Modern Ruins, Urban Archaeology, and the Post-Industrial Sublime: Presentations and Panel Discussion


Photo: "Still from 'Stages of Decay' by Julia Solis

Presentations by Ian Ference, Tarikh Korula, and Julia Solis, followed by a discussion moderated by Alan Rapp
Date: March 25th, 2010
Time: 8:00 PM
Admission: $5
Presented by
Morbid Anatomy

Ruins as an aesthetic category were born in the eighteenth century, and they continue to seduce and thrill the contemporary imagination. But rather than antiquity’s shattered agorae or the stripped medieval abbeys that littered the English countryside, the ruins that captivate us today are of the relatively recent past—not just the industrial era that established Western hegemony, but now an even more recent service/retail age that dominated American culture until the crash of the late 00s.

A few dedicated individuals are committed to investigating and documenting this ruinous legacy. These intrepid photographer-researchers infiltrate a variety of hidden and abandoned sites, often risking physical danger or arrest, to capture and share stirringly uncanny photographs expressing the grandeur and pathos of these majestically crumbling spaces.

On March 25th, join a panel of photographers and aficionados of the post-industrial sublime for a discussion that will explore the allure and fascination of visiting, photographing, and viewing these mysterious spaces. The evening will begin with a series of short presentations about the history and photography of The Modern Ruin. Following these presentations, moderator Alan Rapp will lead a discussion that will seek to explore the art, history, and culture of The Ruin and its depiction, from ancient examples to these modern ruins that span the abandoned lunatic’s asylum and tuberculosis wards, decrepit factory complexes and dead shopping malls. We will also probe the question of “why now,” with a special eye towards the acceleration of history which can make a ruin of sites as recent as a shopping mall, and ask if this contemporary fascination might speak to us of the twilight of our own empire.

Alan Rapp is a visual book editor and writer on the topics of architecture, photography, and design. He blogs at Critical Terrain and is currently completing his MFA in Design Criticism at School of Visual Arts.

Ian Ference has been discovering and traversing abandoned buildings for a decade and a half; sometime in the early 2000s, he decided to teach himself photography in order to capture the disappearing structures. He is particularly fascinated by insane asylums and quarantine hospitals, both for their uniquely purposed architecture and for the particular threads of history they embody. Ian’s work has been widely featured, notably in the Brooklyn Museum and the New York Daily News. He has recently begun sharing his work online in a blog, The Kingston Lounge.

Tarikh Korula is a multidisciplinary artist whose work has included composition, performance, hacking, and sculpture. His practice is a playful meditation on experimental, political, sensuous, dark, or absurd themes. For the past decade, Korula has been exploring sound through improvisation, field recording and handmade electronics. He has performed at PS1 Contemporary Art Center and his sculpture has been exhibited at the New Museum. Korula was a founding member of the New York City Independent Media Center and has written for Punk Planet and Make Magazine. Korula co-founded Uncommon Projects in 2005 and lives in New York.

Julia Solis conducts archaeological parlor games and investigates ruined urban spaces. As the founder of Dark Passage, she started the creative preservation group Ars Subterranea in 2002 with the object of staging scavenger hunts and exhibitions in unusual locations in New York. She is an officer of the Madagascar Institute and Place in History, the locations producer of the film /American Ruins/, a co-founder of Furnace Press, and recipient of a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Publications include New York Underground: The Anatomy of a City (Routledge, 2004) and Scrub Station (Koja Press, 2002).

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