Syllabus: Where Does Decay Come From?


 In early 2023 I was invited by Julia Gunnison and Gillian Waldo, the publishers of Syllabus, to contribute a piece to their ongoing series of written and visual works. Gunnison and Waldo's project invites an expanded definition of the word "syllabus", using it as a framework for artistic or personal exploration. The project is described by its publishers as follows:

Syllabus was born from a conversation about discovery and learning. In discussing the ways that cultural artifacts travel through a society, we imagined how a syllabus could function as a creative tool that allows you to do things like:

i. present what you feel is important for others to experience or consume;
ii. group items together in ways that shade and refine their meaning;
iii. apply a conceptual or idiosyncratic approach to the syllabus form;
iv. develop rogue pedagogies.

 In August of 2023, I presented a syllabus titled Where Does Decay Come From?, combining firsthand learnings from Leave the Seat Empty and similar personal projects with key artifacts of research and advocacy that has shaped my view of Chicago's deeply unequal built environment. The goal was twofold: to break through some of the casual myths that observers tend to make about why physical structures are left to rot, and to equip readers with specific tools to investigate the recent histories of individual decayed properties. The syllabus features visual and written excerpts from several of my photo projects.