Industrial Ruins: Space, Aesthetics and Materiality Introduction: Ruined space is ripe with transgressive and transcendent possibilities.
The production of spaces of ruination and dereliction are an inevitable result of capitalist development and the relentless search for profit.
The demolition of large chimneys being the most spectacular sign of this replacing of one industrial template by another.
Contest the notion that ruins are spaces of waste.
Davis Brownlands: stripped and then cleared to encourage property speculation.
The picturesque and the sublime
Such a melancholic aesthetic tempered the optimism of modern industrial development, for ruins signified the transience of all earthly things despite the utopian promises of endless social advancement.
Rather there is an unpredictable immanence of impression and sensation. Yet intimations of transience are far from absent. Instead, the influences of the past emerge from a rather less controlled environment, one that is not devised to transmit ideological effects.
Modern Gothic emerging out of a ‘post-industrial nostalgia.’
To enter them is to venture into the darkness and the possibilities of confronting that which is repressed. These pleasures are of a vicarious engagement with fear and a confrontation with the unspeakable and one’s own vulnerability and mortality, a diversion which is also a way of confronting death and danger and imagining it in order to disarm it, to name and articulate it in order to deal with it.
Industrial ruins similarly question the persistent myth of progress. [???]
Gothic interpretations usefully foreground continuities with the romantic tradition in which ruins rebuke scenarios of endless progress, a notion that I will also explore, though as more of a critical appraisal which understands industrial ruins as symbols through which ideologically loaded versions of progress, embedded within cultures of consumption and industrial progress, can be critiqued.
Disintegration of the ordered
Ruins epitomize transgression and the collapse of boundaries.
Acknowledge the blurring of boundaries and also the inevitability of death and decay—but positioned in a celebratory fashion.
They gesture towards the present and the future as temporal frames which can be read as both dystopian and utopian, and they help to conjure up critiques of present arrangements and potential futures.
Capture something of the sensual immanence of the experience of traveling through a ruin.
Possibilities, effects and experiences they provide. Used for accommodation, ecological practice, adventure, play, recreation and creativity.
He sees these environments as providing so much—in particular a sensual, rich, authentic experience that is difficult to come by in our ordered urban spaces—it brings to mind the question of why don’t are cities provide this—because we wouldn’t need to buy trinkets to simulate (as stand-ins) the effect if it did.
As spaces of disorder, they critique the highly ordered/regulated urban spaces that surround them.
The contingent, ineffable, unrepresentable, uncoded, sensual, heterogeneous possibilities of contemporary cities are particularly evident in their industrial ruins.—a celebration of the mysteries of the world.
Contemporary Uses of Industrial Ruins:
Ruins also provide spaces where forms of alternative public life may occur, activities characterized by an active and improvisational creativity, a casting off of self-consciousness conditioned by the prying gaze of CCTV cameras and fellow citizens, and by the pursuit of illicit and frowned-upon activities.
The looseness of ruined space permits a wide range of practices.
They can serve as erotic realms where sex can take place beyond prying eyes
A large unsurveilled space for play
Pleasurable activities which are usually forbidden but allow a spectacular engagement with the materiality of the world.
Backdrop for action sequences
Imaginary dystopian future
Nostalgically lament the passing of the industrial way of life
Deviant activities positively reclaimed
Vitality of opposing tendencies:
‘Sinking from life’ while simultaneously ‘settings of life’
This rapid colonization testifies to the scale of ongoing human attempts to banish from urban settings all but the most favored companion plants and animals from their midst.
One might say that factories, which were devoted to the transformation of nature in the from of ‘raw materials’ into manufactured goods, when ruined return to nature once more, and are subject to its temporalities as the illusion of permanence dissolves.
Ruins are heterogeneously co-produced by humans and non-humans which are connected to the site by numerous flows, routes and networks of association.
All these practical uses are at variance to conventional notions about what urban space ought to be used for, and they are enabled by lack of surveillance and regulation, by the under-determined characteristics of ruined space.
Ruins and the Dis-ordering of Space Challenging prevailing forms of spatial organization… through the aesthetic encoding which produces normative visual conventions across space.
