Tanker Goddard’s haunting vision associated with urban decay, climate alter and gentrification

Reading Period: 2 minutes

Low-fi, from focus and garish, the particular resulting photobook is a dystopian portrait of our urban surroundings

The tightly cropped focus on the word horror, graffitied onto the medial side of an old building; the shadowy reflections of people inside an office viewed from the road below; a blurry image of a bat; a toppled car with two tower system blocks looming ominously in the background. These are scenes through Patrick Goddard’s photobook Pass away Biester – German designed for The Beasts – a dystopic visual essay exploring urban spaces, climate alter and gentrification.  

To describe the literal objects and details of these images would be to describe mundane aspects of contemporary urban living, where trash and decay exist alongside the routines of work and commerce. But , Goddard’s distinct aesthetic – usually low-fi, out of focus and garish – renders the strange beautiful and the beautiful strange.

The series can be found in London, and the story is really as much about our connection with nature as it is regarding urban space. The coarse and stark quality in order to Goddard’s photography suggests a sense of the forbidden, and no question. Many of the original images were taken in London Zoo, whenever Goddard broke in after hours. The promise of a zoo is to experience nature, yet in an artificial setting everything that we might hope to find – an animalistic freedom – is lost. What Goddard reveals is a link between cities ravaged by exploitation and how our ideas associated with nature might destroy the planet.

Goddard has made various other kinds of books before, which includes graphic novels and expensive fiction. His satirical artwork and writing focuses on metropolitan change, gentrification and ecology, often featuring animals, strange situations and a sense of chaos.  

Pass away Biester explores similar designs. In sequencing images of people, plants and animals, Goddard blurs the distinctions in between nature and the built atmosphere. On one spread, a figure of an animal’s cage potential clients into the scaffolding of a building site. In another, the thick gnarly trunk of a tree matches the rhythmic swirling smack of jellyfish. Across from an image of a man wearing a werewolf face mask, snarling dogs leap along with eerie white eyes.

Artwork about the Anthropocene often functions dramatic landscapes and great machines in juxtaposition, yet Goddard, whose PhD investigated the gentrification of East London, pays attention to the particular structures which shape everyday routine. Black humour abounds in his portrayal of pets and litter, and in their juxtaposition, he weaves a story about profit, prey and power. The result is a startling, interested and sensitive portrait from the wild around us plus within, one which unsettles the concept nature could ever end up being controlled.

Chris Hayes

Chris Hayes is a writer based between Ireland in europe and the UK. His creating on contemporary art and politics has been published by Art Monthly, frieze, Tribune and The White Review.

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