Richard Ansett

WAFFLE HOUSE INDEX, USA 2017 (from ‘American Road Trip’ zine © Richard Ansett (for Ed Ruscha Twenty-six Gasoline Stations, 1963)

The typology is pastiche, tribute and critique of Ed Ruscha’s classic Twenty-six Gasoline Stations, 1963 . No architecture better expressed American’s burgeoning love affair with the motor car and similarly I focus on a contemporary architecture of the roadtrip satiating a 21st century obsession with consumption. I reflect on Ruscha’s seeming casual, objective record as part of my exploration of ‘The American Roadtrip’ as an overworked and exhausted photographic genre.

Further I discuss whether historic art, literature and films have assisted in defining the prism through which we view the contemporary American landscape that obstructs a relationship to the now. There is an aesthetic recidivism that hides the uncomfortable truth that we are unable to perceive present reality as valuable or even beautiful without the crutch of established aesthetic convention. This snap shot and blunt cliché of the architecture of the open road undermines the genius of Ruscha’s original work and his once radical vision has become the sentimental yardstick and stalwart of any photographic right of passage. Perhaps this is the fate of any great artist whose work so completely influences the zeitgeist.

This pastiche masks a contemporary narrative. ‘The Waffle House Index’ is an informal metric used by FEMA the Federal Emergency Management Agency to determine the effect of a major storm and the likely scale of assistance required for disaster recovery. The geographical concentration of Waffle Houses and their 24 hour, 7 day a week opening times combined with their fixed menus makes the Waffle House chain an invaluable resource for the evaluation of the effects of any major storm on communities, through the assessment of any change in opening times and menus.

These 9 Waffle Houses were photographed with 1 hour and are no more than 2 km apart. Each restaurant has its own unique number.