A massive edifice, then, a monument to hubris, envisioned and built as if its salient characteristic is its spectacular hugeness rather than the fact that people have to live inside it. Nearly from the moment of its completion, a litany of human-sized foibles diminished it both physically and symbolically. With litter, neglect, malfunctioning utilities, broken windows, accumulated tales of crime and danger, and vulnerability to the capriciousness of the market, the building’s physical and mythological grandeur wanes with every year. The stubborn, intrepid people therein take on some of that grandeur, living where it is said to be unlivable, flaunting their humanity in dehumanizing conditions. This is perhaps the great strength of the project: In their books, zines, photographs, and installation, Subotzky and Waterhouse show both the epic and human scale straining against and blending into each other. It is simultaneously an allegory of both the limitations of human endeavor and the hardiness of human nature.
Larissa Archer reviews Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse’s project featured in Public Intimacy at YBCA, on view through June 29 –> http://bit.ly/1mj21VS
Image: Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse, Ponte City, 2008-ongoing; installation view, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. Courtesy of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Ian Reeves.