Studio 05: Thinking with Ruins

Danielle Hewitt

Thinking With Ruins begins with the idea that to think about ruination allows us to approach subjects that are of interest materially, aesthetically and politically and it allows us to work across scales - from dust to debris to object to landscape.

 There is a long history of taking pleasure in looking at ruins and these being a source of contemplation and provocation for artists, writers, and architects. The ruin has been a popular trope in art, film and literature and people have enjoyed imagining the cities where we live in a ruined and often apocalyptic future, or have developed a kitsch fascination with scenes of urban ruin. We will examine the Western construct of ruins as images for pleasure and consumption and expand on this to also think about the production and reception of ruins from broader global and cultural perspectives. How does the reception of ruins differ in settings where the Western emphasis on monumentality and permeance is replaced by alternative spiritual and cultural attitudes to the passage of time? What do the Black Caribbean writers Orlando Patterson and Derek Walcott mean by “an absence or ruins” when talking about the experiences of diasporic and colonised people? How must we understand ruins in now at a time when ruination is present and violent through acts of conflict? What ‘politics of looking’ are at play when viewing and photographing disenfranchised urban districts undergoing demolition? What modes of thinking and storytelling must we develop to engage with the quick and slow ruins being created by drastic changes in climate?

This studio will appeal to students who share an interest in the passage of time and its effects on objects, buildings and landscapes; materiality; the interrelation of culture and nature; questions of evidence and remains; and the complex ideas that can be thought through destruction and decay.

Explore these themes

Studio image: Zhang Kechun, Fishermen wading in the river, Shaanxi province (2019). Banner: Hans Op de Beeck, Staging Silence (3), video still (detail), 2019

Zhang Kechun, Fishermen wading in the river, Shaanxi province (2019)


Tutor Danielle Hewitt

Dissertation Studios 2021–22