How many billboards?

Home-less paradise or brushfire tinder

Mar 24 2010

Winter and spring are LA’s best seasons. It’s still sunny and blue, but the air is cleaner and the hills are green. With everything in bloom, from fruit trees to wildflowers and grasses, right now is probably the annual apogee of the landscape’s natural fertility and un-irrigated lushness. For Angelenos, spring doesn’t matter that much in contrast to the winter it follows, but rather in contrast to the dry, hot summer it precedes.

Christina Fernandez’s Coldwell Couch billboard is the only one that speaks to the temporal specificity of How Many Billboards? by imaging the verdant present and anticipating the summer’s coming desiccation. Her time-lapse juxtaposition shows two different views of the same abandoned couch in an empty, overgrown lot ten months apart—one view green and wet, the other brown and dry. The abandoned couch she shot in her neighborhood, and the Coldwell Banker brokerage sign cropped in one of the photos, certainly brings up associations with the foreclosure crisis, the recession, and hollow housing developments. But as much as it represents social desperation and hard times, it also gestures to a kind of hopefulness built into in cyclical systems, relating the ebb and flow of the market to the growth and withering of the seasons. Conjoining the two dichotomous seasonal views, and matching up their horizon lines, also seems to echo a recent reconsideration in landscape architecture in which a micro-ecosystem’s entire seasonal range of growth and death is taken into account visually, planned for, and appreciated—green and brown alike.

Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer

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