Standard of Repose

In the summer of 2018 a tornado ripped through the Metro East St. Louis region leaving a twisted and beautiful form in its aftermath. The energy that once coursed through this radio tower was released, transforming the upright steel structure into an open shell. The structure sat in an open field — sinking into the earth, anticipating a future of ruin.

 

In spite of its enormous weight and stretch, the radio tower and its surrounding environment went all but unnoticed. The mass of  fallen steel lay exposed, as vulnerable as a fallen beast. This archive documents the environmental conditions in this particular place. The evidence of climate change is felt in this field. 

 

This site— flanked by an auto salvage yard and the region’s largest landfill, and sandwiched between the Gateway Motorsport Track and the Granite City Steel Plant — expresses unmistakable irony. The human-made tower that embodied the force of steel and the transmission of invisible radio waves, was literally being swallowed by the earth. As the tower sank into the ground, it became part of that field and joined the arc and form of its surrounding landscape.

 

My creative process often involves regular and repeated visits to sites in transition. I photographed this fallen radio tower for a year and a half observing the changes in the structure and its relationship to the landscape. This passage of time and my return to a single place has provided an important marker - a cycle through seasons, experiences of weather, and a meditation on the creative process.

 

The presence of this fallen radio tower in the farmer’s field was as poetic as it was dangerous; its damaged form expressed both pathos and horror. To be physically in front of this massive structure was to feel the precariousness of our future- a future in which climate change and unpredictability literally shift the ground upon which we stand. 

Statement

Tower Grid, The Sheldon Art Galleries, 2020

© Jennifer Colten 2020