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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Bury Your Car


Car buried in ground in Vegas desert: photo by Brian McGann, 20 April 2003

Buried cars at Cadillac Ranch, near Amarillo, Texas
: photo by Chip Lord, 1974 (via Ant Farm's Cadillac Ranch)

File:Vegas desert.jpg

Shopping cart abandoned in desert near Las Vegas, Nevada: photo by Rien Post, 2001

Dumped TV near Apeldoorn, The Netherlands: photo by Apdency, 1 March 2011

Smashed cell-phone LCD: photo by Adam Engelhart, 25 September 2006

Fragment of discarded circuit board: photo by Guinnog, 30 January 2011

China Recycling #9: Circuit Boards, Guiyu, Guangdong Province: photo by Edward Burtynsky, 2004 (Edward Burtynsky Photographic Works)

Shipbreaking #10, Chittagong, Bangladesh: photo by Edward Burtynsky, 2000 (Edward Burtynsky Photographic Works)

Shipbreaking #30, Chittagong, Bangladesh: photo by Edward Burtynsky, 2001 (Edward Burtynsky Photographic Works)

Shipbreaking #31, Chittagong, Bangladesh: photo by Edward Burtynsky, 2001 (Edward Burtynsky Photographic Works)


departuredelayed said...

There is, it seems to me, something altogether more striking, visually at least, about the physical decay of things that have never actually lived but nevertheless required life. Maybe it is because that in their decay there is no such requirement. The upkeep of ruins, for this reason, has always struck me as painful and more tragic than the ruination itself.

TC said...


Yes, it's curious, this odd transference of the agency of feeling to the "dying" object from the ostensibly living subject. A pathos that's like a short pier traversed by a blind man, who never knows when the trip's going to stop short and plunge him into bathos pure and simple.

Five years ago the phenomenon of cell phone burials began to crop up all around the globe. The element of sympathetic magic in all this was impossible to miss.

From a BBC News report of 29 March 2006:

Handsets get taken to the grave

More people than ever are asking to be buried or cremated with their mobile phones when they die, say researchers.

The trend, which began in South Africa, has now spread to a number of countries, including Ireland, Australia, Ghana, and the US.

Martin Raymond, director of international trend-spotting think-tank, The Future Laboratory said that this had started off "in the realm of the urban myth", but was fast becoming fact.

"You hear about it, the idea that people are being buried with their mobile phones, but you can't really believe it," he told the BBC World Service's Culture Shock programme.

He explained that the first cases of people asking to be buried with their phone originated in Cape Town, where some people's belief in witchcraft meant they feared that "they could fall under a spell, be put to sleep and actually be buried.

"In fact, they were asking for the phones to be put into the coffins with them in case they woke up."

Limelight funerals

Mr Raymond said that in Australia the trend was more about affluence.

"People wanted to be buried with the totems that they felt represented their lifestyle," he explained.

"We came across one guy who asked to be buried with his mobile phone and his Blackberry, and also with his laptop."

He added that in many cases, being buried with your phone is part of what he termed limelight funerals, people wanting to be buried like celebrities.

The phone is put in the coffin along with diamonds, jewellery, expensive suits, and gold watches.

In some places, however, the practice has parallels with a much more distant time, as being buried along with one's possessions can be traced to ancient Egypt.

In the days of Tutankhamen it was done because they believed literally that the objects would be available to them in the afterlife.

However, in modern times some people are finding they like the idea of being buried with the things that defined them while they were alive.

departuredelayed said...

Plenty of time finally to finish Angry Birds, I suppose.

TC said...

Even in the Underworld there may be Green Pigs.

Nin Andrews said...

It always amazes me when I'm walking in the woods somewhere, seemingly far from a road, and I come across a couch or an old dishwasher or . . . .

At car graves, I imagine years later the archeologists coming and saying there was some kind of worship going on, maybe the cars were supposed to fly the people to the stars or carry them into the afterlife or yeah, whatever.



