The “ruins” of the modern era are the landmarks of recent art’s turn toward site and situation, history and memory. The abiding interest of artists in ruination and decay has led in particular to the concept of the modern ruin--an ambiguous site of artistic and architectural modernism, personal and collective memories, and the cultural afterlife of eras such as those of state communism and colonialism. Contemporary art’s explorations of the ruin can evoke on the one hand diverse experiences of nostalgia and on the other a ceaselessly renewed encounter with catastrophes of the recent past and apprehensions of the future. For every relic of a harmonious era or utopian dream stands another recalling industrial decline, environmental disaster, and the depredations of war.
This anthology provides a comprehensive survey of the contemporary ruin in cultural discourse, aesthetics, and artistic practice. It examines the development of ruin aesthetics from the early modern era to the present; the ruin as a privileged emblem of modernity’s decline; the relic as a portal onto the political history of the recent past; the destruction and decline of cities and landscapes, with the emergence of “non-places” and “drosscape”; the symbolism of the entropic and decayed in critical environmentalism; and the confusing temporalities of the ruin in recent art--its involution of timescales and perspectives as it addresses not just the past but the future.
About the Editor
Brian Dillon is the UK editor of Cabinet and the author of In the Dark Room, Sanctuary, and The Hypochondriacs. He is an editorial board member of TATE Etc. and Art Review, and a regular contributor to numerous journals including Artforum and frieze. Since 2008 he has been AHRC Research Fellow in the Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Kent, Canterbury.
“A useful primer on a subject of perennial interest. Each generation finds something new among the ruins, and this is a good guide to the ruin in contemporary art.”—Library Journal
“Here the ruin is not the end of an artefact but rather the beginning of an investigation. From the forensic analysis of the physicality of fragments—revealing the relations that go into the making and unmaking of objects and commodities—to the virtual debris of philosophy, it is in its ruined form that a thing reveals its fossilized forces; and from this scattered mess we can start to assemble the connections of a new reality.”
—Eyal Weizman, Architect; Director of the Centre of Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London
“Under Brian Dillon’s inspired editorial guidance, this survey of the moods and meanings of ruin and dereliction is as thought-provoking and perceptive as it is intrinsically poetic. It will offer its riches to anyone who has pondered what might be termed the mortality of materials, and read in their demise new and strange accounts of our own condition.”
—Michael Bracewell, writer, novelist and cultural commentator