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Ruin Lust: Artists' Fascination With Ruins, from Turner to the Present Day (Anglais) Relié – 1 mars 2014


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Présentation de l'éditeur

Why are we fascinated by ruins? They recall the glory of dead civilisations and the certain end of our own. They stand as monuments to historic disasters, but also provoke dreams about futures born from destruction and decay. Ruins are bleak but alluring reminders of our vulnerable place in time and space. For centuries, ruins have attracted artists: among them J.M.W. Turner, Gustave Doré, Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, Patrick Caulf eld, Tacita Dean, and Jane and Louise Wilson. Ruin Lust explores the history of this obsession, from the art of the picturesque in the eighteenth century, through the wreckage of two world wars, to contemporary artists complex attitudes to the ruins of the recent past.

Biographie de l'auteur

Brian Dillon is a novelist, critic and curator who has explored many ancient and modern ruins, and written widely on the history of ruination in art and culture. His books include: Objects in this Mirror: Essays; Sanctuary; In the Dark Room; and Ruins, an anthology of artists and critics ref ections on ruination. He is UK editor of Cabinet magazine, and reader in critical writing at the Royal College of Art.

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HASH(0x96424a14) étoiles sur 5 Ruin Lust is a small exhibition booklet, expanded in Ruins from the Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art series 16 mai 2016
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I wish I had been able to see the exhibition this small publication was meant to accompany. I thought that getting the book would be a consolation prize. The only reason I might regret now not having bought it (it was still on sale at Tate when I visited a year ago) is the outrageous prices used copies seem to be going for now.

There are few previews of the booklet around, and readers interested in the topic might wonder whether to splurge, especially if you love Brian Dillon's work. Although the book is well worth the original publisher's price, now that it's out of print, the volume on Ruins from the Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art, albeit without any illustrations, covers the same ground.

Ruin Lust is a very small book, 8 by 5 inches, and 63 pages long. It consists of a short, insightful essay by Brian Dillon, much of which is reprised in the introduction to the Ruins book. The book also includes 34 color images, ten of which are spread over facing pages. The choice of those larger images is not always made to the reader's advantage: for instance, Patrick Caulfield's "Ruins" (1964) would be still legible in further reduced dimensions, whereas Gustave Doré's intricate engraving, "The New Zealander" (1872) is not [see pic] (in the essay, B.D. mentions an inscription appearing on the architrave of a ruined warf, but it is barely visible in the 2.5x3 inch reproduction).

The essay thematizes the use of the word "ruin" and outlines the chronology of the fascination it exerted in culture, stressing the dialectic between the interpretation of ruin as a memento mori, an embodiment of a melancholy state of mind, a "picturesque ruination," on the one hand, and an apocalyptic landscape that stands as a testimony to "human ambition and hubris," on the other. The five sections of the essay address different approaches to the idea of ruin throughout history, showing that it was never free of ambivalence. Section I deals with the idea of classical ruins, starting with the "craze for ruins [that] had overtaken European culture in Piranesi's century" and ending with the tongue-in-cheek contemporary art treatment of the subject in such works as John Piper's "The Forum" (1961) or Patrick Caulfield's pop-art "Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi (after Delacroix)" (1963). The post-apocalyptic view of ruination is dealt with in Section II: here, the wreckage (e.g. Pompeii and Herculaneum) is a prophetic vision of what yet awaits the world (as in John Martin's 1822 representation of the legendary volcanic eruption) or, as in the works of Graham Sutherland (his "Devastation" series) and Paul Nash, the evidence of a world laid to waste by wartime destruction. Section III raises the issue of the relationship between the medium (photography) and the ruin. Photography comes to focus on the living city as a ruin, documenting desolate zones (Jon Savage, "Uninhabited London" (1977-2008)) and acts of erasure (Rachel Whiteread, the series Demolished (1996)). Section IV discusses the relationship between nature and ruin (already touched on in the section on classical ruin and their "organic" relation to the landscape): ruination is an ongoing process, ranging from catastrophic destruction to gradual degradation through e.g. industrial intervention in the land that produces so-called "drosscape". Land art, such as the work of John Latham ("Derelict Land Art: Five Sisters" 1976) designates "bleak zones as memorials or works in themselves -- in short, as ruins." Section V examines the dialectic between ruins as past and the future as ruin. Ruins "of the recent past ... haunt a present unsure if there will be a future... Robert Smithson had already ... given name to this new temporal predicament...: he called it 'ruins in reverse'."

Readers of the Ruins anthology from the Whitechapel series will recognize these themes from Brian Dillon's introduction to the book. The main difference is that, in the Ruin Lust essay, Brian Dillon discusses the artworks featured in the Tate exhibition, and some readers might find it worthwhile to seek out the book to reference the visual material. However, if you are unable to get your hands on the book, you are not missing all that much.

In addition to the Whitechapel title, another book on the topic of ruins I would highly recommend is Christopher Woodward's In Ruins: A Journey Through History, Art, and Literature.
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