Sunday, August 30, 2009

Skyscrapers coming down

In modern architecture there is a kind of trend – at least it seems so to me – to construct buildings which look like ruins or remind of destruction. I don’t know if that is a reaction to the destruction of the World Trade Center or if it is only a kind of postmodern joke playing with its own hubris.

One of the best examples is the MahaNakhon tower, which shall be build in Bangkok. The project is headed by Ole Scheeren, one of the leading architects of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and also the lead architect on Beijing’s CCTV headquarters.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Post Apocalyptic Photoshop Tutorial

Ruins seem so trendy that there are even tutorials in the web to paint your own ruins with Photoshop.

How to Make a Dark, Post-Apocalyptic City Illustration
In this tutorial, we'll change a full of sunshine, ordinary photograph into a gloomy image of the world after destruction of mankind. Using simple tools, we'll turn lively streets into abandoned ruins overgrown with weeds.

Especially I like that confrontation between "sunshine, ordinary photograph" and "gloomy image".

It’s a wonderful page, and I notice a strong temptation to improve my own Photoshop skills to give my neighborhood a better look.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Egyptian Temple Ruins by Guerin

Here some magnificent illustrations by the American artist Jules Guerin (1866-1946). He had a very peculiar style and an excellent sense of color. The illustrations were made for the book "Egypt and Its Monuments" (1908) by Robert Hichens.

Especially if you compare these illustrations to that more “realistic” ones by the famous David Roberts, you see the strong influence of the Art Nouveau movement and Japanese woodblock prints.
I prefer them even to that by Roberts, which I also like a lot, because in their reduced manner they are more mystical. Besides they are good examples that less is sometimes more.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Abandoned Pigeon Houses

In the vast plains of northern Castile many people left their villages. Sometimes more than half of a village is abandoned and the houses made of mud bricks are coming down.

"Felices Fiestas" sounds really strange in face of these ruins.

Especially interesting are the old pigeon houses. Over centuries they provided a second income for the families, now they are returning to the mud they were once build of.

Abandoned but still intact pigeon house in the plains of Castile.

Ruins of a pigeon house inside a village.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Bust of a Dictator

In the 1970s a bust of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was erected near the City of Baguio in Luzon in the northern Philippines. Somehow this ugly monument survived the fall of Marcos in 1986. Finally it was badly damaged by a explosion in 2002.

I count this among my favourite ruins.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lady Liberty Ruins in Movies

"Planet of the Apes" (1968) was probably the first film using the ruins of the Statue of Liberty. Other movies followed, so that it is just an emblematic icon for the menacing end of the world. I just have mentioned "Deep Impact" (1998), "Artificial Intelligence" (2001) and "The Day After Tomorrow" (2004).

Here now three more:

"Escape from New York" (1981) directed by John Carpenter

"Dream Warrior" (2003) directed by Zachary Weintraub

"Cloverfield" (2008) directed by Matt Reeves

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fascinating Ruins

We see ruins nearly every day in the news and they have nothing charming or romantic. They tell us about disasters, loss and misery. Not long ago we’ve seen the devastations caused by the tsunami in Asia, a little later there could be seen the results of Hurricane Katrina and that of the great earthquake in China. And these natural disasters are reinforced by the frequently wars with their bombs and rockets, which are destroying with increasing regularity dreams, families and lives of so many people.

Survivors in front of ruins mourning their dead and their losses. These are the typical ruin images, with which we are confronted almost every day.

But on the other hand the web is full of sites devoted to ruins. It seems that there are a lot of people (me included) who are roaming through ruins, taking nice photos, which are presented like some of the most beautiful and enchanting places of the world.

Even worse these guys are no bunch of necrophilic perverts because they are not alone, they are part of a mass phenomenon. Some of the most successful movies, which produced Hollywood in the last decades, are using decay and ruins as sensational scenery.

And there are not only the movies. If you have a look on fantasy paintings and modern comics you will soon discover, that’s above all a good ruin setting which provides the spice in this kind of art.

Hollywood and comics merged into video games, and so it isn’t surprising at all, that ruins provide an important part of the scenery of the better games.

Ruins became so popular that there are even sites in internet offering tawdry ruins by the dozen as screensavers.

Maybe that someone will interpret this as a sign of bad taste inherent in any use of ruin images. I don’t think so, because ruins as symbolic d├ęcor have in fact infiltrated the very esthetical world of fashion and received in this way the higher consecrations of art.

This image by the fashion photographer David LaChapelle was first published in 2005 in the Vogue Italy and is now exhibited by the Helmut Newton Foundation in the exhibition "Men, War & Peace".

I hope to have demonstrated, that the fascination for ruins spreads over a great part of modern esthetics. With this blog I will try to show how ruins are used today in popular culture – i.e. photography, film, painting, comics, video games, fashion, architecture. Further I will investigate how the interpretation of ruins has changed over the course of history. This will be more a trip into art history because in older times there where neither movies nor video games. But I think that many of our modern concepts and opinions regarding ruins have their roots there.

And despite I’m no great photographer I fear that I cannot abstain from posting some of my own photos. Sure, nearly every day I stumble upon better ones in the web. But everybody finds his own ruins, has his own point of view, and because of that probably somebody will get an inspiration by my photos to visit some places.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Decay in Naples

Some photos from my last trip to Naples. It’s surprising how a city can be so full of live and on the other side have so much ruins, so much decay.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cormac McCarthy: The Road

Since I read Blood Meridian a few years ago Cormac McCarthy belongs to my absolute favorite authors. So it isn’s surprising that I was deeply impressed by his dark post-apocalyptic novel The Road. A man and his son are on their journey across a desolated landscape some years after an unspecified catastrophe, probably a nuclear war. They are suffering coldness and hunger and above all they have to fear the cannibalistic bands of other survivors.

Maybe that The Road is no book about ruins but it derives from the same post-apocalyptic spirit which is nourishing the contemporary inclination to ruins and decay. Some critics call Cormac McCarthy even a “gothic” writer and The Road a “gothic novel”.

In Blood Meridian McCarthy described the barbarization of civilized people, and the book is much more violent than The Road. But the violence is part of the wild colorful life at the frontier. In The Road the violence is always present but more like a threat, like the darkness in the background. And therefore I fear that the film, which will be released in October this year, will convert the whole thing in a typical action movie. But I don’t think that this is the intention of the book. That is much more about the slowly and unspectacular dying humanity, about the apocalypse we deserve.