The internalization of these spatial norms about how to act in urban space also fosters a reflexive monitoring of the self and a watchfulness towards fellow urbanites, self-surveillance and the surveillance of others.
Primarily, spaces of consumption multiply and are managed to facilitate consumer-oriented activity as opposed to other practices.
Designers have ‘learned from Disney’ in the combination of social control and aesthetic recreation.
…ruins are excess matter, containing superfluous energy and meaning, which as disorderly intrusions, often in more central areas of the city, always come back to haunt the planners’ vision of what the city should be.
Production always generates its negative
Ruins are exemplary spaces that simultaneously produce disorder and semiotic and material excess. They contain manifold unruly resources with which people can construct meaning, stories and practices.
Heterotopia – an unrepresentable space ‘whose very otherness disturbs speech and dissolves myths—language is brought to the threshold of impossibility
The affective, peculiar sensations experienced in the ruin slip away from those normative procedures through which the space is represented and categorized.
…dislocates the tendency to classify and categorize experiences.
This also reminds us that one of the most vital yet unrecognized signs of mundane ordering is the work that goes into keeping decay and non-human intrusion at bay, in keeping out damp and spraying weedkiller.
This rampant exploitation of derelict space reveals that nature is not separate but will always ignore previous attempts to maintain boundaries between culture and nature, and will thwart the assignation of plants and animals to specific ecological niches or to agricultural, domestic or ‘wild’ domains.
The disorderly aesthetics of ruins
Unfamiliar and hugely varied textures emerge
These spaces are dis-ordered by the agency of non-human life forms which seek out opportunities for spreading and colonizing, and by the contingencies of climate.
The notion that space should be divided up to prevent different elements from mingling is part of the normative aesthetic ordering of space, a modernist aesthetic regulation replete with design codes purporting to embody common-sense notions through which ‘appropriate’ visual appearance masquerades as objectively correct.
Ruins entirely rebuke these normative aesthetic orderings and accordingly are ubiquitously described as unattractive or ugly. My own view is that, conversely, they gain an aesthetic charge by virtue of this difference, in that their disruption of these conventions is evident in markedly alternative sights which simultaneously highlight and enforce semiotics of space.
Unexpected juxtapositions of objects offer disorganized scenes, and an abundance of hybrid forms deny the designed separation of colors, objects and textures, providing an alternative aesthetic of dissonance and peculiar associations.
The happenstance montages of ruined space, however, comment both ironically on the previously fixed meanings of their constituent objects, and the ever-so-carefully arranged montages of commodified space. Pleasurable by virtue of the interaction between objects bearing different semiotic charges, and the arbitrary relationships between different forms, shapes, textures and materialities, the unending diversity of uncoded material juxtapositions stimulate ineffable sensations. These are connected to the variable materiality and tactility of the world, and the surplus meanings which emerge from unexpected conjoinings.
Performance and sensation in Ruined Space
In the contemporary city the body has become ‘primarily a performing self of appearance, display and impression management.’
Choreographed performances—on ‘stages’
Flows of people through the city, and hence their potential for enacting varied performances and being subject to rich experiences, are minimized as they are organized to surge through specific conduits. (shopping!)
The presence of these marginal spaces such as ruins, which produce a blurring of boundaries and ‘constant ruptures in terms of value,’ provide unfamiliar contexts for more improvised performances which respond to chance meetings and contingent events and facilitate the enaction of different pathways.
In the case of the car, the physical efforts – the ‘micro movements’ – used to negotiate space are minimal, producing a desensitizing effect.
Accordingly, the sensations of the city are dominated by the visual in accordance with the requirements of producers of simulations and spectacles. (Billboards!!!)
‘new urban prosthetics’—a system of smooth and sealed walkways, escalators, bridges, people conveyors and tunnels.
In the same way that there are no social barriers to movement across space, there are no temporal restrictions that determine how long one should stay in any location, no curbs on loitering and lingering, and no conventions that prevent slow movement or stillness, fostering a freedom over spatial temporalities that can contrast with the fast world outside with its purposive directedness.
Rather than functional rooms, such spaces seem akin to caves, passages and other archetypal dream spaces.
