Noritaka Minami’s aerial photographs of the failed urban project of California City in the Mojave Desert are quietly devastating. Purposefully using high-ISO film that shows grain even at low enlargement, his images of a planned city — mostly a network of uninhabited roads — are pale planes of dots and lines. The images conjure up the Peruvian Nazca lines, military surveillance networks, the geometric abstraction of Dutch de stijl art and the empty West of Ed Ruscha’s 1963 “Twentysix Gasoline Stations” series.
The grain of the film merges with desert shrubs that dot the land with a similar frequency to the clusters of silver formed by the film development process. In other words, it’s easy to confuse the medium of visualization with the territory itself.
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