PUBLIC TALK: SymbioticA Friday seminar with Bill Taylor: Composing Catastrophe
|SymbioticA Friday seminar with Bill Taylor: Composing Catastrophe
Composing Catastrophe: Robert Polidori’s Photographs in “After the Flood” and Comparative Visual Records of Post-Katrina New Orleans.
The form of cities, their design, and construction have long made it possible to think about human society, its representation and values. Likewise, the destruction of cities through various means, accidental circumstance or human error, and the representation of urban ruin have given historical, ...visual, and narrative form to diverse values governing ethical conduct, individual desires, and collective responsibilities. Recently, a spate of films in which cities are destroyed by natural disasters have been counterpoised by images of such events as earthquakes in Iran and Pakistan, the wreck of tsunami–devastated regions of Southeast Asia, and the inundation of New Orleans. The fictional and documentary representations of disaster are mutually reinforcing. They invoke, though fail to encompass, the immensity of suffering accompanying the fall of one or the other city. They are also highly evocative and symbolic, representing (equivocally, no doubt), the end result of a series of causes and effects for which no one person is likely responsible, on the one hand, and a call for fortitude and renewal in the face of great adversity, on the other. Taking its cue from representations of fallen cities and the possibilities they engender for thinking about the meaning of disaster, this paper will consider how their portrayal serves as a vehicle for questioning our seemingly precarious relationship with nature and the future of the city. It focuses on one recent undertaking to represent urban ruin, Robert Polidori’s photographs of New Orleans that have appeared in an exhibition “After the Flood” and accompany book/catalog.
William Taylor is Winthrop Professor of Architecture at the University of Western Australia. He has written on a range of subjects including the history and theory of the built environment and architecture and landscape project reviews. His publications include a major monograph The Vital Landscape, Nature and the Built Environment in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Ashgate, 2004) and an edited collection of essays The Geography of Law, Landscape and Regulation (Hart, Oxford, 2006). He has also co-authored with Michael Levine Prospects for an Ethics of Architecture (Routledge, 2011) and co-edited with Philip Goldswain An everyday transience: the urban imaginary of Goldfields photographer John Joseph Dwyer (UWA Press, 2010).
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