The past truly is a foreign country of which we in the present are only visitors. Nothing propels the mind back through that distance than the structures that remain or in some cases vanished that comprised the global exercise that was the World’s Fair. A sort of benchmark and national branding, the World’s Fair snakes into the past like dots signaling a snapshot in the technological and scientific achievements of the last 150 years.
The structures that composed the World’s Fair, which spanned the globe in date and location, were at once indicative of their time – and a kind of grandiose experiment in the possibilities of urban development. Some structures and their designers are justly world-renowned. Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion was a watershed in both interior and exterior design. The Eifel Tower soared above the Seine, a monument to France’s vitality and genius, only to be saved a few years after the fair by its reconstitution as a radio transmission tower.
More often than not, the structures did not remain. The World’s Fair was formatted like a giant advertisement, immediate, dramatic and generally transitory. Very little remained of Chicago’s famous White City and it is both the moribund structures and the ghostly absences that many left behind, that Brooklyn-based photographer Jade Doskow documents in her series. As Doskow writes in her artist’s statement, the series considers the footprint left by the fair and it’s relationship to the world that grew up around it “World’s Fairs were unique, spectacular cultural events from which one can glean worldviews that came into and out of vogue, the rise of industrialism, the rise of modernism, architectural trends and progress, and the hopes and dreams of each era.”
The stray remains of these grand pavilions testify to the divergent path the world took from the idealized humanity that the fair let us dream in. A world far darker and more uncertain, where technology turned against its creators – and civilization could look back down history, to the places it had once been.