Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber collaboratively produce detailed dioramas caught in the throws of natural or manmade chaos. From 2005 to 2015 the pair created a series titled The City, which imagined the post-apocalyptic interiors of abandoned violin shops, malls, and natural history museums. Empire, a follow-up suite of miniature scenes, serves as a companion to this series by looking at the same imagined future from an exterior point of view.
Nix and Gerber’s new scenes move away from a focus on water-damaged and rusty interiors to explore broad outdoor environments recently devoid of civilization. Scaffolding and bridges crumble as plants begin to poke back through cement cracks, subtle hints that nature has begun to reclaim its land.
“Empire presents a world transformed by climate uncertainty and a shifting social order as it stumbles towards a new kind of frontier,” the pair explain in a statement. “These places are eerily beautiful but also unsettling in their stillness and silence. Long ago, man entered the landscape and forced nature to his will. Once grand and emblematic of strength and prosperity, these landscapes now appear abused and in decay, and it is uncertain how they will continue to (d)evolve.”
Each labor intensive model can take up to 7 months to produce, which often means that Nix and Gerber will only finish two photographs a year. The handcrafted dioramas are built from cardboard, foam, and glue—impermanent supplies which are deconstructed and recycled after each shoot.
“I am afraid of what the future holds if we do not change our ways regarding the climate, but I am also fascinated by what a changing world can bring,” Nix told. “I think this is part of why we make the work we do, to try to reconcile these different attitudes.”
The pair will exhibit images from Empire at their upcoming show at Chicago-based Catherine Edelman Gallery from March 2 to April 28. You can see more of their miniature scenes from both The City and Empire on their Instagram and Facebook.