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

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:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Considering the Post Industrial

So again, the focus of this little forum is on us in the past tense, generally. The point of this is to gain a certain outsider’s perspective on any number of our own practices, symbols, or traditions.  The most common lens through which to see this is the post-apocalyptic lens. However, there are other viewpoints, and they are not always backward glances.

In art and media, the post-industrial is one such perspective. This term (often used in music but also in painting, architecture, and sculpture) is still a somewhat poorly defined one. Essentially, it can be read to mean vocabularies that suggest traditions or practices that might follow our own industrial / consumer age. Something from a proposed future, but stripped of the conventions that we feel make us modern today. This is where the topic becomes quite relevant to this blog.

Themes in post-industrial art often include the renaming of past objects, the appropriation of symbols, the valuation of debris, the hybridization of vocabularies, and often a new primitivism that might follow the fall of industrial and consumer culture. Some of these premises are present in post-apocalyptic culture, but in post-industrialism there is not necessarily a presumed disastrous event or collapse. Just mutation, evolution, or fundamental paradigm shift. Also a more probable future.

I will return to the topic in future posts. For now, here are some relevant images.

“Burning Rods” by Anselm Kiefer

A building in London by Sarah Wigglesworth

Handmade album cover art by :Zoviet*France:

Atelier Complex by Anslem Kiefer

“Constructed Chaos” by James Ciosek

Repurposed High Line train tracks in New York

Daniel Bell’s 1973 economic discussion of post-industrial society.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Meteors and Old Pop Culture

Chebarkul vapor trail 2013  /  Sikhote stamp 1947
Fake iPhone forecast 2013 / Paperback book 1987
Chebarkul ice impact 2013 / "The Thing from Another World" 1951

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Du-Good Chemical

The homespun fa├žade of the Du-Good Chemical Laboratory in St. Louis is an unusual example of the folk-like presentation of a scientific facility. Lincoln I. Diuguid, a local science professor, established the lab in 1948. His company provided microanalytic services and also marketed its own brand of cleaning products and cosmetics. The business was in operation for over 50 years.
Occupying a late nineteenth century commercial building, Dr. Diuguid’s lab made no attempt to varnish over the old structure with a veneer of modernity or authority. Instead, Du-Good looks to have been primarily an expression of the professor’s unique personality. Now, the shuttered place is fading into the urban patina on south Jefferson Avenue…

Friday, January 18, 2013

A 125-Year-Old Echo

The posts here have been focused on music lately, so I will continue that theme with the following artifact.
Edison Wax Cylinder

We talk a lot about artifacts – usually those of other, extinct cultures, and less often of those of our own. And of course the latter is the focus of this blog. In both cases, however, we normally encounter physical remains of another time. The sufficiently distant past is usually represented by objects or images.

The Internet Archive contains a number of examples of very early sound recordings. Most of the older examples date to the 1910s or 1920s. One in particular, however, is a rare and haunting example of a true audio relic. In fact, it is one of the oldest known recordings of human voice. In 1888, or just over ten years after Edison introduced his phonograph, an agent for his company attended the Ninth Triennial Handel Festival at Crystal Palace, London. A note on the wax cylinder that he recorded that summer day reads “A chorus of 4000 voices recorded with phonograph over 100 yards away.”

Handel Festival, London, 1888.

Click HERE and listen to the sound from this 125-year old cylinder. The circumstances of its production – a distant recording of so many human voices coupled with the very physical, noisy nature of the wax medium, have resulted in a powerful sonic window into us as ancient. And it is a lovely sound.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Listen to A Duck in a Tree

If you haven't yet heard it, "A Duck in a Tree" is a weekly internet radio show programmed by :Zoviet*France: and broadcast by The show features some remarkable music, much of which you will have a hard time finding elsewhere. We are pleased to report that this week's edition includes an unreleased Fossil Aerosol track - a Duck in a Tree exclusive. Have a listen at Mixcloud.

If you haven't heard this kind of music before (but as a reader of this blog are interested in post-industrial or post-apocalyptic culture), you will probably find something of interest here. Much of the work is relevant for the simple fact that it often begins with the intentional collapsing of most forms of musical or cultural convention.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sonic Damaged Goods

We've uploaded another playlist on Mixcloud. "Damaged Goods" includes more sonic artifacts, debris and compromised environments. Also a previously unreleased track by the Fossil Aerosol Mining Project. Grab your headphones and have a listen HERE.