Fascination of ‘Lost Places’

 

Natural catastrophes or the total collapse of the infrastructure, a booming city can be a ruin by tomorrow. But the decline has its fascination for us humans. Ghost towns are horrifying but thrilling at the same time. Ruins hold this kind of tingling sensation to many one of us because of the paradox they embody. 

 

Brian Dillion writes about this paradox and claims two main elements firstly the ruins function as a reminder of the past “[a] portal into, the past” but at the same time it shows a possible future of what is now new will on day become a ruin”it predicts a future in which our present will […] disrepair”. The second paradox is that even if the ruin decals “its state of decay, somehow outlives us”. This can happen to every place, every time and within every duration.

They were ordinary cities until the catastrophe reached them. May it be a Nuclear catastrophe a mine fire, an earthquake or slumping many cities where left behind among the writing of history. However, others were abandoned after the resources where depleted.

Many are interested in these “lost places”, the fascination of what was, what is and what might be one day inspired the people. The ruins are never the same they are in a certain way alive, turn organic and find their way back to their roots – nature. Everything returns back to nature and humans are desperately interested in this ongoing change in compleat isolation. Some travel to far places to take pictures some paint them, film them and shape in that way the term “ruin porn”. Which describes nothing else than the pleasure and fascination of photographing Ruins.

Resources and readings

Ruin Lust, Tate Britain (2012) – video: Voiceover is an extract from Rose Macaulay (1953) Pleasure of Ruins. London: Thames&Hudson. pp.435-5: https://vimeo.com/90263485

Dillon, B. (2014) RUINS. London: Whitechapel Gallery, MIT Press. p.11

Huyssen, A. (2006) Nostalgia for Ruins. Grey Room, No. 23 (Spring, 2006), pp. 6-21, The MIT Press URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20442718 .
Zucker, P. (1961) Ruins. An Aesthetic Hybrid. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Winter, 1961), pp. 119-130. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/427461
(1) The ruin as a vehicle to create a romanticising mood with all its associations;
(2) the ruin as a document of the past from its architecturally interesting details to the overall architectural form of a specific building;
(3) the ruin as means of reviving the original concept of space and proportion of periods past. Actually, these three basic aesthetic attitudes are seldom pure and consistent; transitions from one to the other are frequent.
Harbison R (1993) The Built, the Unbuilt and the Unbuildable Ruins. MIT Press
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Critical utopia

“Imagine a world were everyone has equal opportunities, there are no social classes anymore just the whole human population as one group of equal beings. Everyone has the same rights, the freedom of speech and the right to live. There are no such things as discrimination or misbalanced goods. Everyone is the same, everyone receives the same – people share social goods such as clean water and air. There is equal food, medication and place for everyone, including a home.
Educational boundaries exist no more, there is no inequality at al anymore, no one is better than the other no one is different than the other. Things such as a persons age, sex, race, sexual orientation, religion, language, property, gender, opinions do not have a place on this planet anymore. Humans do not have an identity anymore, they live in a world which is ruled by a higher authority, that writes their lives to ensure the sameness of everyone. There is no such thing as change or individuality anymore, no power over the own future no separate person with an arbitrary decision, all the whole and no single.”

Utopias and dystopias are in the broadest sense a concept of a better or worser world. However a dystopia can still be seen as a critique to the current world where by a utopia everything is which is not happening in the current world. But in this case it is not about the unreal future visions but the ones that are possible but just not yet. They are called ‘critical utopias’ and they are both utopia and dystopia and depicted a world that might be possible at some point. The example above is one of these critical utopias due to it combines both utopian dreams such as equality and dystopian fears such as the sacrifice of the own will.

  • Moylan, T. (2001). Scraps of the untainted sky: Science fiction, utopia, dystopia. Oxford: Westview.
  • Levitas, R. (2010) The Concept of Utopia. Oxford: Peter Lang.
  • Italo Calvino (1978) Invisible Cities
  • Bloch, E. (2000) The Spirit of Utopia, trans. Anthony Nassar, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

 

 