Why you need a high resolution WAVE recorder: sound post
In a large abandoned factory, the initial peculiarity of finding oneself alone in a vast space, devoid of other people and often stripped of fixtures, is compounded by the shroud of quiet which covers space and heightens awareness of sound. This relative quiescence contrasts with the dense soundscapes of other urban space, a hubbub composed of effusive machinery, blaring sounds and loud conversations. Yet as one becomes more habituated to the ruin, as it becomes more homely, other sounds emerge; for whilst the ruin insulates against the tumult of the outside world, a plethora of lower-decibel murmurs, soft echoes and scurries of unseen movement are enclosed to produce a more delicate soundscape.
Would be so good to do an audio recording at the rocket test site—a site where the noise would have been so intense, probably incredibly quiet.
You should totally post on the sound component becoming a bigger part of the project. The eye moves across space but is generally not directed to carefully situated spectacles and signs, and visual experience is synaesthetic and affective.
Industrial ruins to critique the over-regulated character of contemporary urban space.
Accordingly, the regulation of the urban everyday becomes manifest by its absence and by the possibilities made available in the ruin. Because ruins are difficult to bring into dominant systems of representation, because they can’t be commodified without being entirely transformed, they contrast with the spectacles of the postmodern, themed city, and can stimulate imaginative, alternative practices which bring forth alternative and critical forms of consciousness. Fostering notions about how the world might be differently ordered in accordance with looser aesthetics, less managed spaces, bodies and things, and multi-interpretable signs, ruins can hint at potential futures in which individual creativities and desires are nurtured rather than being subsumed under individualistic consumption.
Dixie square gift:
Exploring a ruin as “anti tourism”
Not a smooth movement through the space—obstacles and tough passages, often perilous
On obvious spectacles around which to organize a tour
Experiences cannot be into a pre-arranged vocabulary or classified as “exotic” or ‘typical’
Materiality in the Ruin: Waste, Excess, and Sensuality Quote:
In one sense, modern capitalism proceeds by forgetting the scale of devastation wreaked upon the physical and social world, for obliterating traces of this carnage fosters the myth of endless and seamless progress. However, lost and abandoned objects vividly convey this destruction.
Page 101- critique of progress
The myth-of-history as progress breaks down and impacted objects reveal the cracks in its construction’, because it embodies a continuous process of composition and decomposition in which everything, including power itself, is constructed and transient.
The barrier between one thing and another evaporates as they merge to from indistinguishable matter or a separate hybrid artifact.
Objects—often appear as sensuous and peculiar sculptures, taking on a curious, appealing resonance by virtue of their chance recontextualisation in space.
The experience of materiality in the industrial ruin has the potential to alter the normative apprehension of objects.
These artifacts pose an alternative way of relating to objects that goes beyond buying and possessing them, domestically displaying and enfolding them, and using them as common sense fixtures around which everyday life is organized. Such objects interrogate the normative placing and ordering of material which binds the social and commodity worship and possession, confounding notions about use and exchange value.
Spaces of memory and the Ghosts of Dereliction: The transience of all spaces
Most dramatically, the stillness of ruins provokes a comparison with the fast urban world outside, full of urgent mobilities and social and industrial processes – which require perpetual inputs of energy to keep things efficiently ticking over to ensure profit maximization.
The ruin is a shadow realm of slowness in which things are revealed at a less frantic pace.
Just as visiting ruins is a kind of anti-tourism, the ruin itself stands as a sort of anti-heritage.
Sights, smells, delicate soundscapes—all at variance to the sensually ordered world outside—a childish sensuality is engaged when the desensualised body experiences the jarring shocks of these unfamiliar sights, smells, sounds, textures—as well as being dirty, contorting the body in accordance with the ramshackle environment, picking up and playing with an object—an individual can be catapulted back to childhood
The variegated atmospheres, aggregations, textures, sounds and smells of ruins means that they are places in which to remember otherwise, realms rich in potential for the evocation of involuntary memories. Along with other places on the margins of regulated space, ruins are ‘points of transition, passages from reason to myth, moments of magic that exist at the interstices of modernity.’
Dixie square tour:
P160—in this sense, one conception of walking around a ruin might be to construe it as a walk through memory, a walk which also produces a compulsion to attempt to narrate that which is remembered.
