Storefront for Art and Architecture
Sarah Herda / 18|7|2002
EndCommercial® documents impromptu strategies of making ends meet in the contemporary city. Both an index and a story of urban phenomena and street life, this project portrays usually marginalized but ubiquitous objects and patterns that define the city’s behavior and structure. This selection of over 1000 photographs is an inventory of the overlooked, organized into a multivalent classification system. Florian Böhm, Luca Pizzaroni and Wolfgang Scheppe have extracted Endcommercial® from their project Digital Slum, a body of ongoing photographic research that includes over 60,000 digital photos taken of cities on a daily basis since 1997.
The widespread availability of digital technologies for consumer markets has radically increased the capacity for mass digital-image production, storage and dissemination. This potential for unlimited image proliferation drives the Digital Slum both conceptually and physically. For one aspect of the project, Böhm, Pizzaroni and Scheppe have focused on amassing images of cities around the world through a daily practice of taking photos and publishing them on the web. Using the camera as a digital notebook, they record singular elements from the barrage of sensory information in the city. This array of informal and empirical photographs demonstrates the distinction between an unconscious visualization of singularities and an intelligent perception of generality. Within this expanding visual dictionary, reoccurrences and types emerge, suggesting patterns and structure in the seemingly chaotic urban flux.
Endcommercial® is a representative taxonomy of these urban elements. Drawing on different methods of scientific classification, these typologies are ordered into a hierarchical system of three main categories, nine subcategories and 32 chapters. Though the structure of
classification appears rigorous, and is illustrated with a diagram that resembles the periodic table, the content of the categories is often poetic or open ended. While the main categories are general concepts System, Order and Identity the chapters illustrate a higher level of both specificity and whimsy A Barrier (A is for Barricade: Control); Misspelling (Instant Corporate Identity: Dysfunctional Speech Act) and Street Vendors (Trade Route: Commerce), etc. The subjective nature of some of these categories also suggests the possibly of infinite recategorizations and reinterpretations of the original data.
Although, New York was the primary site of research for Endcom-mercial®, this lexicon of images illustrates phenomena that could exist anywhere: folding tables and blankets become temporary shops for street vendors, plastic bags indicate broken parking meters and empty shops anticipate future development. Through empirical and visual means, EndCommercial® unveils the contradictions and co-existence of different social and economic forces shaping urban life.