Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Hotel Entropy III

I worked at the Corrib Great Southern over two summers when I was fifteen/sixteen. It closed down in 2007, and has had a couple of owners since, none of which have done anything with it except for perfunctorily boarding it up. There have been two fires there this year, and despite being called upon to make the place secure, and making unfulfilled overtures towards same (there are no alarm systems), the current owners have let the building fall further and further into disrepair (their website lists it under its more recent and short-lived "rebranding" as the Connaught Hotel, and tactfully uses a stock photo of the Galway docks).

I've been going into abandoned buildings and spaces such as this one for years, drawn first as a photographer looking for easy shots of decay and all that. This turned into an interest in using the spaces as sound studios, and eventually leading to exploring them from a sonic perspective, trying to get at some kind of essence of the space I suppose by (literally) sounding it out. I've tried, in my mind, to distance myself from the idea of "abandonment porn", websites and Flickr groups for which are scattered liberally across the internet. I've tried to be more sympathetic I suppose than simply being interested in a superficial notion of pathos derived from a crumbling wall or a dusty staircase. There's also the distinct sense of the macabre inherent in visiting places such as hospitals, asylums, orphanages that "urbex" (yuck) photographers like to play up that I have always had an allergic reaction to. But then, if I had the opportunity to visit and photograph an abandoned hospital, I would find it hard to turn down. And really, would I take photographs in a more "respectful" way? Would they be any different to the kind of approach I find distasteful? Is respect for a subject photographed inferred simply by the intention of the photographer, or is it something that must show through in the photograph? I don't know really. But when I go into a space like this now, I feel uncomfortable if I think I'm not constantly reminding myself of the fact that these were once cherished places, by real human beings.

I've recently started believing that, somehow, this is the correct way of things: a building is made, it's used for a period of time, it's abandoned, and it's slowly destroyed from the inside out, either by people who are disconnected with the building's original purpose or intent, or by nature. Or both. Either way, the force destroying it doesn't care. And this is correct, maybe. It's an unformed notion still, for me. But it struck me forcefully when I entered this space for the first time in about ten years, had a good look around and came across a staff roster from 2000 with my name on it. Of course, I took a photograph of it.