If the twinkling lights of the mid-century motel deployed a frenzy of choice and the unfettered promise of adventure from the roadside, entering the room was always akin to a lobotomy.
Off the road, pupils like darts, these stripped down spaces still slap you with the crass reminder of the chasm between wish and fulfilment — from excitement to terror in three minutes flat.
Has anyone ever captured the ambivalence of this experience more honestly, more clinically than John Register?
The motel exerts a gravitational field of nostalgia, but Register offers an antidote in his stark representation of the spaces that exist at the heart of America’s putatively earnest modernity. Maybe our roots cling to empty rooms?
Our distaste for loneliness is so profound that we imagine the road as a place of communal journey, but when we wake up in the middle of the night in a random motel beside an anonymous highway, we can’t help but crave home.
But where is that, anyway?
The thing that Register might capture better than anyone else is the profound bind posed by conventional notions of place and the desire to escape familiarity.
What is this better thing that we’re alway after, hunting with such restless desire? Whatever it is — and it is something — the feeling of dread that accompanies not finding it turns the safest of places into monuments of discontent.
Big things are on the horizon. Sit on that.