Urban Essays Series:
Each city has its ghost town and it is particularly noticeable these days how many derelict buildings and empty shop fronts there are. These places are metaphors for loss and abandonment and as such are haunted places. Sealed rooms and absent spaces are suffused with a disturbed sense of self, what Freud referred to as the unheimliche, the unhomely: something familiar which has become alienated through the process of repression.
The film Stalker was filmed in and around an abandoned power station and is suffused with a sense of the uncanny. Based upon the book Roadside Picnic, it depicts an expedition led by the guide, the Stalker, to bring his two clients, Writer and Professor, to a site known as the Zone. The Zone is a quasi-mystical restricted area, strewn with the relics of an undefined alien visitation, and at it’s heart is the room: a place of so-called miracles, which has the potential to to fulfill the visitor’s innermost desire. The ‘occurrence’ has transformed an otherwise mundane rural area, scattered with ruined buildings, into a place where the normal laws of physics no longer apply.
When entering these ‘Zones of Exclusion’, like Stalker but armed with camera and tripod, we stand at the threshold where the self is exposed and begins to dissolve. There is a realisation that these abandoned structures, awaiting demolition or radical renovation, are on the verge of a seismic upheaval and transformation. Stalking these heightened security zones, with a heightened awareness, one discovers that it is here that the best trinkets are often to be found.