This is a project that has been on my mind for a long time. And I know that – if I don’t get it out there – it will never take off. Getting it out will also force me to start looking again...
Chile is a country of extreme contrasts and an extremely beautiful but also violent geography. The latter characteristic takes many shapes: volcanic eruptions, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis.
This violence reflects in the nature of the Chilean people – hospitable, resilient, inventive and aggressive – and in its urban landscape, marked by pollution, endless traffic jams and a remarkable lack of beauty. Not because it is not there, but because it is overwhelmed by the ordinary and obvious, the gross and grotesque.
Beauty appears not to be an issue in a country of miners and fishermen, where functionality comes before everything, let alone beauty.
After a while, one’s senses start to dull and then yield to these relentless visual attacks. Somewhere along the line, we all reach that unavoidable point where the mind just filters out everything, where we don't question anything anymore, however grotesque.
Once that happens, we simply stop "being"; we isolate ourselves from "seeing" and "feeling" the spaces that surround us, and – therefore – the people that we share them with...
This blog is dedicated to finding the things that are hidden in plain sight, the beauty and the anti-beauty, the things we don't want to see, and those we have forgotten how to see.
Wherever possible I have tried to preserve the beauty in the photography, to remind me that a beautiful experience may often come in the disguise of ugliness.
I am not quite sure what this is, but I think this used to be a small hydroelectric plant in the Maule River near the town of Colbún. In the mid eighties, it was replaced by a far bigger one, about 4,5 km up-river, to form the Colbún storage lake, the largest of this type in Chile.
We stumbled by accident on this location – literally covered with debris and garbage – and it took some serious Photoshop to reveal the sensation of abandonment and gloom that surrounds this epic monument to downfall.
Apart of architectural rape and the downfall of entire neighborhoods at the hands of the demolition mob, what most deteriorates our cities is the incessant action of the spraycan guerilla.
No burg, however fancy, escapes from the nonstop labor of ozone layer depleting youngsters, who come along at night, armed with the latest in aerosol technology.
We would not mind that much if they were only to have the slightest conception of taste. Unfortunately – just like Paulman – they don’t: no cause, no taste, no skill, no art, no nothing… Phallus symbols rule…
This one – however crude – is a humorous exception, reflecting on the boatloads of unknowing senior citizens who come off of the cruise ships to visit Valpaíso, once the most important port on the Pacific.
This is what's left of what was once a beautiful three-story building on Agua Santa, a very steep 2-way street leading from the foot-hills of the “Cordillera de la Costa” to the Valparaíso city center.
One can still appreciate the reminiscence of its glory days.
By now, it is being eaten away by rust, rot, infiltration and invaded by pigeons - the destructive, omni-present rats of the sky.
And nobody gives a rat's ass about it...
Which is a petty because soon enough another eight-story - ugly as hell - apartment building will take its place.
Sending yet another part of the port's glorious history into oblivion.
The Pukará de Quitor, located at about 3 km. NW of San Pedro de Atacama, is an archeological site dating back to the XII Century.
Pukaras – stone fortresses – are not an unusual sight in the Chilean north; however, this one is particularly well preserved.
Built entirely out of volcanic pumice stone, it sits at the intersection of two river valleys and is extremely well located to strategically oversee a large part of the surrounding areas.
Even though the Spanish “conquistadores” in their war against the Inca Empire may have their hand in the place’s downfall, it is modern day tourists that contribute most to its decline.
No matter the sort of control being exercised by the local Lican Antay allyú – which administers this location – it is the “don’t” signs that are littered all over the place that speak volumes…
Don’t run, don’t throw stones, don’t litter, and this one: don’t climb on walls. Hello???
In spite of the massive amounts of non-Spanish speakers coming through here, the absence of signs in English is conspicuous. Coincidence?
The Chilean bar owner in San Pedro de Atacama who gave us the tip to go and visit the petroglyphs at Yerbas Buenas and the nearby Rainbow Valley, added: “don’t tell the Chileans”.
When I asked him why, he just shrugged: “you will see why…”
At image center a 10.000-year-old petroglyph of a llama, covered with more recent updates by an unknown genius; I particularly like the sun drawn at the top left hand corner...
In Chile, if you don’t put a big fence around something, charge hefty entrance fees or place prohibition signs all over the place (see 0005), it can’t be worth much…
It’s like the story of two chilean students who went out to use their spray cans on the twelve-angle-stone in Cuzco, and thought they were defending themselves by saying that they did not know it was forbidden.
Unfortunately, this was not even close to the cuspid of ignorance in this episode.
The faux-pas by then chilean President Ricardo Lagos is legendary. He went out of his way to defend the morons: “they did not know that what they were doing was wrong...”. WHAT??????????????
As the French saying goes: "La bêtise humaine est la seule chose qui donne une idée de l’infini": Human stupidity is the only thing that gives an idea of the infinite.
This one is rather cute, even though I can't help wondering how the tree must have felt when someone drove a 3 inch nail into it.
Still, I guess that - in comparison with the brutal amputation of its right arm - it must have been a mere nuisance.
What makes this innocent in a charming way is the typo, because to my knowledge there is no language in the world where the word is spelled like that. In fact, in Spanish double consonants are extremely rare...
Still, it points to one of the more interesting and beautiful museums in Chile, which contains the large, once private collection of alleged arms dealer Carlos Cardoen.
But then, that's a whole different kind of ugly, isn't it?
If you ever happen to happen on Santa Cruz, make sure you don't miss the museum. It is not hard to find, even in the absence of funny road signs...
This is Santiago's patron saint: the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception. She measures 22 meters high and stands on Santiago's most dominant hill - Cerro San Cristóbal - at 880 meters above sea level.
Her white-glowing beauty can be seen from practically all over the city. Close-up, however, she is a rather different story.
When standing at her feet, this marvelous sculpture - cast in France in 1908 - is sharply contrasted by ugly light stands and hideous white-and-red antennas.
Could they really not have found some other place to plant these horrid contraptions, or am I the only one who thinks that this is visual sacrilege?
Meanwhile, she just spreads her arms and looks up to the skies as if to say: "Forgive them father, because they know not what they are doing".
Luckily for the thousands of visitors of San Cristobal's summit, the view of the city from up here is second to none. Especially at sunset and on (rare) clear winter days.
This picture is not nº 0001 because this is the number one ugly thing around here. Not by a long stretch; just wait and see.
It's here because the public debate around what is popularly known as "El Pico de Paulmann" - Paulmann's Dick - and the pertaining super-hyper-mega-mall has been raging, recently, because of a study by the Ministry of Transport.
It estimates that - once inaugurated - traffic in the 10-15 blocks surrounding it will roughly double.
In a business area where it already takes half an hour to just get out of the parking lot during rush hour, working anywhere near Horst's thingy will become nothing less than a living hell.
Thus, in a city where everything that's legal gets done because it can be done (or someone else will), do megalomaniacs like supermarket owner Mr. Host Paulmann ever wonder about the terrible impact they have on our public spaces and on other people's lifes?
Most probably not. That's why they're called megalomaniacs – or was it egomaniacs?...
The fact that something is legal does not make it necessarily ethical, as this humongous stiffy - or middle finger FU sign, if you will - rather eloquently demonstrates.