I spent some time with Greg Girard yesterday, looking at his show at Clark Faria. If you know Greg, it's likely for his work in Shanghai over the past decade, documenting that city's rapid transformation -- and destruction, say some -- from crumbling to shiney new in the wake of the Chinese economic miracle. The work was collected in a book released a couple of years ago called Phantom Shanghai, and it's great.
Needless to say, we've heard an awful lot about China's onrush to first-worldliness, at least economically; and Girard, for the moment, had had enough of it. So he set out to pick up where he left off in his early 20s, in Japan, where some of his earliest pictures were of the bizarre incongruities of lives lived on American military bases in Japanese cities. Inside, a surreally picture-perfect version of outdated Americana (clean-scrubbed 50s idealism) ruled; and just outside, Japan.
Girard, a Canadian living in Shanghai for the past decade, and Asia in general for much longer than that, returned to the bases to find little had changed in the intervening years, at least on the inside; islands of small-town America still drift in ever-densifying Japanese urbanity surrounding. The pictures remind one of a vestigial tail -- useless, but persistent, and ridiculous on both counts. Girard, though, is a master of understatement, and quiet observation, not finger-pointing, reigns here. Eerie and sublime, they quietly remind us of the intricacies of geopolitics, and the intractible situations they can create. Which, in these troubling times, is timely indeed.