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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Industrial Archeology: Loss (Edward Burtynsky)


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Ford Highland Park Plant #1, Loading Corridor, Detroit, Michigan: photo by Edward Burtynsky, 2008 (Edward Burtynsky Photographic Works)



Ford Highland Park Plant #2, Assembly Line Corridor, Detroit, Michigan: photo by Edward Burtynsky, 2008 (Edward Burtynsky Photographic Works)



Fisher Body Plant #1, Detroit, Michigan: photo by Edward Burtynsky, 2008 (Edward Burtynsky Photographic Works)



Packard Plant #1, Detroit, Michigan
: photo by Edward Burtynsky, 2008 (Edward Burtynsky Photographic Works)



Packard Plant #2, Detroit, Michigan: photo by Edward Burtynsky, 2008 (Edward Burtynsky Photographic Works)


When, as in the case of the Trauerspiel, history becomes part of the setting, it does so as the script. The word 'history' stands written on the countenance of nature in the characters of transience. The allegorical phenomenon of the nature-history, which is put on stage in the Trauerspiel, is present in reality in the form of the ruin. In the ruin history has physically merged into the setting. And in this guise history does not assume the form of the process of an eternal life so much as that of irresistible decay. Allegory thereby declares itself to be beyond beauty. Allegories are, in the realm of thoughts, what ruins are in the realm of things. This explains the baroque cult of the ruin.

Walter Benjamin: excerpt from Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels (Origin of the German Tragic Drama), 1928, translated by John Osborne, 1977

In a long series of classical writers from Polybius, we read of old, renowned cities in which the streets have become lines of empty, crumbling shells, where the cattle browse in forum and gymnasium, and the amphitheatre is a sown field, dotted with emergent statues and herms. Rome had in the fifth century of our era the population of a village, but its imperial palaces were still habitable.

Oswald Spengler: excerpt from Der Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the West), Vol. 2, 1923, translated by Charles Atkinson, 1928

It's not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present on what is past; rather, image is that wherein what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation. In other words, image is dialectics at a standstill.

Walter Benjamin, excerpt from The Arcades Project (1927-1939, unpublished), 1982, translated by Howard Eiland, 1992

4 comments:

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Beautiful, moving (still) pictures (Burtynsky again, those oil photos still engraved in the mind), and Benjamin's thinking on history/ruin/image -- takes me back again to Shelley's "Ozymandias":

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.


2.8

orange of sky on horizon above blackness
of trees, silver of planet beside leaves
in foreground, sound of wind in branches

subject which will probably
be, to have been just

that view of things, itself
going on, thinking of

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
shadowed green slope of ridge across it

Michal Kreski said...

i could swear i saw people in some of those pictures...a man in a white coat in one. strange, eh?

TC said...

Absolutely Ozymandian, as you suggest, Steve --

that view of things, itself
going on


Michal,

To my blurry ancient scrutiny there appear to be human figures only in the second of these shots -- two workmen perhaps, in hard hats (?); with the indication of possible further minimal activity (a forklift in the corridor distance).

Elmo St. Rose said...

in Europe it is not uncommon
to see architecture composed
of construction built two hundred
years or more apart

the industrial areas in many cities
are not all rotting...some are
gentrified...as the harbor in
baltimore...the southside seaport
in manhattan and various train
stations

when we are all post industrial
I wonder what we'll all do

I got it, Chinese aerobics: Shop til
you drop...buy ten things you need
but they can't be made in China...
Shop til you drop...a common American theme