Waste Natures

by Orchid Tierney

“Junkspace,” suggests Rem Koolhaas, is what remains after modernization has run its course or, more precisely, what coagulates while modernization is in progress, its fall-out.” This series of polaroids documents the urban pastoral, the waste natures and agrarian imaginaries, that haunt in- and outside the modern city. Indeed, sites like the Delaware oil plant, Fresh Kills Landfill, and Three Mile Island underscore the modern agrarian traces that persist in the afterlife of industrialisation. To capture abandoned spaces, difficult places, and built environments is to ask: what is the relationship between the environment and function? How is dissent possible in places people would rather forget? Who is forced to remember? What counts as an acceptable loss?

Methodologically, these photographs explore the double narrative of environmental documentary. While they record the coagulating built pastoral of the modern city, they also foreground the antiquated polaroid medium that still insists on its presence. The slow afterlife of exposure agitates against the so-called instantaneousness of the film. Although digital photography challenges the indexical bond of the image, film also troubles the actuality of space and time by underscoring the relationship between chemical memory and the slow fossilisation of an image.

These photographs are not digitally treated (aside from being scanned). The colour variances are the result of the type and age of film (colour/black and white). The choice of film is dependent on what is affordable and/or available at the time. The title of each image describes the location and date of capture. The camera is an original Polaroid Sun 600.

Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, PA, 5, August 2017
Middletown Train Station, PA, 3.6 Miles from Three Mile Island, 5 August 2017
Fresh Kills Landfill/Freshkills Park, Staten Island, 4 July 2017
Front View of the Delaware Oil Plant, Philadelphia, PA, 4 August 2017
Waterside View of the Delaware Oil Plant, Philadelphia, PA, 4 August 2017

Orchid Tierney is from New Zealand/Aotearoa/Philadelphia. Her chapbooks include Brachiation (Dunedin: GumTree Press, 2012) and The World in Small Parts (Chicago: Dancing Girl Press, 2012), and a full length sound translation of the Book of Margery Kempe, Earsay (TrollThread, 2016). She co-edits Supplement, an annual anthology on Philadelphia writing.