Life is confusing. More awkward than that dance you do with someone, when you’re trying to figure out if you’re passing them to the left or the right, is the strange attempted-exit that fails because you tried to leave from a non-exit thus resulting in a double goodbye. It’s a slight embarrassment but still an embarrassment.
These intellectual discomforts are common, everyday, so supernormal that we must prostrate ourselves to them, letting the unnatural oddity consume us. Los Angeles photographer Austin Irving understands this and she’s found an area where this confusion is magnified: architecture. No, not good architecture: super simplified, mundane architecture of places like churches and offices, the types of places that were ill considered in terms of design but aren’t without a strange uniqueness that makes them special for the wrong reasons.
She’s found this in exits. In a body of work titled Not An Exit, Irving photographs confusing hallways, corridors, and potential departure points where you would make a fool out of yourself if you’ve attempted to leave. These places are unintentionally labyrinthian, folded in on themselves for no other reason than cutting a corner or overlooking design.
None of these places are bad, no, but they’re all uncomfortable. Like a burlap sweater or shoes filled with jelly, they are “correct” but they don’t feel right. There is something wrong. They’re like funhouse corridors removed from the carnival, thrust into commonplace. Irving has captured a selection of these non-exits that all have great personalities—colorful, geometric, funny—but they’re all wrong. They all should be under scrutiny for being foils to real exits.
Yet they exist. Such is life, the awkward mess of people being people and making unintentional mistakes that we can only look back and laugh at. Not An Exit captures this concept smartly just by pointing out places where you would make a fool out of yourself when trying to leave. You can catch more of the work here.