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 9 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).
Some of the ways that the studio will begin to think with ruins
- Brian Dillon on a history of ruin lust, Fragments form a History of Ruins
Regeneration and the 'sink estate spectacle', an article condemning the celebration of urban decline
- 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)
Studio image: Sir John Cass Technical Institute. Showing Damage caused by Air Raid on 29th December 1940. Banner: Hans Op de Beeck, Staging Silence (3), video still (detail), 2019
Studio 01: Another Place
Out of a direct treatment of place, whether subjective or objective, emerges another place. It is neither new, nor fixed in time, but it has remained unexplored, scarcely documented – piles of lime and useless cicadas.
Studio 02: Feminist Approaches
The Dissertation Studio 02 seminar series will address feminist practices within architecture, history and activism.
Studio 03: 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 04: 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 05: This is my truth; show me yours: Post-truth, propaganda and bulls**t
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 "bulls**t". We will consider the usefulness of these ideas, and how they can be explored in creative practice.
Studio 06: The Practice of Space – Writing Atmospheres in Art and Architecture
Nico de Oliveira
Dissertation Studio 06 looks at space as practice, since each location is a mutable entity framed as a moment in time, populated by individuals and shaped by their actions as artists, musicians, curators, designers, architects, writers and spectators.
Studio 07: 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 08: Speak, Form.
Dissertation Studio 8 asks: How is it that form might speak? This studio looks at the power of rhetoric, of the medium as message, of the figure as discourse.
Studio 09: 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 10: Sport and Aesthetics
Dissertation Studio 10 will examine the concept of aesthetics as applied within that most everyday activity: sport.
Studio 11: Le Marteau Sans Maître (The Hammer without a Master)
In a networked world where knowledge and information seems to be accessible everywhere and in any form; and where people in distant places appear to speak to us in real time from our computer screens, Studio 11 tries to imagine an ‘immediate’ and performative experience of the world – outside language and not shaped by our intellect and will.
Studio 12: Material Culture and Transcultural Exchanges
Dissertation Studio 12 is concerned with the increasing complexity of the material and symbolic flows of fashion, textile, artefact and commodity.
Studio 13: B(read)
Focussing on two of life’s key ingredients, reading and bread, this Dissertation Studio offers sessions that will encourage you to experience and experiment with both.
Studio 14: Rewilding
In this Dissertation Studio, we will examine some of the many ways in which art, architecture, and design connect to the discourse on rewilding.
Studio 15: “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 16: A Material World
This Dissertation 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 17: 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.
Studio 18: Modes of Human Exchange (Being-with and without)
This studio considers the current (exceptional) conditions of human exchange in a broader historical/social context, highlighting how facial/bodily gestures and the decorum of their physical/ambient surroundings have provided essential clues to the way we respond to, and interact with, the ‘other’.