More than a dozen love motels string up along a single inner-city highway full of car repair shops, gas stations and industrial parks in Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic. Some of the motels were designed to look like exclusive suburban communities, with small houses spread out along inner courtyards flanked by palm trees, while others look like regal palaces with majestic cupolas. The oldest motel was built in 2000, while the newest (Happy City) was built only five years ago, and most are owned and run by mainland Chinese businessmen.
At any give time dozens of couples are having intimate relations in each motel, yet everything occurs in total privacy and anonymity. The motels are specifically designed to keep people from seeing and being seen, and thus there is never any interaction between guests and staff or guests and guests. Cars, many with tinted windows, pull off the highway and into an unoccupied garage, the garage door descends and the couple leaves the car without anyone seeing them. This invisibility allows people of all sexual persuasions to use these gigantic love motels as their own private pleasure palaces. Although the sexual activity is always out of sight, loud music is to be heard coming from all directions, often accompanied by loud groans or shouts.
The photographs, taken at dawn or dusk and without any people in frame, are intended to accentuate the emptiness of this architecture of desire, leaving it to the viewer to imagine what goes on behind the closed doors. Like love motels, people tend to spend only a couple of hours in a museum, and both of these transitory spaces are designed to stimulate people’s imagination in a fantasy setting. By placing photographs within a sexual setting devoid of sexual images and activity, the photographs become the objects of desire.
Happy City consists of twenty large-scale framed photographs of Dominican love motels arranged within an installation that recreates a room in one of these love motel. The installation consists of a bed, sofas, a large mirror on the ceiling and others on the walls. The public is encouraged to lie down on the bed and sofas in order to relax and view the photos.
Kurt Hollander is originally from New York City but has been living in Mexico City for over twenty years. He is a writer, literary translator, filmmaker and photographer. He was the editor of Poliester, a contemporary art magazine of the Americas, from 1993-2000, and is the author of Sonora: The Magic Market (RM 2008) and El Super (RM 2006), photo-books on popular Mexican culture. He wrote and directed Carambola (2005), a feature film pseudo-documentary on the world of three-cushion billiards. Kurt has written for the London Guardian, Guernica, The Ecologist, Salon and Letras Libres. His autobiography, Several Ways to Die in Mexico City (with 32 pages of photographs of death in the city), was published by Feral House in 2012.
A Photography Exhibition by Kurt Hollander
From February 8th to April 14th, 2013
Museo de la Ciudad
Guerrero 27 Norte
Querétaro, Qro. 76000
Tel / Fax +52 (442) 224.3756, 212.4702, 212.3855