Lukas Korschan’s debut publication explores the homogeneous, in-between spaces of modern life

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Nowhere Anywhere Everywhere considers the idea of ‘non-places’, a term coined by the French anthropologist Marc Augé

A harshly lit airport lounge interspersed with signage and a TV screen, a cramped subway car filled with people staring at their phones, steely escalators that could lead to anywhere; the images in Lukas Korschan’s debut book Nowhere Anywhere Everywhere are eerily familiar and yet difficult to distinguish. The spaces he captures are examples of what French anthropologist Marc Augé refers to as ‘non-places,’ impersonal locations that humans pass through anonymously.

Our world is populated with these featureless, in-between spaces that are designed to herd people in and out as efficiently as possible – unless they’re primed for shopping. For Korschan, who spent an inordinate amount of time travelling for work prior to Covid-19, these sleek and sterile environments became compelling sites for visual research. “Being in these non-places, where it’s quite hard to find something beautiful, helped me, personally, become more attentive,” explains the photographer, who is based between Berlin and Amsterdam. “Sometimes, if I had a layover, it was like a form of meditation for me. I’d walk around the airport and just observe how people use these spaces and move through them so differently.”

Transit Area. 2020 © Lukas Korschan.

In his 1992 book Non-places: An Introduction to Supermodernity, Augé reflects that non-places are “spaces in which neither identity, nor relations, nor history really make any sense; spaces in which solitude is experienced as an overburdening or emptying of individuality, in which only the movement of the fleeting images enables the observer to hypothesize the existence of a past and glimpse the possibility of a future.”

Korschan introduces this sentiment, which resonates with him, at the beginning of Nowhere Anywhere EverywhereThe photographs that follow were shot over five years in numerous cities worldwide, including Moscow, Berlin, Dubai, Yokohama, Istanbul, Cusco, Cape Town, Nakapiripirit, and Miami. A long list on the publication’s back pages identifies the specific location of each image. And yet, collectively, they appear as if they could have been taken in one place. The architecture, colour palettes, lighting, texture of materials, and signage all seem to speak the same, bland language.

When Covid-19 hit, Korschan was forced to remain in one place. He was locked down in Amsterdam, prompting him to make an image edit for the photobook. “At that point, the idea of moving around fluidly to all these places around the world felt so abstract,” he recalls, “I saw the images in a different light and they almost felt like relics from another time.”

While documenting non-places, Korschan began thinking about how Augé’s idea could extend to how people inhabit public spaces when they’re consumed by their phones. There’s an image of a boy sitting on a curb hunched over his screen, completely absorbed by it, which is exemplary of this. “For me, being on your phone and zoning out of the physical world is also a kind of non-place,” he explains. “You could be anywhere, but that experience of being hooked to a screen is the same wherever you go.”

Nowhere Anywhere Everywhere reflects on the uniformity and loneliness of non-places, but also points to the possibilities of beauty and humour in these ordinary surroundings. Korschan’s photographs flit between portraits of soulless environments, frames of fleeting intimacy, and close-up shots of unexpected poetry. Seen through his eyes, mundane scenes are animated by a curious life of their own. His images show us that there can be slivers of intrigue and delight even in these bleak spaces of transit, if only we take a moment to look around on our way to the next destination.

Nowhere Anywhere Everywhere is published by ARTCO Gallery