Inciting a latent fluorescence
The video documents a visit to an alley listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The alley received this designation because it is a rare extant example of end grain wood paving. A 2011 restoration replaced most of the original creosote laden cedar pavers with black locust, selected for its intrinsic hardness and rot resistance. Incidentally, black locust also fluoresces under ultraviolet light. During my nocturnal visit, I ablated the oxidation and soiling from a few pavers to reveal a photoreactive surface while taking care not to gouge or mar the actual pavers It is a peculiar defacement exhibiting a conservational awareness and material dexterity incongruous with vandalism’s typically iconoclastic or indifferent demeanor. It follows core tenets of architectural preservation: removing soiling that will eventually induce rot, exacting no permanent damage, and it is reversible—the affected pavers have since re-oxidized and re-patinated such that they are indistinguishable from their neighbors. Inciting a latent fluorescence endeavors to simultaneously acknowledge the material culture of this early twentieth century infrastructure and wily engage some of the historically extraneous attributes introduced by the restoration. It models a historico-environmental disposition committed both to preservation and the enigmatic pleasures of alternate uses and interpretations that rote historicization often precludes.