And by looking at ruins we might learn to adopt a more contingent and open approach to reading and narrating urban space, to look for the multiple signs that hide behind the themes and official stories of place.
Lack of narrative in the work:
In this regard, ruins foreground the values is inarticulacy. The disparate fragments, juxtapositions, traces, involuntary memories, inferred meanings, uncanny impressions and peculiar atmospheres cannot be woven into an eloquent narrative.
And inarticulacy is present in the blurred, partly eradicated legends that advertise products manufactured in the factory, a present indecipherability which mocks the energy expended on fixing meaning through branding and advertising.
Conclusion: …as glaring signs of instability, ruins deride the pretensions of governments and local authorities to maintain economic prosperity and hence social stability, and give the lie to those myths of endless progress which sustain the heightened form of neo-liberal philosophy through which a globalizing capitalist modernity extends.
All subsides into rubbish in the production of vast quantities of waste.
Concentrate on the vitality, seething possibilities and manifold forms of life (and past life) which dwell within ruins.
[Ruins] reveal that the city is not constituted out of an organized web of interconnected, discrete spaces. Instead it includes spaces incommensurable with such containment. For besides ruins, cities also contain scruffy areas behind advertising hoardings, rubbish dumps, undeveloped brownfield sites, culverts and canals, land underneath motorway flyovers, the surroundings of rail lines, junk and scrap yards, and many species of scrubland.
Rather than those spaces of ordered disorder, in which the carnivalesque is manufactured and the preferred disposition is a controlled decontrol of the emotions, ruins are spaces in which alternative emotions, senses, socialites, desires, and forms of expressiveness and speculation are provoked by their disorder and affordances.
There is a case for a politics which allows them to remain, to crumble at their own pace, to ultimately form a gap which reveals where something was in contradistinction to spaces of memorialisation…
Thursday, October 22—4:30 PM—Technocultural studies building
James and Sameer coming Nov. 6-8
Bicycle Hall of Fame opening ceremony—Nov. 7
Southern California was a maelstrom of sinful exploits and it’ll require what remains of a sweltering central valley summer to process what’s occurred. So in addition to the numerous ‘text’ placeholders on this site being replaced by actual sentences, expect a few revealing accounts of what it was to exist on the margins in some of California’s most desirable neighborhoods.
The Possible Audible Visuality overwhelms aurality in the cultural balance of the senses. The light that sparks the presence of objects and environments seems to be instantaneously everywhere and thus assumes a state of being that has proved to be particularly attractive to Western culture, whereas the actions that produce sounds appear scattered in space and time, tied to events that merely take place within a larger state of being.
--Douglas Kahn, Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts The author goes on to discuss how artist John Cage “set out to tilt the balance in favor of the ear” with work that disassociated sound from singular events and reminded his audience of its ever-presence. Because the atoms that compose matter each vibrate continuously with a resonance that can be “heard,” even the most unyielding of objects can be said to have a sound. In an attempt to abolish the sensual favoritism evident in my own artistic practice, I intend to focus a good part of my attention on the varied soundscapes the desert has to offer. From the whine of Predator drones over El Mirage to the whispers of polyester clad spirits haunting the North Shores Yacht Club. My hope is that when the artistic yield of stage three is appraised, aural elements will be heard carrying as much weight as their visual counterparts.
A fresh artistic approach often requires a new set of tools. In this case it’s a pair of binaural “in-ear” microphones and a high-resolution WAVE recorder. The binaurals, worn like earbuds, pick up the sound collected by the pinna or fleshy outer ear. This positioning imbues the recording with spatial cues that provide a naturalistic sense of the three dimensional world. Since everyone’s pinnas are unique, your brain may be slightly confused by a recording made with my ears. Don’t be upset however since this is more likely to be a pleasurable sort of confusion than the type responsible for anxiety.
Becoming proficient with tools of the sonic trade should facilitate a honing of my acoustic sensibility. I expect to build upon the foundation laid by The Joy of Infinity and make the evocative quality of its audio the standard for future work. So dust off the headphones your mom bought you when she was sick of hearing “that infernal racquet” coming from your bedroom. You’ll want them for this one. I have much in common with the Victorian thinkers in terms of the importance of beauty in one’s life. This spills over into conceptions regarding the value of youth—vanity, etc.