UNKNOWN FIELDS: The Dark Side of the City – AA Gallery

The Architectural Association in London features since the 1st of October an exhibition called “UNKNOWN FIELDS: The Dark Side of the City” in the AA Gallery. The artists are from a design research studio that is led by Liam Young (an independent critical designer and futurist) and Kate Davies (an architect, artist and writer). Their mission is to present and explore alternative worlds under the influence of modern society and how it is dependent on those. The design studio works with film, found and representative objects, photography, graphic design and narratives. They connect fiction with non-fiction exploring what ‘the cities wants and needs fears and dreams’. Previous works sealed with the Galapagos Islands, area 51and the frozen Arctic sea ice. The current exhibition explores ‘reimagined’ cities all over the world.
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The show consists out of one room in which a container like metal framework with installed seats and screens which remind of a bus interior. Further to the seats and video installations (see image) are transparent showcases included which feature golden teeth over red rice from the mines of Madagascar, a handcrafted glass batterie from Bolivia, ceramics and machine parts from other places the studio explored. In front of the ‘bus’, a video is playing showing excerpts of the journey. The outside of the bus is framed with photographs, and in the left corner, the ‘Unknown Fields Tales from the Dark Side of the City’ book series is displayed with summaries next to each volume. The group uses a broad range of mixed media elements for their exhibition, but especially the books stood out with their unique layout and used of graphic design. The especially the graphic design and illustration parts remind of computer coding and on Frank Dream visual mapping project ‘Project 360º’ from 2007 (see image).

Project 360° Amsterdam – Four Psychogeographical Maps (Graduation Project 2007)20170209_165439

In my opinion, does the exhibition feature the work of Unknown Fields very well, they critique the human desires, wished and dreams – and fires. They highlight human ignorance towards raising global problems such as economic exploration of poor and less educated countries and their citizens.  In my opinion, the exhibition is a must go for everyone, and should not only be displayed a such a small venue as the AA Gallery but maybe at a bigger and better-known place easier to access for the public.

Unknown files (2017), Unknown Files. Available at: http://www.unknownfieldsdivision.com/ (Accessed: 9.02.2017)

AA Architectural Association – School of Architecture (2017) UNKNOWN FIELDS: The Dark Side of the City. Available at: http://www.aaschool.ac.uk/PUBLIC/WHATSON/Exhibitions.php?item=336#-p-unknown-fields-the-dark-side-of-the-city-p (Accessed: 9.02.2017)

Dresmé, F. (2016) Project 360º, 2007. Available at: http://www.frankdresme.com/project360/(Accessed: 9.02.2017)

The Builders of a New World

There is ( in my opinion) just a rare amount of other jobs out there which have such a high impact on society and the environment as the one of the architect – They are the designers of our world and that was and is so and will probably always start so. You could say that they have so much power over us through their creations that they are god-like.

Geodesic Dome City (1968) – Buckminster Fuller

Kisho Kurokawa Nakagin Capsule 1972

Image result for Kisho Kurokawa Nakagin Capsule 1972

I mean through the way they design something, they control or led a huge part of our lives; where we eat, sit, work, walk, where the kitchen is located of if there is space or not for another chair. It seem to be ridiculous tiny details and we do not think about them, but ‘they’ did and control us in this way. They form the world as they imagine Denise Scott Brown said once ‘architects can’t force people to connect, it can only plan the crossing points, remove barriers, and make the meeting places useful and attractive”
However, during the early and then late-mid 20s century the movement was more than noticeable, in the desperate need of living spaces after the war architects became the constructors of the world. Architects such as Corbusier or Gropius changes the image of cities – they build a new society. But the real boom years where after the second World War – Buildings where new invented. There was so much space, so many possibilities and the wish for a better world. But then the space was filled and the plans remained on paper, and so more and more fantastic, utopian megastructures depicting imaginary worlds stayed fiction for forever.

 

References

Jahsonic (no date) Visionary architecture. Available at: http://contemporaryjapaneseart.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/utopian-modernity.html (Accessed: 24.01.2017)

Rendzner, M. (2011)  architecture: utopian modernity. Available at: http://www.jahsonic.com/VisionaryArchitecture.html (Accessed: 24.01.2017)

Tamas, A. (2011) Interview: Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown. Available at: http://www.archdaily.com/130389/interview-robert-venturi-denise-scott-brown-by-andrea-tamas/ (Accessed: 24.01.2017)

 

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Another World is Possible: Introduction to Utopias

The term utopia describes, in general, the vision of a better world, which does not mean that it is a perfect world which is wished for but a different one. It also could be said that those who design or desire a utopia are actually just desperate for the change in the world they currently live in.
The reason or the start of that wish for a better world (the utopia) – is that something is missing – a lack of something – in the current world (Levitas, 2000). Due to this lack, people start to dream or wish for a better world. There are (after Ernst Bloch) two aspects of this desire the “not-yet-consciousness’ which describes just the state of the idea which is either ideological or subjective and then there is the “not-yet-become” which forms the material aspects of the wish.
An example would be the #internstrikenow movement. This strike appeal is based on the fact that many or more the majority of internships today are unpaid, the employers use interns as free and unpaid helpers to boost their companies and numbers. The trainees, however, hope to find the internship a better job or might even get a job offer from that particular company. But here is the question why should they start paying for workers if they have a – theoretically spoken – endless stream of interns?


