Mutable Matter



Ruinations @ AAG 2012

As a somewhat unlikely follow-up to my participation in Gail Davies, Neal White & Steve Rowell‘s Experimental Ruins workshop, I have ended up co-organising a session for the next Association of American Geographers (AAG) meeting in New York (24-28 Feburary 2012). Entitled ‘Ruinations: Violence, Snafus, Porn’ it will critically examine phenomena such as ‘ruin porn’ and the general violence of urban decay. For those who have asked, SNAFU stands for Situation Normal: All Fucked Up. We found the plural was more appropriate in this context.

There will be two sessions: a paper session and a discussion panel, which will feature aforementioned Neal White and Steve Rowell (Gail Davies is off doing her own session with Jamie Lorimer and Richard Pell, entitled ‘Practices for a Post-Natural History’) as well as Mireille Roddier, Anya Sirota, Andrew Herscher and Stephen Graham.

Here is our abstract:

From Piranesi to Camilo José Vergara, the representation of ruins has been instrumentalized for symbolic and aesthetic purposes, and alternately posited as picturesque, sublime, nostalgic or abominable. While cultural critics of the mid-twentieth century turned to everyday life as the base of ideological control, this century is revealing an unprecedented preoccupation with investigating sites of disenfranchisement and decay. Although “shrinking cities” may be symptomatic of the ongoing capital extraction from the Global North, it is not their reality but rather their increased visibility that is generating the Western world’s attention to ruins.

What does this increasingly popular object of study reveal about our current mechanisms for cultural production, and consumption? What is found in the neglected layers of the palimpsestic city? What range of purposes do the mediation and dissemination of such images serve?

This session is intended for architects, artists and geographers to reflect upon the relationship between the representation of ruins and the violence they symbolize or deny. It will address and question:

• The seemingly clear border between ‘recreational’ ruin exploration and its ‘scholarly’ counterpart;
• The immediacy/authenticity of experience and the structures for disseminating the representation of such information;
• Tactics for publically appropriating socially marginalized sites;
• The naturalization of destruction as antidote to ‘catastrophism’ versus the self-alienation leading mankind to “experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order” (Walter Benjamin);
• The artistic production posited by the previous opposition, respectively: beautification as psychological reassurance in crisis management, or a call for the politicization of art.

The session will be accompanied by a field trip.


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