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Ghostly Music Video Captures an Abandoned Hotel Days Before Its Demolition

Artist and filmmaker Morrisa Maltz takes viewers into The Majestic, an abandoned hotel recently torn down in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Lead image: The Majestic’s hotel lobby. Images courtesy of the artist.

Visiting Hot Springs, Arkansas is like walking into the past. A city stuck in time, it's known as much for its history and naturally heated springs buildings as its mix of 1800s architecture and Art Deco—structures that are slowly crumbling yet still magical. One of the city's iconic buildings, the gigantic and once abandoned Majestic Hotel, was recently demolished. A week before its dismantling, however, artist and filmmaker Morrisa Maltz shot a video inside the hotel. Equal parts documentary, performance art piece, and music video for Dyan's "Looking for Knives," it is the final document of a space that held huge amounts of history. Unlike abandoned London's beauty, or the oddities and terror of decommissioned nuclear missile bases, Maltz's video is a rare tone poem to Arkansas' uniqueness.


In "Looking for Knives," Maltz's camera drifts through the hotels innards. Though The Majestic suffered a fire in 2014, the video focuses instead on paint peeling off walls and floors turning into dirt. Inspired by female artists like Pipilotti Rist, Francesca Woodman, and Maya Deren, for whom the body expresses emotion inside a space, Maltz also performs in the video, moving through the hotel's crumbling corridors and interacting with its surfaces.

Maltz also recorded conversations with some older Hot Springs residents, who spoke about the hotel and the city. One of these recordings, a very short reminiscence of a date at The Majestic, is used in the opening and closing moments of the video. It's a brief taste of the stories that are vanishing in many different ways.

"I ended up becoming obsessed with this town and this hotel, this history that felt on the brink of being lost," Maltz tells Creators. "The space became a sort of metaphor for me—it represented this nostalgia for lost America, nostalgia for memories and people lost, places that once were. Our grandparents' generation slowly fading."

"I think the reason this hotel resonated so much with me was that I was starting to feel those people from that time," says Maltz. "Those places and stories fade in my own life, and this physical dying structure somehow connected all that for me, and it represented it on a much larger scale than just my grandparents."


Maltz's documentary almost didn't happen. The city declined her request, saying it was incredibly unsafe. So, she tried the demolition company, who were kind and encouraging. Maltz says they were sad to tear down the building, and were happy to have someone come in and properly document it.

"I was granted access to the hotel a week before they started demolishing parts of it (there were a few buildings on the property)," Maltz says. "And then it basically became my secret summer clubhouse until the last bit of it was torn down."

Click here to see more of Morrisa Maltz's work.


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