Morecambe and Dream Dwellings

In 1960 Laurence Olivier played the role of a troubadour musician, variety lead, and host, Archie Rice, who has worked the Morecambe scene since before the war.  Times are a’ changin’; Rice is down on luck, money and is wilting with the very environment upon which his performance succored.  He departs the world lurching through the gears of another.  Nothing about his passing is a smooth descent into nostalgia; except, that is, for a backdrop of interwar modernist dreams: where the town itself seemed at one with a world drunk on seaside holidays, liberalized frivolity, and new age exploration.  These come floating back as a procession of images strung together with the flapping of characters between them.  Their dignity is assured as surely as is there destruction.  The film was a first passing of this world.  The second never quite happened.  Instead the ruins lie amidst the welter of a new world; porous holes for the passage of a spirit world not adequately buried under the welter of new commodities and new capital.  What the film had predicted – a new age; never quite arrived as the replacement image of the old.  Instead, the old plodded on amidst the environment of the new; slowly worn down by stock phrases of urban regeneration and progressive ecologies of disaster.  Of course, its peopled zones were never consulted.  But no matter.

                  The images are somewhat ethereal now.  As Bachelard intimates the home is not a permanent dwelling; but one that responds to arrhythmia: skipped beats, perils of flighty memories.  The environment (and here a cross-reference to Allen Shelton’s work might be in order) seems to contain dwelling zones for memory to spurt out of; intermingled ‘chrysalis’  type forms, in which one dream feeds off another, and vice versa.  A staircase has voice, a room intonation: the walls breathe and let in air, as much as the ‘iron cage’ of the modern subject becomes translated as lovingly rendered self-fashioning in league with what Shelton, in his new (I am terribly excited) work, Where the North Sea Touches Alabama, calls ‘the world beneath the world’; where the dead sail the oceans and, with some help from the inhabitants on the other side of the ‘infra-thin’ (Marcel Duchamp) layer above, arise through the surface, every now and again, to bring the future into view, as a past which never lay down.  “The old house, for those who know how to listen, is a sort of geometry of echoes. The voices of the past do not sound the same in the big room as in the little chamber, and calls on the stairs have yet another sound.” (Bachelard) But what is it that might seem fascinating about photographing ruins, particularly modernist ones?  I would claim that it activates the micro-ecology of ruins within the materialization of all culture: from the ‘ruffle on the dress’ of a Nadar portrait; to the hydraulic system that powers the viewing deck up a Polo Tower in a Wild West themed park in a British Seaside Resort that seems less cold in the dreaming reality of photography, than it might seem when we get to ‘take’ it (back? Another regenerative act?) tomorrow. 

 

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