Kickstarter Welcome Video: stuff to cover:
Some will insist that technology will bail us out—I’m among a growing chorus of voices that has looked carefully at the numbers and concluded that
Why they should be a part of it—
Gifts—emphasis on being integrated into the project. Let me send you
If it manages to be all those things then yahoo.
These are difficult places to get to—places you might not get to see otherwise
How about a 123,000 acres of sluge covered west texas ground
Bicycle shoes—from bicycle shoes to moccasins—a nod to Mr. Rogers—jacket to sweater, outdoor shoes to indoor shoes.
Hello neighbor Well hello heighbor,
You’ve caught me at one of my favorite places—what was once a sprawling industrial complex that turned tomatoes into soup and ketchup, is now a fragmented slab of concrete.
My needs are relatively modest.
I already have most of what I need—my bike needs some new tires, and I was
An invitation to come along on the adventure—to engage with the work directly.
So come along with me as I cross miles of desert, explore the ruins of a
Begins with a few shots on the bike—the approach—get the bike into the space—
So why should you want to be a part of this adventure?
Closing shots montaged in from previous edits
Eno or Maus
Or maybe my voice is heard behind the opening montage—I thoughtful fragments—“I see a world where… Address what people have done—
It’s time to try something different—we tried converting everything around us into money, and we almost succeeded, but it’s now glaringly obvious that this approach will not do. Ever heard that cynical statement: if they could figure out a way to charge us for the air we breath they would… well lets hope they don’t get a chance to try.
I intend to go out into the world and take a closer look at our changing circumstances, to document the onset of the Deindustrial Revolution.
If the myth of progress has been the dominant religion of our time, the belief system that most people look at for their explanation of why the world is the way it is, for why their lives are the way they are, for why they must put up with the bullshit they do—because overall, things are getting better and better.
That old track that was appropriated by Philips—maker of television—well it’s a nice song, but it’s a lie. No story can persist beyond its end.—a dubious belief system with fewer and fewer subscribers every day, what kind of spirituality will emerge in the void it leaves as it fades into history?
Maybe layout goals systematically—even number them
One: I’m not looking to predict the future, I’m telling one possible story, speculative fiction, making some educated guesses about how certain things might unfold. Think of it more like storytelling—if you like the story, you’ll keep watching.
The bicycle honestly just seems like the most practical and pleasurable way to get around and it fits in well with many of the project’s themes.
So what makes this one different? Why not raise thousands of dollars for skin cancer or global warming or children in Africa.
This project isn’t about curing cancer or raising awareness of global warming or
It’s not so much about the cycling—It’s just my chosen form of transportation since it allows me to be extremely self sufficient.
The Illuminated thread is essentially a research project. I’d like to document the contraction phase of the industrial age is it grinds to a close.
Remember that future? Is someone still toiling away somewhere trying to cram a turkey dinner into something the size of pea?
This is my theory on why people like to hang out in the Apple store: because it reminds them of that sleek future that never arrived.
My parent’s generation bough into this story story—when another wonder product hit the shelves every week and it seamed there was no limit to what science could come up with to improve
To have a long and short version of the welcome video.
or hop into an aluminum cylinder and be transported halfway around the world in a matter of hours. Some of us even got to fly up to the moon and play golf.
Now I know what you’re thinking:
But technology! [in a primal yell from the top of the water tower
Well it just so happens that technology is not the same thing as energy and is subject to the law of diminishing returns.
And having gotten us into the situation we’re in, it would be unwise to count on it to get us out, or to prevent the conclusion of the industrial age.
So yes, the party’s over. Actually, it’s been over for a while, it’s just that the DJ hasn’t noticed that everyone is bored stiff and on antidepressants.
When you’ve got it into sections—clips—then think about possible shots that would parallel the content of each section—climbing the diagonal bar, ups and downs over concrete stumps, etc.
