherever you are in Canada (or indeed, North America) there is a mundane, yet reassuring familiarity to the suburbs and the strip malls and the big box stores that results from the pressure of market forces and from blunt expediency. And while each place often displays subtle individual differences, the movement is away from difference towards similarity and the success of homogenization. What dominates is the generic.

In photographing Yellowknife I find myself looking at things that are somewhat off centre, off to the side - a peripheral vision. Things that are often unnoticed and just below our level of perception. Things seen that are in plain sight yet so familiar or obvious they are usually ignored, unseen, and their existence barely registered - attention no longer paid to them.

The landscape is forced to conform to the construction of standardised suburban sub-divisions and the exposed Canadian Shield, some of the oldest rock in the world, is blasted and flattened to accommodate familiar suburban housing rather than the housing being designed to conform to the landscape.

This project conveys everyday North America and the infiltration of the city by suburban culture - the place seen on the way to the office or the supermarket - viewing these familiar environments from an off-centre perspective, revealing the ambiguities and artifice of everyday life.

All images © 2005 Timothy Atherton


jeff downer said...

Hello Timothy,
Strange that you post these images, as it was literally one hour before seeing this post that I ran into a proposal you made back in 2007 with some of these images at the gallery I work for in North Vancouver called the Presentation House. We were going through the 2007 archives and I found your work. Beautiful stuff. Just a very, very strange coincidence!

all the best,
jeff downer

e.e.nixon said...

I think the fact of snow and winter is going to have a marked effect on the visual tone of this series. To my mind there is nothing more forlorn and isolated than an expanse of concrete illuminated by vapour lights in the dead of winter in the dead of night. I don't know if it is suburban, but it is part of my idea of North.

Anonymous said...

There is a whole load of writing on this kind of merging in the UK - where is very different from Yellowknife but shares characteristics with Greater Toronto suburbia -

this is from a few years back on Edgelands.

This book was published earlier this year, also called Edgelands - saying how great this kind of environment is.