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Book Review: Due to Lack of Interest Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled


Book Review Due to Lack of Interest Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled By Sanne Peper Reviewed by Adam Bell The myths and symbolic allure of the American South are both seductive and fertile, but can also be a trap. The wellspring for novelists like William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor as well as other artists, the Southern landscape is steeped in a dark and troubled history that often clouds its more nuanced reality, leading to easy caricature.
Due To Lack Of Interest Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled
By Sanne PeperLecturis, 2015.
 
Due To Lack Of Interest Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled
Reviewed by Adam Bell

Due To Lack Of Interest Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled
Photographs by Sanne Peper
Lecturis, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, 2015. In English. 168 pp., color and black-and-white illustrations, 8x10¾x½".


The myths and symbolic allure of the American South are both seductive and fertile, but can also be a trap. The wellspring for novelists like William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor as well as other artists, the Southern landscape is steeped in a dark and troubled history that often clouds its more nuanced reality, leading to easy caricature. Sanne Peper's Due to Lack of Interest Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled is hard to describe as a traditional photobook. Instead, it seems more apt to view the work as the marginalia of a bewildered and obsessed amateur folklorist pursuing the visions and dreams of a South outlined in fiction, film, and song. Plagued by doubts and possessed by the exotic allure of the region, Peper foregrounds her naïveté and foreignness in the confessional texts throughout the book while also expressing her amazement at a culture so radically different from her own. Combining landscape imagery with textual fragments, Peper’s book explores both the layered mythology of the American South but also her own obsession. However, instead of answers, we're lead through the swamp and forced to gaze into the impenetrable thicket of kudzu and Spanish moss. The answers aren't there; instead we're driven back to the source of Peper's inspiration — the vital cultural outpouring of a complex, strange and beautiful place.

Due To Lack Of Interest Tomorrow Has Been CancelledBy Sanne PeperLecturis, 2015.

Although Peper admits her tendency to pursue the stranger elements of what's often described as the Southern Gothic, she rarely moves beyond the surface other than to express her admiration for the people and places she visits and paternalistic platitudes about rural Southern poverty and religion. To her credit, the images themselves do not feel exploitative and if anything serve as an opaque theatrical backdrop for her obsession. Fortunately, Peper is aware of her bias and confesses it regularly. As she writes in the epilogue, “I want to stress that all things I’ve written so far are nothing but personal observations, derived from my subjective and biased, leftish, secular European education and background.” Her idiosyncratic voice becomes one more layer to a tangled mythology that is not easily disclosed and often leads one astray.

Due To Lack Of Interest Tomorrow Has Been CancelledBy Sanne PeperLecturis, 2015.
Due To Lack Of Interest Tomorrow Has Been CancelledBy Sanne PeperLecturis, 2015.

Despite all the personal stories and the varied visual riches of the South, the book is predominantly a landscape book. Images of swamps and kudzu fill the pages and various chapters of the book. Spanish moss hangs from trees, old shacks seem on the verge of collapse, rusted cars sink into the rich soil, and hand-painted signs are pulled down by the weight of vines. Bookending the chapters and images are lists — lists of potential titles, lists of quotes, lists of towns and states visited, and lists of books and films on the American South. The lists situate Peper's work in a long tradition and imbue it with associative meaning, inviting us to dive deeper into a rich cultural tradition. Although people do appear in some images, they most often appear in the stories and anecdotes Peper recounts throughout the book. (There is also a great short story entitled “Glossolalia” by the musician Jim White.) If Peper employs the clichés of Southern Gothic in her pictures and in her stories, she does so in order to deconstruct them as an illusion and part of her own obsessive and clichéd vision of the South. The Southern landscape of her images is a theatrical backdrop in which the stories, signs and people briefly appear to give color and substance to the story only to quickly disappear, leaving their lingering traces.

Due To Lack Of Interest Tomorrow Has Been CancelledBy Sanne PeperLecturis, 2015.
Due To Lack Of Interest Tomorrow Has Been CancelledBy Sanne PeperLecturis, 2015.

The book is organized into seven chapters dated from 2008 to 2014, which correspond to Peper’s numerous visits. Entitled “2010 – Violence / Nostalgia (Fear of Future) or “2011 – Mortality / Thanatophobia (Fear of Death),” the slightly overwrought and ominous titles underscore Peper’s assertion that the work “deals with the universal fear of dying and our desire to understand and bridge the gap between ourselves and the unknown.” While this might be true with much of Southern Gothic genre, the book is much more about Peper’s search for an elusive and mythic South. We catch glimpses of it and hear about it in the stories she tells, but it always seems out of reach and found elsewhere.

Peper’s obsession led her to the American South at least seven times. It was a search kindled by a vision of the South portrayed in a literature and culture that had long captivated her and a landscape that compelled her to return again and again. If Peper’s narratives are full of characters straight from a Flannery O’Connor story, it is important to recognize Peper is also such a character herself. Myths need storytellers, but also retellers. They defy easy investigation and explanation, and must be recast and rediscovered if they are to remain alive. If Ppper set out to find the heart of the American South she so clearly loves, she quickly realized it was an elusive goal. With each trip, Peper has instead added to the layered narratives, inserted herself in the story, and led us into the thicket.—Adam Bell


ADAM BELL is a photographer and writer. His work has been widely exhibited, and his writing and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including AfterimageThe Art Book ReviewThe Brooklyn RailfototazoFoam MagazineLay Flatphoto-eye and Paper-Journal. His books include The Education of a Photographer and Vision Anew: The Lens and Screen Arts. He is currently on staff and faculty at the MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department at the School of Visual Art. (www.adambbell.com and blog.adambbell.com)


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