(A WORK IN PROGRESS)
A multi-media experimental project challenging its author to face her etrenal fears of a collapsing world. From the tightening grip on human rights and freedoms to the devastation of our natural environment, lone journalist Malgorzata "Maggie" Padlewska reveals a deeply personal and intimate struggle through a body of work triggered by the world-altering reality that has been visibly, and now more tactically, unfolding around the globe since January 2020. Set in the grim and deserted back alleys of the once vibrant Siem Reap, Cambodia, she finds solace and confronts the darkness that haunts her through a purposely imperfect, rugged and twisted series of still and moving iand now mre tactically mages through which she channels, allows for and urges her own self-reflection and expression.
"State Your Name." ©Maggie Padlewska
"In my darkest moments of the past 20 months, I unexpectedly found solace in the most improbable of places. Roaming the eery network of tiny back alleys in central Siem Reap, now void of their usual flurry of human activity, I imagined a world that allowed me to confront my profound concerns and fears for the future of our natural world."- M. Padlewska
Siem Reap, Cambodia. (NOT PART OF "UTOPIA'S FALL" COLLECTION) ©Maggie Padlewska
When international tourism was abruptly halted in early 2020, few people anticipated the severity and duration of the grim period that would follow in a city almost entirely devoted to hosting and catering to millions of visitors from around the globe.
The bustling and vibrant streets of Siem Reap, Cambodia (the gateway city to the world heritage site Angkor Wat), suddenly went silent. Reluctant but with few feasible and rational options, most business owners closed their doors and the majority of the local population became unemployed - thrusting an already vulnerable society even deeper into poverty and despair.
At its core, Siem Reap consists of a small grid marked by its famed Old Market, tuktuk drivers and French colonial buildings all connected by a tight network of main and little back alleys formerly lined with tropical fruit and trinket vendors, artists and artisans, boutiques, exotic barkeepers and creative restauranteurs, and foot-feasting fish swimming around in tanks at the entrances of $8/h massage parlours. It was a vibrant and fascinating microcosm of its own - that became eerily dark not long after the outbreak of the global COVID-19 scenario.
The people and charming little alleys that once inspired and fed Padlewska's blissful imagination, suddenly morphed into what resembled a grim scene reminiscent of a ghost town and a late 1970s apocalyptic film set that terrified her in her youth.
Since the grinding halt of tourism to Siem Reap in March 2020, and its subsequent impact on her much admired and beloved community, Padlewska roamed the core's deserted and dusty alleys alone with her camera as she tried to make sense of the devastating reality unfolding within her host community, and around the world.
"I've dedicated my life to documenting and sharing the observations, thoughts, concerns and stories of others. If I don't allow myself this moment, I'll continue to fall deeper beneath the weight and sadness that I carry on my shoulders."- M. Padlewska
Finding herself alone, thrust to the brink of depression by constant reminders of the devastating human and social toll of a dubious pandemic, Padlewska steps into a very real but imaginary world. In its eery stillness, she immerses herself in her quest for answers through a visualization of her deepest fear for the existing world: a grim industrial and tightly monitored world void of movement, rights and freedoms, and nature.
By altering her perspective and the structural world around her, she interprets and projects her deepest thoughts through the images she captures in Siem Reap's lifeless back alleys. The following is a brief sample/overview of the first of two chapters of this project.
PART 1: Concentration of Power
"Lockdown" is a flipped photograph of the forsaken lockers once used by the staff of a formerly thriving restaurant in the heart of city's most popular entertainment district. Representing the unwillingly unemployed, many left to fend for themselves and their families with little or no support for nearly two years, Padlewska sees an enforced burial, grievance and the mourning of dreams, stability and financial security for the countless people who lost their jobs, catering to others, in the service industry.
"Enter." ("UTOPIA'S FALL" COLLECTION) ©Maggie Padlewska
"Lockdown." ("UTOPIA'S FALL" COLLECTION) ©Maggie Padlewska
PART 2: Manufactured Environment
In the following two images, Padlewska tackles her fear of a manufactured human existence sealed off from the outside world where plant and animal life no longer exist in their natural environment. Having caused irreversible damage to our planet, humans now live in reinforced steal and concrete structures with strict climate controls in order to survive. Steal pipes pump and circulate filtered air, while food is grown in manmade industrial "Greenhouse" spaces.
"Greenhouse 1." ("UTOPIA'S FALL" COLLECTION) ©Maggie Padlewska
"Greenhouse 2." ("UTOPIA'S FALL" COLLECTION) ©Maggie Padlewska
Part 3: Coercion & Mass Control
Horrified by the increasing suffocation and control of populations by governments around the globe, Padlewska confronts the notions of mass surveillance, the loss of personal freedoms of expression, movement, privacy and body, as well as censorship, coercion and the very real but masked impacts of state-sponsored propaganda.
Found abandoned in a deserted alley, Padlewska morphs an old sewing machine table into an instrument of mass control. Envisioning the terrifying world where every step and human movement is tightly monitored; one is measured and meticulously scanned with their lips sealed (sewn) if they deemed to have misspoken. Padlewska adds video to "State Your Name." to emphasize the trajectory in which the world is currently heading (featured above) as interpreted through her past to reflect the digital scanners being deployed around her at this very moment.
"State Your Name." ("UTOPIA'S FALL" COLLECTION) ©Maggie Padlewska
"Thus far this project has allowed me to step out of my usual production realm, where I come face to face with an imaginary world that is in fact to me fully representative of what's currently unfolding around the globe. While it is technically flawed (for a reason) and remains a work in progress through which I will explore the resolve, I can ultimately only hope that humanity seriously rethinks its current trajectory."- M. Padlewska
"Workstation." ("UTOPIA'S FALL" COLLECTION) ©Maggie Padlewska
"Dormitory." ("UTOPIA'S FALL" COLLECTION) ©Maggie Padlewska
TITLE: "Utopia's Fall" (explained)
I was born into this world long after historic ideological wars had raged, where countless battles for justice, respect and democracy were established in our increasingly intertwined global community..but in fact, from my modest perspective, little has changed. Our species is a poster child of destruction, driven by its inherent motivation sense of supremacy -from the lines draw in the sand to mark off its territory, to the