The end of silence – A conversation with Sebastian Meyer

Libyan Rebels Continue to Fight for Ras Lanuf
Transcript of a skype conversation between Matthew Herbert and the war photographer  Sebastian Meyer who made the 5 second recording that made up the album ‘The End Of Silence’. This is the image that Sebastian took at the same time the recording was made…

This is an amazing blog – which describes the difference between experience/ memory and the everyday. How we can come to terms with violent imagery and sound and what it means to us as human beings.

Jane Dixon

Went to the British Museum and came across two Artists who use drawing in a conceptually interesting and complete way – These small rubbings from Jane Dixon were very inspiring using both the idea and actualtiy of the positive and negative within one work.

check out her website –

Regeneration 2006 – 2010yokohama-IYokohama I, 2007
Graphite on polyester and acrylic ground
87 cm x 109 cmRegenerationThe genesis of Regeneration was ten years ago when I began to visit and photograph cities which had been destroyed by war, or by other man-made or natural causes and subsequently rebuilt. The cities of Berlin, Chicago, Tokyo and Yokohama have since become the focus through which to explore ideas of loss and impermanence and the restructuring of our occupied space, both real and through memory. All the works are concerned with one thing taking the place of another in our physical world and collective consciousness, the disappearance and replacement of physical structures: lost and found space.The project is ongoing and organic in structure – fitting for its subject. It incorporates work in various media and an essential element of my practice has always been the alignment of subject and method, a conceptual marriage where the materials and construction are as much a part of the subject as is the image. The works here relate the visual with some of the physical processes employed by archaeology or forensic science (for instance the methodical revelation of a surface or the analysis of the past through exposed layers). I think of them as urban palimpsests or artificial excavations. The drawings, paintings and prints in Regeneration are hybrid works which use the physicality of painting to create something ephemeral, a reversal in the normal order of things.The dichotomy of absence and presence has always been integral to my work: the evidence or trace of something which stands as a reminder of society’s vulnerabilities and also those of the individual. The metaphor of the city and of isolated buildings is for me an interesting one, the balance between the precarious and the sustainable. The city contains elements of both the past and future, it is in a sense transitional in spite of its physicality and so the use of photography as source material seems apt because of the inherent paradox of making something which is fleeting, a moment in time, permanent. The cities I am photographing have, on the whole, already regenerated after destruction or damage and so I am reflecting on the past and anticipating a possible, changed future: a blueprint for the unknown.groundplan IVGround Plan IV, 2006
Graphite on paper 59.5 cm x 84.5 cm
Purchased by the British Museum, 2007 




 Just came across these grass portraits by the artists dan harvey and heather ackroyd – there is something amazing about the process of just using grass as a photographic plate to expose images on and the fact that they ten turn brown and dry . Dan Harvey is currently selecting for the Jerwood Open Forrest.





Albert Kahn Museum Paris

These were taken on a visit to Paris to see the Albert Kahn Museum – In 1909, Kahn travelled with his chauffeur and photographer,  to Japan on business and returned with many photographs of the journey. This prompted him to begin a project collecting a photographic record of the entire Earth. He appointed Jean Brunhes as the project director, and sent photographers to every continent to record images of the planet using the first colour photography, autocrome plates, and early cinematography. Between 1909 and 1931 they collected 72,000 colour photographs and 183,000 meters of film. These form a unique historical record of 50 countries, known asThe Archives of the Planet. They resemble Seurat Paintings made up of dots of red, blue and yellow – incredibly etherial.





Caesura – History comes to a head in a moment of disaster,  the time of disaster structures the danger of history. In the almost-no-time of this breakdown, thinking comes to a standstill.  Eduardo Cadava – words of light -These on the photography of history

A touching of truth happens when the subject is forced to accelerate beyond its actual self, when it looses itself in contact with what cannot be contacted in the ocean of undecidability.  Art as Assertion of Form – Marcus Steinweg  – writing for julie mehretu catalogue.

Walter Benjamin – “To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it as it really was, it means to seize a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger”




V&A japanese collection – went to view their collection of wood cut Hokusai prints – mainly of the views of Mount Fuji – i found this print very contemporary with the fracture of the building site – and the remaining city in the background – mount fuji just visible- the simplicity and the absraction of the bamboo lines to the right. Most of the prints were coloured which for me took away much of the drawn aspects that i find interesting – also makes them more decorative. It was a great experience going there and just sitting with them – noticing the repeated use of formulas from one print to the next.


hokusai v&A


Jonathan Crary : Spectres of Negation : vera Lutter. 2004  

Just read this text :In it he talks about how the camera obscura was used to make drawings originally. Vera Lutter uses it to make negative images that are familia but remain sealed. He then suggests that in the case of Vera Lutter that there is a limiting aspect to the negative image, they remain more silent, evoke absence and in turn melancholy – there is no permanence to things in the negative and yet we know what they are – Spectres

( walter benjamin’s thoughts on melancholy were that it is collectively experienced disslocation of modernity)

Photographic over saturation has reduced the uncanny hallucinatory phantasm that photographs once evoked as a response. Its spectural qualities lost he suggests they can be found in the negative.

Sagrada Familia – Barcelona

Totally blew me away – the complexity of subverting and mathematically utilising nature – for example using hanging weighted chains to form the arches of palais guell  or string in the case of the cathedral – this model in the basement museum is a facinating object in itself – with a mirror to show you how he saw the Cathedral itself the right way up.

Awe inspiring and humbling.

IMG_3434 IMG_3440 IMG_3442



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