“In this country there is neither measure nor balance
To redress the dominance of rocks and woods,..” (S. Plath)
It is through one branch of Archaeology (the Contemporary Archaeological studies, along the lines of phenomenology and memory) that I have discovered Post-Industrial landscapes and built environments. And discovered is the proper term as I have never viewed them as lived before, but just as buildings, factories, streets and green areas – materials without materiality, independent of the human beings that inhabit them. Once the focus moves to lived landscapes, to ways of being-in-the world, then things start to appear as being in flux, where a constant negotiation between humans and materials shape the world around (and are being shaped in turn).
2 Romanian photography projects follow exactly this line: they try to capture how the built environment is changing due to changes in the historical conditions of the ones that inhabit them.
The first one is Pride and Concrete (Mandrie si Beton). An ethnologist converted to journalism and a photographer started in 2010 a project meant to register the changes in the Tara Oasului and Maramures villages (from northern Romania) in the context of the massive migration of workers abroad. With the money earned they came back home and built new houses and accumulated material culture that changed the face of the entire community. The old and the new blend in a sometimes puzzling mix, old traditions that take on new material forms: from traditional dressed brides that take a Porsche to the Church, to 2 stories modern houses with glass facades in which older people still dry their own herbs.
The second one, Post-Industrial Stories is an ongoing documentary photography project. Starting in October 2012, it is meant to work on “Post-Industrial Stories”, to document Romania’s monoindustrial communities. During the 40 years of Communism, several cities have been developed exclusively around gold mines, coal factories, chemistry products factories etc. After 1989, and especially in the past years, deindustrialisation left a strong mark on this tradition that shaped the landscape, leading to abandonment or change in the way it is incorporated in the new, capitalistic ways of life.
Both of them are really great projects, telling stories about certain communities that are in the process of accommodating new values and ways of life with the old traditions and the memories of the elder. And the witnesses of these stories are the material culture and the anthropic landscapes.