The Stranger’s Path
This picture is over 20-feet wide. A digital file is a poor simile and cannot be compared to the original. It is best to listen to the audio with headphones which plays in a continuous loop.
Berlin, Germany; 52°23’22.10″N 13°31’0.17″E
Archival Pigment Print on Canson Baryta Photographique paper.
36 x 256 inches [91.5 x 650 cm]
Original Photography: May 15, 2016
The Stranger’s Path was presented in July 2016 as my graduate exhibition at the Vermont College of Fine Art and the Soho Photo Gallery in April 2017.
J.B. Jackson, through his writing and as the publisher of Landscape: Magazine of Human Geography, influenced Robert Smithson, Rackstraw Downes, the early work of Edward Ruscha, many others and me.
In Jackson’s essay, The Stranger’s Path, he discusses the commonality of visual and auditory experiences a traveler has as they enter a mid-size American city in the 1950s.
Some 60 years later, as one travels the world as a stranger and arrives in a new place, you see, hear and smell a common experience; the airports, transit points, the hotel lobbies, the McDonalds. These places are what Marc Augé has framed as non-places. They are super-modern spaces without anthropology, or rather, without a distinct or clearly defined culture. They are one result of contemporary globalization.
There remains a commonality of experience which resonates with many questions and anxieties; Where am I? Am I going the right way? Will I find the right connection? How do I manage a different culture? A different language? What new challenges will I face to get from here to there? Do I need to be careful about my fellow travelers? What is this new place all about? Or, whew – I’m headed home.
Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport, built by the GDR, has a long covered walkway – some call it the tunnel. This path provides a protected walkway from the airport terminal to the mass transit hub. The vast majority of people using the airport enters and exits through this tunnel. These travelers have a common experience, which occurs not only at Schönefeld, but in many places in the world as you make your way from one transit point to the next. There is the jostling of strangers, the carrying of bags and children, and a struggle to understand.
The photograph, “The Stranger’s Path” includes many people as they make their way one-direction or the other through the tunnel and some repeat, forcing the viewer to consider the passage of time and making it clear that although this is a photograph of a ‘real place’, it is a manufactured or imagined landscape and in a sense, a kind of myth. The repeating figures create an uncanny understanding – a dance which considers the small changes that take place as a person goes from one end of the tunnel to the other and they suggest the enigmatic nature of place as represented in a landscape.
The multi-track audio recording includes the sounds of rolling suitcases, the unintelligible ‘chatter’ of people talking in different languages, and the sounds of airplanes in flight. This audio is best listened to with headphones so the experience of viewing the picture is immersive.