Imagine cities with no people. Not in the sense of plagued ghost-towns of the iron belt, but the cities inhabited with motion, people and energy. What would Times Square or Place de L’Opera look like when emptied? What would it be like to walk around in cities with no people, cars or sounds? It is a mystic almost dreamlike thought.
Artists Lucie and Simon developed photos of just that in their series Silent World. Popular places between Paris, New York and Beijing are depicted as freed from everything that characterises them. No biology infests the place, it simply stands still. This speculation of mass disappearance of these cities is mysterious as it is apprehensive. What the artists do to make them even more eerie is leave one person inhabiting the desolate place to personify the narrative of “last man standing.” They employed a density filter while capturing these images to remove all moving objects. And what we are left with is a zombie land.
As far-fetched as this idea might seem, ghost towns do exist. In Shanghai, we see this particular trend happening. Even though the city is rapidly expanding, its satellite towns and residential compounds—as part of metropolitan congestion decentralising policy—remains in complete abandonment. Samo Pedersen writes in One City, Nine Ghost Towns that:
In the decentralization process of Shanghai the strategic plan of 2001 proposed 9 new town centers, of which 4 towns were to be developed from scratch. As a marketing strategy in distinguishing the new towns from each other and Shanghai’s existing city center (Shanghai C), they were to be themed as cities from different geographical regions. Of these developed the new towns of Gaoqiao (Holland), Fengcheng (Spain), Pujiang (Italy), Anting (German), Songjiang (England), Luodian (North European), Fengjing (North America), and Zhoujiajiao (traditional Chinese style water town). A last town, Zhoupu (Mixed Vestern), was canceled.
These nine ‘global’ villages were set to reverse the faults of Western sleepy towns by including mixed land-uses that will make them dynamic 24 hour-cities. However, what happened is the following…
In a twisted turn of events, these cities have become the favored backdrops to photograph newlywed Chinese couples.
When overlapping these two different urban experimentations we are left with the same consequence, one discussing a fictionalised aspect to city withdrawal and one factually representing this very phenomenon.
And here we are also left to wonder that when our world is post-apocalyptic and we end up moving to Mars or to the jettisoned space-pod or whatever, will our desolated landscapes remain so eerie in our memory? are these fabricated villages going to be our future postcards and nostalgicised landscapes?