I’ve always been drawn to the abandoned, the old places and solitary remains of the past that inhabit the modern day landscape like forlorn phantoms. Isolated in their decay, somehow grand and echoing with the hopes, follies, lusts and fears of those who once dwelt there, they now murmur endlessly for those willing to look and listen: This is what it comes to in the end, for everyone and everything (flesh, brick, wood, and steel).
Maybe it’s the Irish blood or a childhood spent traipsing through the woods and back roads of southeastern North Carolina, but my fascination with these discarded structures has remained. Like some addled archeologist rooting around in the remains of a civilization yet to pass from history, I’ve rarely turned down the opportunity to walk, climb, or crawl my way into the near past by way of the weather-rotted porches, insect-infested door frames, and fractured windows of these uncared-for artifacts.
Within their walls, the ones left standing and the ones that have vanished, there is the same sense of excitement and unease that must have accompanied those early explorers of ancient tombs: the impression that, as you take in the exquisite disrepair and strangeness, something is looking back as well. Left to their own devices and the vagaries of time and decay, once insignificant items take on new meaning, like objects arranged in a precisely choreographed art installation: a light switch meticulously covered in cobwebs; a ceramic portrait of a young woman propped on a water stained couch framed by broken glass and leaves; the exposed innards of a rusting gas pump splayed in chaotic yet subtle asymmetry.
Those remains throw into bold relief the most obvious element at play in many of these miskept architectures: the works of Nature reclaiming the works of humankind. Allowed to remain indefinitely, there comes a time when the wild and the fabricated seem to merge in perfect balance, as vines trace themselves over windowpanes like fine calligraphy, mold works its way into the very grain and grit of floorboards and ceiling tiles, and limbs enfold roofs and penetrate eaves.
In the end, I suspect what truly draws me back time and again is the simple sense of peace found in these spaces, the perception that, whatever their past, here are realms where humans have vanished, and though their garbage and memories may remain, their noise and fitful energy have been expelled.