Gregor Sailer traveled the globe photographing Potemkin villages, architectural landscapes that are clones, impostors or frauds.
The caption to the photograph reveals that this isn’t New York at all, of course, but Sweden: a life-size replica of Harlem in a forest in the west of the country, near Gothenburg. The asphalt and snow are real enough, but nearly everything else is fake. The streets are void of people and cars; the store fronts are life-size photographs, printed on canvas and hung on steel frames. Welcome to the Potemkin village: a place of clones, impostors, facsimiles, frauds. Maybe don’t plan to stay.....1
The Rencontres d’Arles photography festival offers plenty to tease and fool the eye, but “The Potemkin Village,” a project by the Austrian photographer Gregor Sailer installed in a former cathedral in the center of town, is arguably the most fraudulent of the lot. Notionally a set of architectural landscapes, shot in seven countries and three continents, it in fact exhibits places that are non-places, real estate that is also unreal (and surreal). The Swedish Harlem turns out to be a test track for self-driving cars. Why is it decorated as New York — rather than, say, Stockholm?
“I don’t know why they did that,” Mr. Sailer said with a shrug. “A little crazy.”