Back to the future intro
Personal faith in a dazzling future
Explain the “story” myth of progress—linear incremental progress throughout history
Limits don’t apply—technology, innovation
Reveal the fallacy of the “story”
History is not linear but cyclical—civilizations rise and fall, often when they exhaust their resource base (limits). knowledge is sometimes lost
Fossil fuels allowed us to leave the agrarian pattern behind, gave us incredible powers and allowed us to believe somehow that we were exempt from history’s cycles. Our lifestyles are a product of that extravagance
Facing the end of the industrial age—the contraction phase
Questions about where were headed
Welcome to the illuminated thread
Structures and landscapes
Telling a new story
Begin I was nine when back to the future two came out in theatres. My friends and I all wanted hoverboards and there was absolutely no doubt in my child brain that I’d someday pilot a car that not only flew, but ran on banana peels and stale beer.
My faith that this dazzling future was just around the corner isn’t so much a testament to the genius of the film’s special effects as it is to the power of a story that I learned at an even younger age. It’s a story that each of us knows well because it’s been endlessly retold in millions of different ways for generations. In fact, we hear it so often that most of us take it to be self-evident truth.
As the story goes, history is the story of incremental human progress from our primitive cave dwelling beginnings to our high technology present. As we’ve improved ourselves we’ve improved our lot. This trend toward better and better living will continue until all of humanity is living amongst the stars in a science fiction utopia.
Before you book that Mars cruise, I have some news that may come as a surprise. It turns out this story was just that all along—a grand tale of destiny, with little regard for the reality we live in. In other words—it’s a myth, the Myth of endless progress, and it’s built on expectations about the world that just don’t hold water.
Social evolution doesn’t proceed in a straight line but tends to go in cycles. Civilizations have a relatively predictable lifecycle that includes a rise and inevitable fall [walking over a concrete block]. Often when civilizations fall, knowledge is lost and things have to be reinvented from scratch—debunking the idea that we’re continuously advancing and that were firmly standing on the technological achievements of the past.
The industrial age isn’t so much built on the foundation of the past as it is a single critically important innovation. The ability to harness the energy stored in hydrocarbons. Until that point people lived a relatively similar lifestyle, dependent on the energy that fell upon the earth as sunlight as it drove the weather that turned the windmills and water wheels of the pre-industrial world. It was fossil fuels and only fossil fuels that allowed us to break that agrarian pattern and build the industrial world.
Strangely, the myth assumes that limits don’t apply to modern man because the forward march of human progress eclipses all else. We have science and technology—and there’s no kind of trouble we can’t innovate ourselves out of. Maybe the power that hydrocarbons have given us has gone to our heads. But we know from past examples that when civilizations outrun their resource base, they go under. It’s nieve and counter productive to assume we’re somehow exempt from history’s cycles just as it is to assume people of past ages weren’t as resourceful or igneous as we are.
Yup, the tremendous gifts of the industrial age were made possible by extraordinary amounts of cheap and reliable energy—the lifestyles we’ve grown up treating as normal are entirely a product of that prodigious spending of that energy. When those deposits are no longer able to be retrieved cheaply and reliably because they are in fact finite, the industrial age will grind to a close taking with it many of the luxuries we’ve come to take for granted. Someday we’ll look back either nostalgically or with disbelief at the incredible extravagance we once considered normal.
As two hundred years of exuberant growth begins to disintegrate, beginning with the hyper complex systems of global production and trade that were the last to arrive on the scene, what we are most likely facing is a long bumpy ride down the backside of industrial civilization’s declining arc through time. Not the sudden collapse that Hollywood has taught us to expect and certainly not more of the same. As we leave behind the age of exuberance and enter the age of limits—what will our lives be like? How will we meet our needs? What will this world look like? What gods will we pray to and what stories will we tell our children when that ask us why the world is the way it is? What cultural and technological knowledge should we retain and what can we let fade into history?
Riding my bicycle through the world’s industrialized nations, I’ll be looking for answers to these and other questions.
What you’ll see is content derived from looking outward, exploring, investigating—a direct engagement with the world.
I plan to spend much of my time on the road visiting and documenting some of the structures we’ve been able to build with all that ancient sunlight—buildings where atoms are split, rivers that flow uphill. I’ll look at some of the places that have already been left behind by capitalism’s relentless search for profit as they have much to tell us about who we are, where we’re headed, and . I’ll expose the beauty of these places and their potential to memorialize the way humans lived during this extraordinary but fleeting moment our history.
