“The City” after Mankind had Dissapeared



The utopian blueprints in modern literature and the visual arts were characterized by the hope for a better world shaped by man, the triumph of civilization over menacing, uncontrollable natural forces on the one hand and the dark side of human nature on the other. The 20th century marked the age of the great dystopian disasters, and in the 21st century, images like those of Lori Nix depict the time after the end of all things. Here man becomes a legend by his very absence. Nix’s works are full of reminders, etched into the decaying structures. The combined sobriety and wealth of detail of these imagined pictures of the end generate all kinds of feelings in the viewer. What is presented here might seem old-fashioned and desperately in need of renewal, or, in contrast, wonderful, worthy of preservation and perhaps even without alternative. Thus these tableaus, however full of connotations, allusions, and visual and cultural baggage they may be, are surprisingly open to a reading that allows us to speculate about what will come after these images, after the moment of obliteration, which is a re-animation at the same time. This is exactly the moment where Thomas Cole’s paintings ended: Desolation. It is here that Lori Nix’s pictures differ from Cole’s visionary painting. They do not work with metaphor; they do not moralize; they do not take a political stand. They do not show common sense, but that which comes after it. These pictures only ask what could be the next picture, the one following what is shown here. What comes after Desolation?