Afterdays Media focuses on archaeological views of our contemporary culture. Artifacts, art, or cultural phenomena that picture us in the past tense.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fossil Aerosol and Postmodern Egypt

A new Fossil Aerosol recording for the close of 2013 – released December 15 on

“Three Days at Qurna” considers the commodity of antiquity and the fakery of the ancient. The title refers to the Egyptian village of Qurna, which was recently destroyed by Egyptian authorities to provide a "cleaner and safer" environment for tourists approaching the Valley of the Kings. The village was built atop and within a series of ancient tombs - used for dwellings, workshops, and (many years ago) sources of antiquities. For generations, many of the residents of this village made their living by selling relics found literally beneath their homes. More recently, craftsmen in the village had taken to making reproductions and fakes of ancient Egyptian artifacts.

There are no synthetic sources in this piece. It is composed primarily of fragments of vintage Egyptian folk recordings, processed and mixed live in the studio. Falsified ethnography

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Quintessential Urban Frankenstein

The city of Rome may be the mother of all post-modern, contemporary-grafted-to-ancient, hybridized, urban landscapes. Here are a few snapshots courtesy of Google Street View, the Polaroid camera of the digital world... 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Outposts of Media

During the 1970s and 1980s, a number of movie theaters sprouted up along the edges of small towns in the Midwest – towns that were too small for “suburbs”. These theaters were usually quite unremarkable utilitarian structures, in concrete block or pre-fabricated steel. Before the widespread appearance of cable television in the rural areas, and also before the appearance of affordable home video, the places served as bunker-like outposts for mainstream popular cinema. They were all together different than their ancestral movie houses found in urban areas since the early twentieth century. They were also untethered from the pavement-and-box landscape of the suburbs.

Big, air-conditioned barns, decorated like the waiting room of a car dealership, stocked with candy and fountain drinks, providing a rural community with a connection to the new summer blockbusters imported from Los Angeles.The urban movie theaters closed first. Then the outdoor Drive-in theaters. Finally these rural movie-bunkers succumbed to cable TV and home VHS. 
Photo: D. Herbert

This example (above and top), in rural Missouri was converted to the very thing that lead to its demise – a video rental shop. Now, with tape and DVD rental becoming anachronistic, the media outpost has nothing left to offer.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Architectural Mutants Along the River

South of the main commercial district in St. Louis, a number of residential neighborhoods were developed along the Mississippi River during the second half of the nineteenth century. During the mid-twentieth century, several of these districts were labeled as slums by city officials. The neighborhoods were "redlined", making it nearly impossible for residents and business owners to insure their properties and causing the value of the buildings to plummet. Some of the residential districts were soon replaced by warehouses and light industry.

In most cases, the old buildings were demolished, but in this case, two circa 1875 rooming houses or multi-family dwellings were adapted to an unknown commercial use. The result was the Frankenstein monster that still stands today.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dead Pop 101: Suburban Gentrification

The various ironies of dead shopping malls have been well documented over the last ten years, as a number of the larger enclosed centers have failed and the popular interest in things-abandoned has grown. In this post, I wanted to show another aspect of suburban decline.

For decades, artists, their studios, and the galleries that show their work have sought low-rent neighborhoods in the cities in which to work. As a result, the vibrant, active communities that often follow have served to revitalize dying sections of the urban landscape. In nearly all cases, however, the long-term benefit is enjoyed by real estate developers who convert neighborhoods “colonized” by art and artists into upscale residential and retail spaces. The end result is most often the displacement of the very people (and the ideas) that reshaped the districts, and the replacement of locally-owned businesses with corporate outlets. The story is an old chestnut now. The burned-out building becomes an art gallery, and then the art gallery becomes a Starbucks.


Unwanted coffee (note the graffiti).

Not surprisingly, developers in the suburbs have watched this process, and have attempted to transplant the phenomenon in a few places where economic rot has crept into post-World War II communities. One example is Crestwood Mall in suburban St. Louis. What had begun as a post-war strip mall had become a sprawling enclosed shopping center by the 1980s, only to become a suburban ghost town by the first years of the twenty-first century.

After occupancy fell below 50%, artists were invited into the big climate-controlled space, and suddenly, what was once The Foot Locker was a dance studio, what was once Waldenbooks was a community theater, and what was a jewelry store became the site of an installational sculpture. For a couple of years, the mall was transformed by the eclectic – something not generally seen in such environments. It couldn’t last, however. Within a few years, the leases of art-tenants were terminated, and the big place was emptied. Word has it the mall will return to its mid-twentieth century roots as an outdoor strip mall.

It wasn't a great piece, but it was a start.
An unusual shopping mall directory: locally-owned shops and artist spaces down the aisle from The Gap.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gestures as Artifacts

A few images from an emptied factory floor in St. Louis, taken in 1991. Traces of small gestures in a very large industrial space.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

More Fake Resurrection from Fossil Aerosol

The earliest Fossil Aerosol Mining Project recordings, made during the mid-1980s, utilized literal “found sounds” such as fragments of open reel 1/4” tape and 35mm film recovered from burnt out warehouses and abandoned drive-in theaters. One of the first loops was made from a fragment of the film “Zombi 2”, cut out of a reel by a sloppy projectionist. Spliced into a length of leader and run through an old projector (with no bulb but a convenient audio output), the damaged audio track became artifact.

Over the years, a number of Fossil Aerosol recordings were produced using sonic fragments from the zombi film genre of the late Cold War era. Some of the first pieces were included in the “Cassette Recordings” release, compiled in 1995. The 2005 “if you enjoyed the dawn of the dead” was composed almost entirely of damaged and mutated artifacts from Romero’s original zombie trilogy. “The First 15 Minutes of the Second Sequel” (2007) was composed of processed fragments from the first 15 minutes of the second unauthorized Italian sequel to Dawn of the Dead. Fake resurrection, left for dead and resurrected again.

In 2009, some the older theme-based recordings were revisited. “Resurrection Remixes”, just released on iTunes, represents a revision of Fossil Aerosol’s zombi past. A mildewed journey that begins in a dead mall in 1978, passes through a dying Midwestern drive-in theater in 1983, and ultimately gets lost in translation in the midst of a fake Italian apocalypse.

You can hear a sample here: