I was curious about this work as I am familiar with the “ghost town” of Imber. So in an odd way the images feel almost familiar to me. The places depicted by Pickering are somewhat closer to comfortable suburbs compared with the army training ground of Imber – she shows front doors, pavements, kerbs, tiny patches of landscaping, shopping trolleys, road markings, chairs and so on. Imber by contrast, is pretty much stripped of everything. Occasionally you see a sign – “Police station” or “Nato compound” but this will typically be attached with plastic strap fasteners. There are parts of her work that rang true with Imber – especially the image where you see straight through an open door to nothing – just the outdoors. http://www.sarahpickering.co.uk/Works/Pulic-Order/workpg-17.html compared with the following taken at Imber:
The landscaping looks familiar too – miniature mazes of footpaths and access ways between house. I thought her wording “latent violence” (in the video link at the top of this post) seemed very appropriate. It’s not quite aftermath photography because the place is built for conflict, and the conflict happens every single day – booked and scheduled.
In an odd way, the work also reminded me of Disneyland Paris – those facades that line the main “streets” to make you feel as if you’re somewhere else. Disneyland is meant to be about fun though, and this work has a sinister, uncomfortable vibe to it. I think they would both look similar from the back though.
I’m ambivalent about whether the work is an effective use of documentary or whether it is misleading. I think it really depends on the context, on how it’s presented. She’s leaving the images wide open to tell their own stories, to allow people to fill the space with their own narrative which is more about art than documentary. It’s certainly one of those works which is not what it appears to be on first look.