For centuries people have taken pleasure in ruins. Artists and writers have enjoyed feelings of melancholy and terror when looking upon ruined buildings and landscapes and have found beauty in such scenes. Scenes of ruin have been understood as sitting at a complex point between past and present, nature and culture and have provided rich inspiration for art, architecture and writing into the present day. A preoccupation with the ruinous invites us to trace a line through such things as the 18th century landscape garden, the gothic novel, land art of the 1960s and 1970s, the science fiction of JG Ballard, and a kitsch attraction to the abandoned and down-at-heel areas of cities in the late 20th century.
Studio 7 pays heed to these cultural forms and persuasions but asks, how might we productively think with ruins in the present? The studio will investigate how such ruin lust has been productive for art and culture but also consider how such persuasions are culturally constructed and the ideologies that they carry, and what the role the ruinous has in our current time of conflict and environmental crisis. The studio takes the position that the concept and actuality of ruins can stimulate thinking about things and places aesthetically, materially and politically and at a number of scales.
As well as thinking with ruins the studio will ask how we might write through ruins. How might it be productive to let the material and fragmentary nature of the ruin infuse our writing? How do we recall and present the evidence of a subject which might be defined by absence and loss? Or, how might we interrogate an object or landscape to reveal a narrative of which it is the evidence? Perhaps like the writer WG Sebald we find that certain histories of violent destruction have evaded the possibility of writing.1 Or, like the artist Katrina Palmer, we write only what is ‘leftover’.2
1 WG Sebald, ‘Air War and Literature’ in On the Natural History of Destruction. (Modern Library Classics,2004).
2 Katrina Palmer, End Matter. (Bookworks, 2015).
The following suggest some of the ways that the studio will begin to think with ruins
- See Brian Dillon on a history of ruin lust:
Fragments form a History of Ruins
- Read this article condemning the celebration of urban decline:
Regeneration and the 'sink estate spectacle'
- Examine these texts:
The Destruction of Cultural Heritage: From Napoléon to ISIS
- Consider the duration of material things:
Piccon Ruin Rust (PDF)
- Follow Robert Smithson on:
A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey (PDF)
- Re-live the moment that a Roman temple honoring a mysterious god was unearthed beneath a London bombsite:
Temple of Mithras community archaeology oral history project
- Recognise the city around you through these fictional ruins:
JG Ballard, The Drowned World (1962)
Rose Macaulay, The World My Wilderness (1950)
William Morris, News From Nowhere (1890)
Image: Sir John Cass Technical Institute. Showing Damage caused by Air Raid on 29th December 1940
Studio 01: ideas in places
This studio prescribes a direct treatment of place, whether subjective or objective.
Studio 02: Narrative and Storytelling
This studio focuses on modes of storytelling and narrative conventions. We will particularly consider how narrative intersects with, and informs, identity.
Studio 03: The Conquest of Joy
This studio encourages dialogues around the cultural production at a time when narratives founded on certainty have ceased to make sense.
Studio 04: Bullshit, propaganda and post-truth
This studio will look at the emergence of the notion of ‘post truth’ and explore links between other ideas around propaganda and Harry Frankfurt’s argument about ‘bullshit’. We will consider the usefulness of these ideas, and how they can be explored in creative practice.
Studio 05: Meaningful Work
This studio will consider the value of making -in itself, independent of the product or outcome, exploring the idea of craft as meaningful work.
Studio 06: Writing Rough
What are the outer limits of the essay? Write on the edge of the possible in a rich, researched and evidenced discussion which creatively explores the expanded field of the essay.
Studio 07: Thinking with Ruins
This studio pays heed to these cultural forms and persuasions but asks, how might we productively think with ruins in the present?
Studio 08: The things you can tell just by looking (or, Oriented Writing)
Writing tells us who we are and how each of us thinks and interprets the world.
Studio 09: Le Marteau Sans Maître
Digging through the deepest layers of archaeological time, André Leroi-Gourhan (La geste et la parole, 1964) concluded that for millions of years, human culture and technology evolved without complex language, rational planning or abstract ‘thinking at a distance’.
Studio 10: Globalism
For good or ill, we live in a global world. Whilst this may appear to be obvious, globalism is only a relatively recent term as is the phenomenon itself. What do we mean by this? How did we arrive in this place?
Studio 11: Performative Acts: Art, Architecture and Writing
Nico de Oliveira
In the last decade or so we have moved from objects to subjects or audiences. In parallel, the word performative has been adapted from a theoretical term to a key rubric within the discourse of contemporary art, architecture and beyond.
Studio 12: Decay, Repair and Back Again
Things break down and decay. In this studio you will experiment repair as strategy to negotiate breakdown, and you will practice mining patina and weathering for information and stories.
Studio 13: ‘If I stay silent nothing will change’: Identity, Politics, Social Change and Creative Culture(s)
This cross-disciplinary studio considers how power, culture, politics, identity, representation, activism, social media, and mass culture theory intersect with a range of arts practices, including photography, architecture, design and fine art, film studies, fashion and music, sound, pop art, and theatre.
Studio 14: A Material World
As the title suggests, this Studio will be based on the processes that are intrinsic to the design and making of textiles, however it will also be looking at the materiality of these textiles as objects.
Studio 15: Souvenir
This studio is concerned with those objects that are lent a particular enchantment because of their relationship with the past. It considers the role of memory and how it is embodied in cultural artefacts.