As concrete expressions of the aspiration to global harmony and order the United Nations headquarters in New York and Geneva are superlative instances of design. In his incisive photographs of these twin seats of world government Oddy isolates and accentuates some of their most salient features. Translator booths. Delegates’ chairs with their dangling earpieces. Even the water glasses on hand to soothe the Babel-tongued speakers’ vocal chords. Here, in these buildings where communication is paramount, Oddy draws our attention to how the forces embedded in the built environment determine the way we think and behave.
An exercise in looking, Oddy’s patient, painstaking approach also uncovers other unconscious agendas and repressed narratives. In one picture we see how beneath their apparent well-balanced symmetry two bristling rows of microphones point to a simmering conflict. While elsewhere, in the chipped woodwork of a document table, in the worn and rucked carpets of the general assembly, or in the dented chrome coatracks in Geneva’s Palace of Nations, Oddy reminds us how this rationalist dream of a flawless world order is forever being eroded and frayed.