Victoria Arney

Talks

THE DAY REMAINS_ii

The Day remains-ii

Birkbeck/ peltz room gallery 20/5/2013

Ruins ; the physical destruction or disintegration of something or the state of disintegrating or being destroyed: Lost and disintigration

However recent they are Ruins are backward looking – they are the result of a past event/civilization/time- do they represent the disection of loss ? 

They also are symbolic – of failure ( for the thing itself to survive functioning) and success as it stands as a monument to a past idea/culture – site as evidence.

They are an image of human progress in dissarray – A pause in the continuim of history

For me they mark the bondary between one state or another an undoing paused.

Past and present embodied.

In This talk I want to look at aspects of the Ruin – within my own work and outside of that. 

I have an emotional response and an intellectual one to a ruin site – they are impossible spaces (Italo Calvino Invisible cities) that require the imagination to re build them – they are also sites of power and Knowing – particularly in the case of Ancient ruins

Attributes of the ancient ruin

Time has worn down the details /everyday function and so they are full of muted approximations which increase with time and age 

  • ancient sites are more intriguing than a recently demolished building because of the lack of information on their functionality.
  • They are a manifestation of our own civilizations precarious rule, and our own death. 
  • They have the patina of time slowy working on them in the romantic sense – where the otherness of them is presented in a way that is not threatening to yourself – this is I would argue not evident in a bombed city in syria that is happening in the present – this is a violation a human action of distruction that is too real to be romanticized. 
  • That the slower manifestation of neglect is fused with natural processes, if a city is bombed and then left to be taken over by nature – it quickly becomes not about the specific destruction but about the general cycle of life and death.

Ruined Landscapes

Edward Burtynsky’s Manufactured Landscapes – operate in this way – they are often not ruins in the true sense of a deralict site – some still function as quarrys, factories, dumps – and yet have the patina of an ancient site, an incomprehensible quality to the scale of destruction , mining, dumping – that I believe gives the same emotional resonse. They are impossible spaces that we are creating and that are often remote or removed from our areas of living – ie.. other. He often photographs them in a way that gives us very few markers to their scale so that they take on a sublime aspect – 

Sublime : producing an overwhelming sense of awe or other high emotion through being vast or grand – beyond a scale that we can inhabit.

Here I can draw a parallel to uninhabited natural spaces such as desserts seas mountains that force us to take on the spectator role – because they are both devoid ourselves – unclaimed territory, wild with their own control systems beyond our own capapcity. 

Ruins as Body/ Anthropomorphic Stare

The relationship that buildings have to ourselves

Henrich Wolfflin ( art Historian 1886) – 

“ We judge every object by an analogy to our own bodies”

We interpret the whole outside world according to the expressive system with which we have become familiar through our own bodies” Renaissance and the Baroque.

So the fragmentation of a ruined site becomes the fragmentation of our bodies – 

The fragmented body – and this explains some of the romanticism associated with ruins – in the victorian era, the German Romantics, kant – a lost bodily unity a nostalgia for unity fragmented by time and and experience. 

A Classic ideal that can not be put back together – tragic loss 

Mary shelly – Frankenstein ( all the parts are there but is makes a monster)

We have a desire to put back the pieces and yet are facinated by its visual evidence of destruction. Lost object of desire and in this sense when ruins do come back through re construction/ photographs or preservation they also take on the Freudian sense of the 

Uncanny – the apparent return of something that is presummed lost – 

Relating to often magical or unexplained sensations/ states – events and the site can become intensified and that is why often they can become embuded with a kind of power or erie / unexplained qualities. 

For example the Ruins in Reverse exhibition at the Tate – Ra di Martino – in her series No More Stars 2010 – where Di Martino re presents the star wars structure abandoned in the North african Dessert – unglorious and fictional past – they reverse the idea of what a ruin can be. 

This is also true about contemporary fragmentation of the sites – they are presented in more diverse ways and therefore more fragmeneted ways – our sense of ourselves through this fragmentation of the world is often overwhelming….. our place is precarious/ only as good as the last post

Universal history has no theoretical armature. Its method is additive; it musters a mass of data to fill the homogoneous, empty time. Walter Benjamin

Does this alter the way in which we percieve a ruined site – perhaps now a ruin site has a sense of completeness that was not percieved by earlier generations – complete destruction has its own order.

I have noticed that I use sites differently if I have actually experienced them to if I have collected the information from other sources – eg photographs/ internet/ archives etc.

I tend to work figuratively with both – but I am much more likely to subvert and fragment the sites that I have visited, wheras the sites that I find through photographs I tend to use more acurately, stick closer to the truth. 

I wonder if this is a contemporary phenominon – that we are experienecing accessibility to these sites virtually – which were once lost/ hidden and so had a sense of mystery through the physical act of discovery that is no longer there. Gathering the information was really difficult – no longer the case…..and so does our relationship of the sublime nature of these places change ? If there are thoussnds of photographs of the place ? 

This is also true about contemporary fragmentation of the sites – they are presented in more diverse ways and therefore more fragmeneted ways – our sense of ourselves through this fragmentation of the world is often overwhelming….. our place is precarious/ only as good as the last post

Universal history has no theoretical armature. Its method is additive; it musters a mass of data to fill the homogoneous, empty time. Walter Benjamin

Does this alter the way in which we percieve a ruined site – perhaps now a ruin site has a sense of completeness that was not percieved by earlier generations – complete destruction has its own order.

The Hegelian term aufheben in its threefold meaning: to preserve, to elevate, to cancel.

“ Since the industrial revolution, the modern era ahs been markined by the relationship between production and consumption, between new creation and destruction that it entails. The very notion of development implies a pricess of constant transformation and continual and hectic prolification of contemporary ruins. Rather than records of past events, ruins are fragments that lie at the foundation of our present day culture.”

Ruins in reverse – Flavia Frigeri and Sharon Lerner project space – tate. 2013

copyright Victoria Arney