The ancient myth of the ‘Potemkin village’, where Grigory Potemkin built façades depicting a thriving town along the Dnieper riverbank in order to impress Catherine II when she visited, is much like the fake shop façades that are used today.
The concept for the publication brings together a project, which looks at the imagery used on the street to conceal empty shops, houses and vacant plots of land in the United Kingdom.
In Northern Ireland fake shop fronts were applied to empty shops, which would be visible to world leaders driving past whilst on their way to the G8 meeting in Enniskillen in 2013. Tunbridge Wells in Kent had fake shop fronts applied before the Olympic torch passed through in 2012. Many other towns in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England have also seen computer generated façades of fruit and veg shops, cafes and a like, which sometimes depict people shopping, an open door welcoming you to enter, or dining tables ready to be used, but none of which you can enter as the real shop has closed as a result of the recession. You can visit the same coffee shop in Cheltenham and Belfast, the same knitting shop in Strood and Dungannon, and the same record shop in Chatham and Belfast.
The façade not only hides what is behind, which is seen as an unattractive sign of the financial times, the street becomes a stage set presenting us with a positive image, a masque, which changes the immediate landscape, they are designed in a way that we become blinkered; we are not supposed to notice the difference between what is real and what is not. The façades suggesting ‘your wedding shop here?’ are hopeful to bring investors to the town. Local councils have spent millions of pounds investing in these schemes, which come with mixed reaction from locals.
Most of the photographs in the project show the shop front in context, which in a lot of cases shows evidence of the economic times through the shops and banks which are to either side. It also shows the contrast of the pristine computer generated image of traditional shop front, against the building it is in, which is often falling down.
In my practice I am interested in all of these layers to the work; the fabricated; the illusion of what is real and what is not in construction and architecture; the dual nature of the façade; the image within an image; and how strange this action is, of putting a photograph of a thriving shop on the street.