Margret Morton’s Underground Photography: The Bridge Between Life and Art

In “Tapestry of Space: Domestic Architecture and Underground communities in Margaret Morton’s Photography of a Forgotten New York” Nersessova discusses how Morton’s work displays the human’s connection to space and self-representational architecture.  To begin her analysis she mentions twentieth century Marxist ideals created by the Situationist International. Morton showed principles that were against capitalism and mainstream society or what the Situationist International called “the spectacle”. Morton shares the lives of people who create a space using found materials. Neresessova compares Morton’s work to SI because they both dissect the conflict between mainstream society that is stuck in the “spectacle” and the homeless that live within it. Situationist International are determined to capture life in its rawest form as art. In order to gain the emotional connection to an environment situationists  embark on the a derive or “the drift”, their technique for exploring spaces. In psychogeography the person drifts without any bias and recognizes how the environment makes them feel.

Before the derive existed, the flânerie, a stroller who observes social space, was created by Charles Baudelaire. Unlike Baudelaire Morton does not visit the arcades or a place with mass consumption. “The derive can be male or female, the everyday pedestrian who abandons social status” or anyone who wants to understand their environment. Morton’s photography confronts homeless people in 1990s New York. She documents with photographs and interviews people’s attempts to create and destroy makeshift homes, a scene unfamiliar to mainstream society. Eugene Atget is another photography who explored the grungy streets of Paris. Both Atget and Morton make a political statement through their images. Morton challenges the viewer to see the importance of of the space that is alive and cared for and to make us feel guiltily for not responding when the homeless are forced to move. Morton’s work also fulfills the curiosity is mainstream society’s minds about how homeless people live. Morton documents the words of a man named Bernard whose analysis of life is consistent with SI criticism of the spectacle. Bernard suggests that  “there’s a certain level of consciousness required of a man. And one can’t perfect that in functional society. You have to basically be separated and apart from it”. This can be interpreted as how mainstream society is obsessed with images and acquiring more things not with interaction and becoming more conscious. 

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