The rooms and stairwells here are deserted, dilapidated and overgrown. Human presence is a thing of the past and has made way for nature. Who once lived here, read books here, sat around the dinner table talking until late at night and went out through the door that is still standing open?
The photographs of Choki Lindberg (b. 1979, Copenhagen) evoke a sense of recognition. A variation of that wallpaper, those chairs or that desk lamp might be in your own home, or you could be familiar with them from other people’s homes. A perfectly ordinary setting placed outside of ordinary reality. For we seldom get to see a destroyed home in such detail; we generally knock such places down in order to make way for something new. Lindberg’s work gives you a peek at it, allowing you to absorb both the tragedy and beauty of decay.
When you look a little longer at these photographs, something about them seems a little odd. And then you realize that these are not real interiors of existing homes. Lindberg builds small-scale sets that she photographs. This gives her work a surrealistic touch. Despite the staging, however, she uses ‘real’ things as much as possible. ‘For the overgrowth, I look for very tiny plants that are convincing proportion-wise. When I make a miniature chair, I use the stuffing from the seat of an old armchair. And if I want a window to offer a view of the sea, I take my scale model to the coast and make the photograph there.’
The combination of the medium of photography and meticulously constructed settings gives a feeling of authenticity. We implicitly believe in the existence of these places, after which our imagination fills in the stories that go with them. The concentration demanded by the slow process of making a photograph – a reaction to today’s high-speed photography – is reflected in the concentration with which we examine it. Scanning a precisely furnished room with our eyes, we momentarily come to a standstill in a small world that could depict the present, the past or a near future; a world that is crumbling away as a result of some incident, or simply because of the ravages of time.
‘When a catastrophe happens elsewhere, we take comfort in the thought that it is far away, often in a poverty-stricken part of the world. But elsewhere can also be here, in the present or in another time. That’s why my photographs often have something timeless or nostalgic about them,’ says Lindberg. She is fascinated by the traces we leave behind as human beings. ‘I like to think of what the world will look like after humanity is extinct. That sounds melancholic, but there is also an aspect of beauty to it: decay is followed by renewal. When we are no longer around and what has been made by human hands gradually disappears, the strong will survive: the plants growing up between the boards of the parquet floor and the tree in the stairwell.’