Great photos -- where does it all end? (in the ground somewhere, it seems -- "in which it" ). . .


light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, song sparrow calling tchep tchep
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

painting continued, present
verbal description of

what matters here, far from
form, but in which it

white cloud in blue of sky above ridge,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

Barry Taylor said...

I'm trying to work out what's different in my response to the car-printed circuit-TV images, and then the broken ships. I think it's something to do with too many pre-packed contemporary resonances lining up in readiness behind the former: too readily pressing my eco-conscious, anti-capitalist pre-sets. For some reason, the dead ships and mudflats bypass all that and transport me straight to somewhere less knowable and more unsettling. Something to do with scale, monumentality, sublimity? Strandedness, the withdrawal of their proper element? Looking at that amazing first image, I get the feeling that rust might be the key, the way it submits the inorganic to something that has the feel of organic decay and disease. Which means maybe that I can conscript the ships into the order of suffering. So I feel sorry for them, lend them a pathos, in a way I can't for the circuits and the autos. Well, whatever it is, those ships are getting to me.

vazambam said...

Gee whiz, I thought we Greeks had a monopoly on redistributing the wealth of garbage that has made our lives so rich in material things--going so far as permitting us to be a couch potato even while sitting in the lap of nature.

vazambam said...

re the above link: search "trashing the idyllic"

TC said...

Vassilis, "leave the trash there / to rot" is about the only solution, I reckon. But as with plutonium (&c.), electronics take such a damned long time to rot. We'll be compost, they'll still be here.

As Steve says/asks, "where does it all end? (in the ground somewhere...)". Or in the air, or in the water...

And speaking of...

Barry, I think I understand the feeling. About stranded, grounded, abandoned, broken, dismantled vessels.

With each day now, fresh barnacles of perverse attachment fasten themselves upon the rusting, corroded hulks of shipwrecked... memories, did I almost say?

There is something so haunting in these images:

The American Star

The Pasha Bulker

No cell phone death and burial rite could ever similarly haunt the imagination, I don't think.

Making this post took my thoughts in several scattered directions.

Bury Your Military Weapons in the Proving Ground (Trying-Works), was one long dark blind desert valley:

Richard Misrach: Bravo 20, 1986

The store of fact and fable re. humans wishing to transport their material life-cargo beyond the grave is of course almost as long as the histories of civilizations, from Tutankhamen & Co. on down.

What a busy scene it must have been at the sites of the Norse ship burials.

Perhaps simulated here:

Siemiradzki: Funeral of Russian noble, c 945 AD (1883).

Sutton Hoo ship was at least a real ship, made of wood.

But the real Viking heavy hitters seem to have gone down to eternity in goods-laden stone ships

"You can't take it with you" is the truest of old adages.

So what would you take?

I couldn't take my cell phone, Blackberry or laptop, as I've never owned any of those storied devices.

Certainly no Nokia could ever match the sheer perdurable glitter of these grave goods of a Norse "pagan priestess" (found in present-day Sweden).

TC said...

Oh, and every time I hear an American express his/her displaced anger into a call for another one of those violent aerial expeditions into the Valley of the Shadow of Death -- next time Iran, one keeps hearing -- I can't help remembering the burnt-metal-and-tissue-trash-trail left behind, on that previous occasion, by The Commanders.

Speaking of cheap burials.

TC said...


"...the archeologists coming and saying there was some kind of worship going on."

Yes, that fits.

departuredelayed said...

Tom, I just came across some fabulous photos of an "airplane grave" in the Mojave Desert, and knew that I had to share.

TC said...


Those pictures are phenomenally ghostly. The noses of the planes veiled, as by nylon stockings... spooky.

There popped into the memory scan a perfectly bad yet curiously interesting awful tv miniseries, The Langoliers.

Interdimensional meatballs attack a jet liner on the runway of Stephen King's local airport.

Always good to keep the extra-dimensional activity in one's own back yard.