I take the ambivalent viewpoint of the scientific observer. To accept, and view with curiosity, “both the wonder and immense tragedy of our time.”—to simultaneously hold both views—to not see civilization as either good or evil—to not ignore the immense price that has been paid and will continue to be paid
What I won’t be doing is trying to predict the future. I’d much rather tell a story based on a little informed guessing about the type of future I believe we face. It’s important that my story be seen as only one amongst an infinite number of possible others, each alternatives to the myth of progress which has for too long been the filter through which we’ve seen the world. It’s important to have these options because the stories we tell ourselves will play a significant role on the world we create at the end of the industrial age.
Reporting from the future. Not a future with flying cars and space cruises but one where orchards grow along the ruined interstate highways. Where someone is running a beat up old laptop with a scavenged alternator and a handful of radiator fans turning in the breeze. Where one is more likely to hear the neigh of a horse than the internal combustion engine. Where there are more fish in the oceans and yes, fewer of us.
It’s going to be strange, it’s going to be beautiful. Come along.
that that things move in one direction western industrial civilization at the end of a long line of false starts and failed civilizations—as if it was the culmination of thousands of years of cultural evolution —always toward better and better living until all of humanity is living amongst the stars in a science fiction utopia.
A while back things were messy, difficult, primitave—but since our humble beginnings as cave dwellers we have been climbing the ladder of better and better living, improving ourselves incrementally over the ages right up to the present. Things will continue to improve until…
All of human history is a grand tale of human improvement—people climbing step by stem up the ladder of progress. Accumulated knowledge allowed each culture to go further and accomplish more than the one before it. Eventually we will leap from our home planet and embrace our destiny among the stars
It’s the story of perpetual progress and few of us realize how much it affects our thinking about the future.
Underlying this story is the assumption that limits don’t apply to us. if we want something badly enough—a limitless supply of energy for example, we shall have it because human progress trumps everything else.
The faith in progress lies on the unstated assumption that limits don’t apply to us because the forward momentum of human progress automatically trumps everything else. If we want limitless supplies of energy, the logic seems to be, the world will give it to us
How about the idea that there’s no problem we can’t innovate ourselves out of. That we can look forward to faster and faster cars, better medical treatment, and __ as far as the eye can see. We may encounter bumps in the road but in the long run the economy will keep growing and computers will keep shrinking.
Pretty good right?
relies on assumptions about the world that don’t stand up to critical examination the past isn’t the linear story of progress the folklore of the industrial age would have us believe.
Since the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago, daily life has been pretty much the same for most humans.
Throughout history knowledge has been lost and in some cases never relearned.
Societies that outrun their resource base go under
Some things about it can be predicted by comparison with past examples the conviction that the united states is exempt from history: that today’s gleaming industrial cities might someday become crumbling ruins is outside the realm of the imaginable for most people today.
The conviction that history’s cycles don’t apply to us is counter productive. It’s arrogant to insist that people in past ages weren’t as resourceful and ingenious as we are. What is exceptional about industrial civilization is that ? After all, the Romans weren’t cruising around with a million songs at the tip of their fingers. The difference is that we discovered how to harness the power of ancient sunlight in the form of concentrated hydrocarbon deposits—oil coal and natural gas. This tremendous source of energy, the product of hundreds of thousands of years worth of photosynthesis, allowed us to follow our aspirations farther than any civilization has in the past. Wielding the tremendous power of hydrocarbons tricked us into thinking we were the masters of the universe and made the myth of endless progress seem like a realistic possibility.
The lifestyles we’ve grown up treating as normal are entirely the product of that extravaganceFossil fuel energy and only fossil fuel energy made it possible to break the old agrarian pattern and construct the industrial world.
Surplus population and an impoverished planetary biosphere combined with the plain hard reality of vanishing fossil fuels and the myth of progress becomes a mirage Having been able to jump into our own two thousand pound climate controlled bubble and be whisked off to the frozen yogurt shop.
gradual disintegration (not sudden catastrophic collapse)
A long uneven decline into a new dark age which, centuries from now, the civilizations of tomorrow will gradually emerge. Preserve essential cultural and practical knowledge for the future.
