Thursday, 16 July 2009
Contrasting visions of the world existing below the streets of Chicago. The first is an idealised image of an anti-septic subway station interior. All imperfections are airbrushed away into oblivion in the linen postcard universe. Chicago’s subway sections date from the Forties and Fifties and are pictured here in pristine condition. The minimalist aesthetic of Donald Judd is pre-figured here. The second is a sinister image of the Illinois Tunnel Company network that carried freight underneath the downtown streets through tunnels that look as if they’ve been hewn from the rock by slave labour. The improvised electrical wiring adds to the sense of disquiet. The story is that the tunnels were originally conceived to carry telephone cables and the operator installed a narrow gauge rail network in secret. From 1906 to 1959 these miniature freight trains trundled round the city delivering goods that were brought to the surface via purpose-built elevators. In the 1960s the empty tunnels were prepared for use as fall-out shelters and in 1968 it is said that the Sheriff of Cook County was all for using them to lock up the radical riff-raff intent on disrupting the Democratic Convention. In the event the police did a very efficient job of bludgeoning and tear-gassing the demonstrators into submission thus denying us the spectacle of Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale, Abbie Hoffman et al being cast into the subterranean gloom.