Mikhael Subotzky: Pointe City, Johannesberg
*previously posted here, but Subotzky is releasing a new and more comprehensive book on his Pointe City project very soon! mockups for it may be seen on his site.
Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse spent much of the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 engaged in the quixotic task of taking a photograph out of every window, of every internal door, and of every television-set in Ponte City. This circular 54-story building has been the subject of their three-year investigation of its structure and its position as the crucible of Johannesburg´s urban mythology.
The result is three light-boxes, each measuring almost four meters, which tower above the viewer in similar proportions to the building itself. The photographs, taken with as much formal consistency as was possible in a chaotic building, are presented exactly in order, floor above floor and flat by flat.
Pointe City Background (from Artist’s Website):
The fifty-four-storey Ponte City building dominates Johannesburg’s skyline, its huge blinking advertising crown visible from Soweto in the south to Sandton in the north. When it was built in 1976 – the year of the Soweto uprisings – the surrounding flatlands of Berea, Hillbrow and Yeoville were exclusively white, and home to young middle-class couples, students and Jewish grandmothers. Ponte City was separated by apartheid urban planning from the unforgettable events of that year. But as the city changed in anticipation and response to the arrival of democracy in 1994, many residents joined the exodus towards the supposed safety of the northern suburbs, the vacated areas becoming associated with crime, urban decay and, most of all, the influx of foreign nationals from neighbouring African countries.
Ponte’s iconic structure soon became a symbol of the downturn in central Johannesburg. The reality of the building and its many fictions have always integrated seamlessly into a patchwork of myths and projections that reveals as much about the psyche of the city as it does about the building itself. Tales of brazen crack and prostitution rings operating from its car parks, four storeys of trash accumulating in its open core, snakes, ghosts and frequent suicides have all added to the building’s legend. Some of these stories are actually true, and for quite some time most of the residents were indeed illegal immigrants. And yet, one is left with the feeling that even the building’s notoriety is somewhat exaggerated – that its decline is just as fictional as its initial utopian intentions were misplaced and unrealized.
>continue reading overview
Also see Subotzky’s other projects here, and here.