Taking more than 300 photographs over the course of two weeks from the top of one of Liverpool’s landmark buildings, the St John’s Beacon (Radio City tower), Yuan Goang-Ming produced a large-format, high-resolution digital film depicting the urban landscape. Seen from a high angle, distinctive architecture, street layout, lights and signs clearly mark the place as the city centre of Liverpool. But the silence of the scene is strangely disconcerting and it becomes quickly apparent that there is something wrong: every vestige of human presence has been painstakingly removed by Guang-Ming. No cars, no people, just an empty urban landscape – an incomplete city, a city disqualified.
Is it possible for a city to function in any way without its cast of players? Advertising, for example, a particular set of symbols, relies on its viewers; it has no function without the potential to communicate the desire for some product or (un)necessary consumable. Without us the language of advertising, and adverts themselves become redundant, disempowered. Guang-Ming is fascinated by failure, and in removing the human element from a city proves that it is our presence that gives a city its life. While Danny Boyle’s recent success with his cult film 28 Days Later shows us the empty city as a signifier of apocalyptic disaster, Guang-Ming’s empty city is a powerful statement of the need for our continued survival.