CREEPING DECAY

It is worth noting I suspect, that “the creeping decay of the American South,” that describes the subject matter of Eggleston by Agnés Sire in The Invention of a Language is still accurate in a way by which we could describe a South more contemporary than Eggleston’s. The banality of strip malls newer than the ones shot by Eggleston in the late-sixties and early-seventies have been replaced by perhaps even more banal strip malls now and added to them, large chain stores that could be found anywhere in the country. But isn’t that just it? Isn’t the banal so painfully normal that we ask what happened to the South we knew? Perhaps the South we knew is just a romanticized nostalgia. Perhaps we remember not that which was there, but what the likes of Eggleston and our effort to make the past prettier has made historically real. Ever since reconstruction, the South among many things has been good at in particular: continuing to be what everyone thinks it is not. From Greek architectural facades on the porches of antebellum style homes suggesting a heritage other than the one we knew so shamefully yet proudly, to multiple locations of McDonald’s in the same town or the ubiquity of Wal-Mart and Home Depot. This is the South that Eggleston recognized as Southern aesthetic. And with the passing of every new generation the same that Eggleston said then will likely be said again, “what was new back then was shopping centers [.]” Although not solely defined by shopping centers of course, the American South however thusly, is perpetually creeping towards decay over and over again, manifest by the normalcy of change.

<< BACK