Ponte City (2)

February 7, 2010By Heidi EllisonArchive

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Paris Update Le Bal Ponte-City 17

Michael Subotzky & Patrick Waterhouse, Ponte City, 2008-2013 © Magnum Photos

The current show at Le Bal (6, Impasse de la Défense, 75018 Paris; tel.: 0033 1 44 70 75 50), a lively photo exhibition space with a specialist bookshop and a trendy British café, is “Ponte City: Autopsy of an Architectural Dream in South Africa (1975-2013),” an examination of the life and times of a round 54-story tower in Johannesburg by Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. Built in the era of apartheid in 1971 as a residence and shopping mall (a newspaper headline at the time read: “Live in Ponte – and never go out”) for well-off whites, it went through many transformations and ended up a refuge for poor blacks. The photographers spent five years studying it from every angle, past and present, and created a sort of collage that includes posed portraits of residents; fleeting glimpses of them shot through dingy windows as they go about their business; promotional materials and newspaper articles about the building documenting different phases in its history; and more. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the show is the material gathered from abandoned apartments – letters, official documents, etc. – that form accidental biographies, of a young man who had fled the brutality of the war in the Congo, for example, and was seeking political refuge in other countries. Heidi Ellison


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