I’ve never met a Bangkok this quiet – devoid of the hustle and bustle, the monotonous hum of vehicles, the faint smell of smog lingering in the air. I’ve never met a Bangkok where motorbike taxi drivers linger in their stations, idling, waiting in apprehensiveness for a customer; where roadside street stores don’t burst open with hungry lunchtime customers; where delivery drivers outnumber sit-in patrons.
And yet, can you ever truly hollow out a city?
Signs of life and normalcy exist even within the quiet: clothing still gets hung on lines; garbage bags still need collecting; restaurants still cook dishes that we all know and love. Even if I returned to a city that I had trouble recognizing, it didn’t mean that it was no longer the same city. People often tend to forget that we do not all have the luxury of self-isolating and self-quarantining in tumultuous times like this; for many, life has to go on. And life does go on, in the same cyclical cycles that it always has. Life grows; the absence of one thing sometimes leads to the flourishing of another.
In that sense, ‘Vacancies’ isn’t about true vacancies at all. Rather, it is about how perceived emptiness can sometimes actually be full of life, can still hold hints of existence and the what-once-was. Just like each individual photo is constrained in black, we too have become boxed into very selective views of our current world and lives. We’ve coloured in our blinkers, sometimes in bleaker shades than they should be. As I walked around the city creating this project, I came to realise this the most. That the memories of the city I love haven’t been lost – they’ve simply been put on a halt. The remains are still there but quieted, limited in their former capacities.
It simply waits for us to reach out once again, and press the amplify button.
About the Author: Athena Intanate is a freshman enrolled at Haverford College, Class of 2023. To access additional articles by Athena Intanate, click here: https://tonyward.com/nan-goldin/