Ruin Lust

At Tate Britain The Ruin Lust exhibition ran at the Tate Britain and looked at the interest in decaying buildings from 18th century Romanticism to stark modern compositions. Whilst most of the works tied quite well with this umbrella theme the transitions between the eras and styles were very abrupt. The juxtaposition between the schools of thought was interesting but it made a few pieces seem out of place. It was difficult to create a connection or narrative between some of these ideas or find the reason for the choice of artists. For example placing Turner’s Tintern Abby next a technically inferior contemporary was lost on me. While I find the picturesque nature of the romantic style aesthetically pleasing, overall I found the more modern works more appealing. Here are a few things that caught my eye:

Joseph Gandy – Sloane’s Bank of England

Joseph Gandy, Soane's Bank of England This was the pre 20th century piece that I found the most interesting. For the opening of the Bank of England building the architect commissioned this piece. I like the savvy combination of jumping on the popularity of ruins and finding a way to show off the ins and outs of your work. As a Londoner and someone who goes past that building semi-regularly it was nice to have a glimpse of what may be inside.

Laura Oldfield Ford

Laura Oldfield Ford This piece stood out the most in the entire collection. However, not entirely in a good way. Placed opposite the Joseph Gandy and next to some faux-classical sculpture this piece caught the eye, but jarred with the rest of the room. The look into the urban decay from the perspective of squatters is nice counterpoint to the abandonment and isolation that comes up in most of the other work in the collection. This piece was by far the most modern seeming of the collection. Out the other side of the 20th century desolation. She is currently active and her blog, Savage Messiah, looks like a place I might visit again.

Tacita Dean – Russian Ending series

Tacita Dean - Beautiful Sheffield This series was made up of annotated postcards. For me, this image was the most interesting of the lot. Also on display was a piece of cinema showing the decline of Kodak. The piece showed (on film) the insides of a Kodak film factory on the decline. Possibly poignant, definitely meta, but (to my eyes at least) quite dull and mundane.

Jane and Louise Wilson – Urville

Jane and Louise Wilson - Urville You can’t get much more stark than this. This is part of destroyed German sea defence washed up on the French beach that it had once defended.

Rachel Whiteread – Demolished

Rachel Whiteread - Demolished

Gerard Byrne – 1984 and Beyond

I found this work brilliantly satirical. I didn’t have the patience to sit through one of the three half hour long video pieces, but the few minutes I watched made me smile. The pieces were very deadpan reenactments of interviews from 1963 with science fiction writers of the time. With them saying statements that the first immortal man may have already been born. I’m uplifted (and amused) by humanity’s optimism and ability to completely underestimate the complexity of ourselves and the world we live in.

Phyllida Barlow – Dock

Phyllida Barlow - Dock There were some pieces I really liked in the collection, but the curation left me with a mixed impression. However, all of this was eclipsed (literally) by the exhibition in the huge Duveen Galleriesnstallation. The room was filled from floor to ceiling with makeshift structures made out of common DIY materials. Going through it on the way in and out was an odd juxtaposition. It had a grandiosity that an exhibition glorifying buildings failed to capture. It also brought the idea of transience closer to the front of the mind than most of the works. (It’s going to have to be completely dismantled to be about to be taken out of the installation space.) This is in the free area and is worth a visit alone.

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