Court of Honor (Texas Centennial Exposition, Dallas, 1936)

The Future of Yesterday is a photographic series about the architectural remnants of world exhibitions, often revealing an ironic contrast between the grand utopian views of times past and the urban reality of today The Future of Yesterday is a photographic series about the architectural remnants of world exhibitions, often revealing an ironic contrast between the grand utopian views of times past and the urban reality of today

Lambda print on acrylic, oak frame

107.3 x 132.3 x 4.6 cm

Edition of 1 + 1 AP

2012

Content

Given that nearly all the photography of the fairs sought to capture the image of something relatively short-lived, and thus create a reliable record of it, what would the significance be of a photography that creates a record after the event is over? Moreover, what does it mean to arrive in the wake of a spectacle that was explicitly supposed to already be the embodiment of ‘the future’? Artist Ives Maes confronts precisely this complex temporal conundrum. His project between 2008 and 2012 was to create photographic images of these World’s Fair sites, not taken in the heady, dazzling moment of the fair, but instead often long after their moment had passed. Maes’s photographs are perfect examples of what photo historian David Campany calls ‘“late” photography’, which, as he describes, ‘turns up late, wanders through the places where things have happened, toting up the effects of the world’s activity. This is a kind of photograph that […] is quite different from the spontaneous snapshot and has a different relationship to memory and to history.’ Creating a “different relationship to memory and history” seems precisely the point. Maes has covered the globe – Paris, Moscow, Vancouver, Brussels, Osaka, Hanover, Chicago…the list aims to be comprehensive – photographing the outmoded grounds and historic stages on which Utopias were once imagined, both in the very distant and more recent past. Eschewing the ‘decisive moment’ of photojournalism, the artfully promotional ends of the tourist industry, and the utilitarian aspect of propaganda, Maes’s photographs highlight the conspicuous absence of the fair itself. Instead, in them one sees neglected plots of land, trash and graffiti-strewn surfaces, abandoned or repurposed pavilions, cyclists that pass the sites without fanfare or particular interest, and the reduction of once-glorious monuments to present-day curiosities. His images might be, as Campany suggest about such ‘late photography’, ‘not so much the trace of an event as the trace of the trace of an event.’ Twice removed, Maes is inevitably, quietly, photographing the obsolete futures from the past century.

Excerpt from the text ‘Afterimages’ by Elena Filipovic, published in ‘The Future of Yesterday / Ives Maes’, Ludion, 2013

PROJECT

In THE FUTURE OF YESTERDAY the Belgian artist Ives Maes searched the globe looking for evidence of World’s Fairs. He photographed the architectural remnants of these short-lived events and the sites on which they were built, often revealing an ironic contrast between the grand utopian views of times past and the urban reality of today. His eerie photographs are afterimages, lingering vestiges of now fading dreams.

EXHIBITION

Afterimages

STAM Ghent City Museum, Ghent, Belgium

07/02/2013 – 21/04/2013

Solo exhibition