They could treat them fundamentally as they want since the interns are unpaid and due to the endless supply of new material they would not have to fear ‘short-staffnes’.
However, the moment #internstrikenow  wished for a new, better model for the future, with a planned strike that every intern was supposed to join. But that never happened since many new about the fact that they are disposable. So many stayed at their working places, working because there was the fear but also the fun of the job even if they are unpaid workers.

WORLD-MAKING

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The introduction into imagined worlds and designed fictions today made me think about how we create our world. An essay entitled as ‘World-Making’ of Ursula K. Le Guin the was handed to us and it was very compelling and gave a good read into this terms CTS topic.

Within the beginning of the text does Le Guin point  out that a new world start with every moment (1981, p.46). Considering that does it mean that we have within every moment the chance to change the current world we live in and create a new, maybe better or just a different world.

To make a new world is you start with an old one. -Le Guin (1981, p. 48)

In the following text does Le Guin give an example referring to the ‘conquering’ of Britain by Julius Caesar who said “the existence of Britain was uncertain, until I went there’ Le Guin however, points out that this statement is not really true. Due to the fact that Britain was already there and that it was exhausting for its citizens, Le Guin quotes at this point Albert Einstein who said that it all depends on the point of view which someone represents. Le Guin refers after this point to the new wold conquers, who ‘found’ the New World in the early 16th century  (see image above). However in my opinion the terms ‘finding’ and ‘New World’ are wrong, I think it was more something like an act of erasing and covering. We erase Worlds from the map to create something ‘new’, by doing so we can call them new, but in fact we only live within a world were there was a previous one. So it is more like that the are old, lost, current, new and future worlds we live in. And Le Guin says about this act to creating, inventing new wolds that in order ‘to make a new [one, you have to] start with an old one’ (1981, p. 48). Since a world is only true and real with a history that grounds and defines it inhabitants, give them meaning and a sense of reality.

Reference:

Le Guin, U. (1983) World-Making. ESSAY. Paper delivered at a symposium in 1981.  First published in a “slightly garbled version” in Women Writers of the West Coast by Marilyn Yalom (Capra Press) (1983).

Learn NC (2016) Map of the New World, 1540, Map Available at: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/multimedia/6994 (Accessed: 10.01.2017)

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Is there is no such thing as Closure in Comics (the conta side)

I already wrote about Scott McCloudes theory of ‘closure‘ or the panel-to-panel relationships (1993) in comics, in short, the reading in between the lines/spaces (also known as gutters) of comics. His theory got many supporters but there is also the contra side with people such as Neil Cohn and Thierry Groensteen (1999).

McCloude divides his theory into six categories:

1.  Moment-to-moment: between small increments of time
2. Action-to-action: between full ranges of actions

3. Subject-to-subject: between characters or objects in a scene

4. Aspect-to-aspect: between aspects of a scene or an environment
5. Scene-to-scene: between different scenes
6. Non-sequitur: have no apparent meaningful relation

 

Niel Cohn however, argues that the ‘readers definitely make inferences for information that is not depicted, this inference does not occur “in the gutter” and also not in panel-to-panel juxtapositions’. This means that the reader understands that in a sequence of images one or more are missing/ that there is more to the story than there is depicted. However, this is not happening between the two panels in the gutter but actually based on the relationship between the last one to the first one. Due to experience does the reader know what is or is supposed to happen, he makes ‘Predictions’.suppletive_panels.jpg

The reader knows though these predictions that something fits or not fits into the story. The Example of Cohn illustrates this theory: while the first two sequences seem to make sense with either an action star panel or a fight cloud panel ‘describes’ the fight. But the heart as a panel makes within the story no sense the reader is confused. However knows from his experience that even though a heart is depicted a fight is happening.

And last but not least Groensteen argues 2007 in his publication ‘The System of Comics” that the spaces between the panels are mainly unimportant and meaningless in the understanding of Comics.  They should be understood as “punctuation marks”  which support the sequence and coherence but not the meaning of the artwork. The spaces are in brief only there to separate the text from the image.

 

Groensteen, Thierry. 2007.The System of Comics. Translated by B. Beaty and N. Nguyen: University of Mississippi Press.

Cohn, Neil. 2003. Early Writings on Visual Language. Carlsbad, CA: Emaki Productions.

