Socialist Worker

Ruin Lust exhibition at Tate Britain - What is it about ruins that haunts us?

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2395

Azeville by Jane and Louise Wilson, 2006

Azeville by Jane and Louise Wilson, 2006 (Pic: Tate, Copyright Jane and Louise Wilson)

Devastation is all the rage these days, with zombie-ridden post-apocalyptic fantasies and lush photographs of urban decay doing a roaring trade in their respective niches. This exhibition traces this modern fascination back through postwar modernism and cities bombed in the Blitz to a 19th century trend for “Ruin Lust”.

It includes photographs of Hitler’s abandoned Atlantic defences (pictured) and a grandiose sketch of a wrecked Bank of England commissioned by its architect. There are picturesque Turner landscapes and a vandalised estate sign.

The exhibition asks interesting questions. Do ruins fulfil a yearning for continuity with the past—or provide a liberating reminder that no order is beyond toppling, no society beyond change? But it is too fragmented to answer them.

Ruin Lust is at Tate Britain, London, until 18 May


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Tue 18 Mar 2014, 18:28 GMT
Issue No. 2395
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