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Unstable territories : imaging and imagining the contemporary ruin

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Wright, HR 2019 , 'Unstable territories : imaging and imagining the contemporary ruin', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This studio-based project seeks to challenge the picturesque conventions governing the depiction of ruins in the past and to find a new set of visual strategies more appropriate to the contemporary experience of ruins in urban settings.
Pivotal to the project has been the case study of a unique, local urban ruin site, the Myer site (2007-2014). It has been used as an example of the distinctive characteristics of a contemporary unscenic ruin in order to establish a structural framework for the development of visual strategies that take account of the physical and spatial limitations of a specific site.
These strategies pose challenges and establish visual alternatives to the picturesque aesthetic, and demonstrate its inadequacy for dealing with both the imaging and imagining of the experiential, compromised condition of contemporaneous ruins.
The depiction of this site has wider implications for the field of ruin scholarship and the research considers this challenge by posing two questions:
1. How is picturesque space changed when its panoramic scope is compromised by the enclosed and impeded physical and visual reality of contemporary urban ruin sites?
2. How do the visual strategies of destabilisation and fragmentation generate new visual outcomes when imaging and imagining contemporary ruins?
The research examines the Western artistic tradition of the representation of ruins, identifying two categories of ruin: 1) the scenic ruin, which encompasses the Romantic tradition of the picturesque, ruin gazing and ruin lust; and 2) the unscenic ruin, which includes three sub-types – the anxious, the catastrophic and the prosaic ruin.
The scenic ruin tradition is analysed through artworks by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, J.W.M. Turner, John Constable, Caspar David Friedrich and its contemporary iteration, ruin porn, while discussion of the unscenic ruin is outlined through an analysis of artwork by Anselm Kiefer, Joel Meyerowitz and Ed Ruscha’s reworking of The Course of Empire series by Thomas D. Cole. It is in relation to the latter category of ruin, in particular, that the prosaic ruin of this project is situated.
Theoretically, the project is supported by the concepts of ‘unscenic nature’ as outlined by Yuriko Saito, and ‘terrain vague’ formulated by Ignasi de Sola Morales, which best describe the conditional state of unscenic sites as well as highlighting aesthetic alternatives to picturesque spatial formula.
The visual strategies that have been employed include patterns of visual disturbance, which impede clear perception, and fragmentation achieved through collage as imagined through the state of collapse. These strategies have resulted in two distinct bodies of artwork across two media: colour wood cut prints and monochrome graphite, charcoal and pencil drawings.
Identifying that the current field of ruin representation is largely silent on the picturing of ruins in urban settings, this research establishes two significant and innovative alternatives that are appropriate to the experience of the contemporary ruin.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Wright, HR
Keywords: Imaging, Imagining, Contemporary Ruins
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Copyright 2018 the author

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