Cohn, Neil. 2010,The limits of time and transitions:challenges to theories of sequential image comprehension, http://www.visuallanguagelab.com/P/NC_Time%26Transitions.pdf

Cohn, Neil. 2016, Dispelling myths of comics understanding http://www.thevisuallinguist.com/2016/03/dispelling-myths-of-comics-understanding.html

McCloud, Scott. 1993.Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

 

 

The Cartoon Museum (London)

Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 04.14.05.pngI now live three years in London, I consider it my home and one of the things I love about the city is the museums. I visit nearly every week a museum, gallery, or current exhibition – which changes constantly. London is ‘THE place’ for art and culture and I thought after those years I spend here, I knew all the important museums. What a vital error.
I heard the first time of the Cartoon Museum a week ago, actually when we were given the task to visit it. It is located close to the British Museum at 35 Little Russell Street, literally around the corner.  The Place -which is open to the public since 2007- spans over two floors and exhibits examples of British caricature, cartoons and comics from the early 18th century to the present day.  Divided into three galleries does the museum houses a large collection of original artworks, by artists as Hogarth, George Du Maurier, Charles Schulz and Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 04.14.15.png
In my opinion is the Museum definitely worth a visit, especially for comic lovers but also for everyone who is enjoying literature, graphic novels or art in general. I really enjoyed the stay at the museum and  I have to mention that I surprisingly preferred the upper gallery over  the one at ground floor. I thought that I would prefer the older comics, political caricatures and the victorian artworks. But in fact, did I see myself drawn towards one specific comic book author (and one writer), David Lloyd (and Alan Moore). The illustrator of ‘V for Vendetta, published by DC Comics which illustrates the story of a dystopian close future set in the United Kingdom. I never really looked at the artwork of Lloyd, but since I have seen it in the museum I am fascinated, I purchased the book, later on, to read the story due to the fact that I only knew the movie version. With this in mind, I think the visit of the museum was a complete success and I would always return.
Note: a review of ‘V for Vendetta” will follow along the next weeks.

A Visit of the Archive

Comics by Tom Gauld

On Tuesday, 25 October we (the graphic narrative course) visited the Archives and Special Collections Centre at the London College of Communication (also known as the Stanly Kubrick Archive). The archive covers one of the biggest collections of the filmmaker and spans from photos, to film material, to magazines. There can be materials found such as books, postproduction documents (shooting schedules, continuity Polaroids, props, poster designs tapes and so on) and also press documents.

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However, the collection at LCC is not limited to Kubrick’s work but expenses over more material such as music, movies, comics and even a chocolate bar! We focused on comics and the collection holds a selection of rare comics (mainstream and alternative) such as Spiderman and Superman but also comics from artists such as Tom Gauld.
A small collection of three of his comics cached my attention, the minimal use of colour, or rather the absence of any colour was what pulled me to look at them. He is using just black ink pens to create simple line drawings, switching from the grid to non-grid structures.
Tom Gauld was and is a London illustrator and cartoonists, who works for the Guardian newspaper and New Scientist magazines, for which he created weekly comics. He also is the author of several comic books such as ‘Robots, Monsters etc.’ (2006), ‘Goliath’ (2012) and his latest comic book ‘Mooncop’ from 2016. His illustrations have a hand drawn style, he makes use of methods as hand lettering and gives them some kind of three-dimensional depth through hatching. His cartoons are simple and-and through the hands-down look they seem to appeal to a larger range of audience. He does use colour, however, he uses not a wide range, a comic of him is offered limited by a small collection of colour shades.
I think what interested me the most about the work of Tom Gauld was this minimalist look he created by just using black lines and cross-hatching

Overall do I think that the visit of the Archive was greater than i initially thought and even if I did not like most of the other comics that were displayed did I found the work of Gauld, which inspired me. This definitely shows that the collections hold something for everyone and are worth a visit or more.

Structure

The Structure and Organisation of Comics

Design and composition are two formal elements in which I am quite interested in. From my point of view, both hold a certain beauty to them. I can feel this sensation of satisfaction when things just… fit. It seems to me, that once something – it does not matter what , be it in art or might it be within construction work –  fits into something bigger, is easier to catch and understand.
So for me, it is not really a surprise that I am drawn to the structure of comics. However, I can not call me a big follower of the medium as it exists (sure there are one or two publications but the medium, in general, is not really catching me), but the way they are the layout. The grid – and here we come to my main point – is a key point within this medium. There are several of different ways to layout a comic but it ends always with the same result: a grid (the spaces between frames – the gutter) – which gives meaning to the story. The the  writer gives the story a flow, so tha the reader can easily jump from one frame to the following one. Another thing that this structure makes possible is the reading between the lines, or frames in this case. As it is with every written piece the case, it is the same for comics, we interpret in the gaps. The comic book author Scott McCloud calls this theory ‘closure’ and it is describing exactly this phenomena of interpreting and guessing even when we cannot see if it is actually there, or actually happening (see image) – we are filling the gaps with or own pictures. However, this process can be just ensured when the reader actually understands the flow of the comic which is the task of the grid.

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