From the Ritz to the Rubble

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Words Billie Jenkins Images courtesy of Antonio La Grotta

From the Ritz to the rubble, photographer Antonio La Grotta’s project Last Empire documents the decay of once glamorous Italian discotheques. Some look like a Euro equivalent of the Northern Soul dancehall, with the kitsch faux-swankiness that only crudely painted gilt and neon can create. The strongest sense the viewer gets from the collection is the falseness of it all, fake walls, hollow statues, bright lights and bold scenes that look silly in daylight and become farcical as the cheap paint peels away with the passing years. A pretend ship, moored in a field, captures the ridiculousness of the structures perfectly.

The project is a welcome and refreshing twist on the often tired subject of derelict spaces. Subtly undermining the cheap hedonism these building once housed, the images bring to mind the changing expectations of today’s revellers, and the dying old-fashioned ways of letting your hair down synonymous with places like Bolton and Blackpool here in the UK. It’s a welcome change, not least so in the future we can see more of how these spaces evolved after life has left them.

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