What’s left after you’re gone? Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto seems to think the answer’s ‘not a whole lot’. His big black and white photos show abandoned cinemas, their screens captured with an ultra-long exposure, letting the light of a whole film pound through the lens. By the end, all that’s left is pure, brilliant, spectral white in the centre of each image.
He shows crumbling classical theatres, barren art deco stages, empty modernist cinemas, all haunted by that glowing shape. The images are a bit repetitive, maybe a even a little cheesy, but there’s an undeniably subtle beauty to them.
On the surface, these feel like works about the fleeting nature and death of cinema or culture, but there’s a broader, more human element here. These are places that people once inhabited, lived and loved in, and now they are nothing. The works are quite affecting in their untouched emptiness: those big rectangles of light are beacons of lost time in dead spaces. There’s a real sense of things being gone: life, memories, spaces, culture. It’s a morbid mausoleum to time’s passing, the ghostly images are photographic tombstones.
If that all sounds miserable, it sort of is. I didn’t leave with any sense of hope, I left mourning the past, sucked into the light and abandoned to nothingness. It's the bleakest use of cinema since 'The Emoji Movie'.