The Australian photographer Michael Corridore produced a haunting series of photographs titled ‘Angry Black Snake’ which puts into the question the notion of the spectacle. For this work Corridore traveled to outdoor events, many of them related to motor sport, to focus not as much on the actual event itself, but on the spectators observing the event. By doing so, Corridore already inverts a classic paradigm in photojournalism which tends to focus on the source of excitement rather than the people who have gathered to witness the excitement.
Engulfed in smoke from burnt out tyres or exhaust fumes, the spectators captured by Corridore are ostensibly caught in moments of looking. Yet because of the smoke, the object of their fascination is never entirely clear in the true sense of the word. This lack of clarity helps to create a very ambiguous body of work which interrogates the fascination in seeing something which is partially obscured. Inasmuch Corridore’s photographs deal with the spectacle (that which is visible), ironically, they also investigate a fascination with the invisible.
Corridore’s work strongly reminds me of the German word Schaulust – a compound noun which combines the words schauen (look, peer, glance … ) and lust which in this case also incorporates the notion of desire. Related to this, the word Schaulustige is quite specifically used to describe a gathering of people who come to observe the aftermath of traffic accidents or other tragic events. The word has negative connotations because it underlines the possibility that looking at a crash is, from a psychoanalytical point of view, equally submitting oneself to a subconscious lust. David Cronenburg’s classic film ‘Crash’ (1996) eerily sets out a scenario in which this lust can extend to the person actually involved in a crash.
Corridore’s photographs thus establishes a strong binary between a spectacle that is on one hand exciting, fun or perhaps beautiful, yet on the other, it appears also threatening, dangerous even hellish. Various people in the images hold their hands over their eyes, they seem to struggle in the smoke as they turn their backs to the race. One image shows a man bending down to talk to a little boy while in the background flames are rising. The power of Corridore’s photographs also originates from the fact that they are taken out of context: the spectator is actually removed from the spectacle. This decontextualization results in a set of photographs that are in, in their ambiguity and eerie beauty, spectacular in their own right.