The Abyss ( Avgrunden ) - by Jan Jörnmark and Annika von Hausswolff

Photo © Annika von Hausswolff

The Abyss
…is a book and a series of exhibitions that deals with the effects of globalization. It has been created by Jan Jörnmark, who holds a Ph D in Economic History. He wrote several books about industrial transformation and globalization, before he started to photograph in 2005. 

He created a web-site which used photographs of abandoned buildings in order to communicate about globalization. The site grew into several successful books during 2007-2009. The ABYSS project started in 2010, and the book is being released on 28 October 2011. He has collaborated in this work with Annika von Hausswolff.

More about the book "Avgrunden"

Up to the early 1960s, the world was dominated by a small number of Western nations. Then, a process of rapid change started, as several East Asian nations industrialized. The entrants used innovative and pioneering technologies in other to transform a large number of industries. 

A large number of industrial crisises’ upset the traditional economic order during the 1970s and 1980s, as steel, textiles, shipyards and coal industries collapsed when they were confronted with new competitors.

Technologically, digitalization was the most important breakthrough during the period. Information markets were affected by digitalization during the 1960s, but the ability to digitalize the capital markets during the 1970s was even more important. 

As a consequence, the turnover on the stock exchanges increased by a factor of more than 1000.  The world was engulfed in a tidal wave of cheap money.

The effects were paradoxical during the 1980s, 1990s and early 21st century. The booming capital markets created an impression of wealth and well being in the Western hemisphere. 

Consumerism became a new and questionable ideal, while a self-congratulatory feeling of “We’ve never had it so good”  became an important part of our identity. But the feelings of complacency would be challenged by several new forces.

The rate of change increased as China entered the global markets. The new trend towards outsourcing led to a marked increase in the pace of deindustrialization in the West. At the same time, the velocity in the capital markets increased to new record levels. Bubble after bubble grew, only to collapse – leaving ruins as their monuments.

The Japanese bubble was the first one in a long line. When it burst, it left abandoned amusements parks, hotels and banks in its wake. Two decades later, the country is still struggling with the after effects. The telecom-bubble had similar effects in Western Europe, as a large number of old and classical companies collapse.

But all of these bubbles pales, when they are compared to the Great American Housing Bubble. The bubble grew as the sub-prime market expanded and new financial instruments were created. The appetite for risk created a seemingly insatiable demand for new housing loans, before the collapse of 2007-2008. In the shake-out that ensued, it soon became apparent that the whole capital market had transformed itself into a house of cards. 

The US government was forced to nationalize a large part of the banking system, along with its debts. Making a bad situation even worse, the American building industry came to an almost standstill. Consequently, unemployment increased at the same time as the federal deficit exploded.

Three years later, it is becoming obvious that we will have to live with the effects of the bubble economy and massive deindustrialization for decades to come. The words of the late Jim Morrison summarize the situation: "The future’s uncertain/And The End is always near."

TEXT and PHOTOS © Jan Jörnmark


V said…
Me encantan, es increíble la magia y belleza que puede tener un lugar abandonado y destruido, irònicamente estètico.
Phil Decker said…
Looks like nature might just take back some of these places.
Anonymous said…
well done, very good work
Jan Jörnmark said…
I´m happy that you seem to like the photos. It was enormously interesting to photograph and write the book this time. Especially the last trip that I made to Detroit this may was like visiting another world.

The feeling of disillusionment that i got from the project have someimes been almost unbearable. But I've come to the conclusion that it's better to try to understand the forces that we're confronted with. The alternative isn't very attractive (either).