When presented with a patch of wet cement and a chance at immortality in the built environment of the city, what do you write? Love notes, political slogans, band names, and simple declarations of existence on a certain date; just about every kind of message is etched in the cement of the sidewalks of San Francisco.
In The Cement Project, Lyle reveals the city as something other than a collection of streets and buildings: It is the convergence of all the ideas and aspirations of everyone who has ever lived there. The cement etchings, presented in an extensive collection of photographs, create a narrative that accompanies a walk down any street. The wet cement functions as a time-lapse photo, encapsulating the voices of decades of city dwellers.
In the spirit of both Walter Benjamin and Jane Jacobs, the photographs of cement etchings are for Lyle a jumping-off point, triggering tales of lost legends, lost utopias, and lost love in a city that is constantly decaying, regenerating, and accumulating new layers of history—a fascinating meditation on the art of walking, reading, and remembering in an urban environment.