Information and connections that people need to adapt constructively to the changes brought on by the decline of our civilization. Because the stories we tell ourselves will have an immense impact on the world we create at the end of the industrial age.
Because the more stories the better.
We’ll be jumping around in time. sometimes I’ll come to you from 50 years from now, sometimes 200
We are at a historic inflection point—the ending of decades of expansion and the beginning of an inevitable period of contraction that will continue until humanity is once again living within the limits of Earth’s regenerative systems. Help from greer:
Industrial civilization on the downward slope of its history
The declining arc of industrial civilization’s trajectory through time Societies that outrun their resource base go under
Some things about it can be predicted by comparison with past examples
Encountering the limits to growth
The collapse of civilizations is a natural process
Built our civilization on a nonrenewable resource base gradual disintegration (not sudden catastrophic collapse)
250 years to complete the process of decline and fall- no one alive today will see the process completed
A long uneven decline into a new dark age which, centuries from now, the civilizations of tomorrow will gradually emerge. the conviction that the united states is exempt from history: that today’s gleaming industrial cities might someday become crumbling ruins is outside the realm of the imaginable for most people today.
The conviction that history’s cycles don’t apply to us is counter productive-- #5—more on page 58 Preserve essential cultural and practical knowledge for the future. Information and connections that people need to adapt constructively to the changes brought on by the decline of our civilization.
All of human history is a grand tale of human improvement—people climbing step by stem up the ladder of progress. Accumulated knowledge allowed each culture to go further and accomplish more than the one before it. Eventually we will leap from our home planet and embrace our destiny among the stars This myth relies on assumptions about the world that don’t stand up to critical examination
The faith in progress lies on the unstated assumption that limits don’t apply to us because the forward momentum of human progress automatically trumps everything else. If we want limitless supplies of energy, the logic seems to be, the world will give it to us.—this belief is reinforced every time we hear about some new technology that will allow us to continue our motoring ways—or cover our homes with photovolcaic paint.
Hundreds of millions of years worth of photosynthesis. The lifestyles we’ve grown up treating as normal are entirely the product of that extravagance Nor is the past so much of a linear story of progress as the folklore of the industrial age would have it. The limits of available energy imposed a common framework on human societies
This stable pattern changed only when we were able to harness the stored energy of fossil fuels It’s arrogant to insist that people in past ages weren’t as resourceful and ingenious as we are. Fossil fuel energy and only fossil fuel energy made it possible to break the old agrarian pattern and construct the industrial world. Surplus population and an impoverished planetary biosphere combined with the plain hard reality of vanishing fossil fuels and the myth of progress becomes a mirage The hidden presence of myth—stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the world
The story is invisible to those who believe in it.—so pervasive that few people notice how completely it dominates out thinking about the future. The myth of progress as the established religion of the modern industrial world. The myth’s emotional appeal—comforts those who have made their peace with society as it is and want to believe that the compromises and frustration of their lives are part of a process that will eventually lead to better things Entering a world of hard ecological limits, restricted opportunities, and lowered expectations—why it’s good to take stock of what we have accomplished with a focus on the objects that will follow us into this period.
The need for more stories through which to interpret the world
Because the stories we tell ourselves will have an immense impact on the world we create at the end of the industrial age.
Differences between the futures we anticipate and the one we are most likely to get will challenge us to the core. If you’ve got questions, that’s good.
But the conclusion of the industrial age means some changes are underfoot and we may wake up ten or twenty years from now and find ourselves living in ways we never could have imagined.
But it won’t be all bad—we may find some of the changes to be quite positive—we may be eating food that’s better for us, spending more time with the people we love and less time alone in our cars.
So… if what I’ve asserted is true and we are at a historical inflection point and two hundred years of explosive growth is in the process of reversing direction—this certainly means we’re in for some changes.
So what I intend to do is bike around the world and take a good look at this process—this historical inflection point.
[B-roll begins]—I’d like to take a look at some of the structures
I want to tell a story—a story of my own design, about what I think this new world might look like.
What should you expect to see and read?
Accounts of what it’s like to live
If all this sounds absurd to you, you’re probably still hung up on that progress myth—and, while you’re likely to be disappointed, maybe this project isn’t for you.
If you’re a believer in the myth of progress, or the other version: the myth of apocalypse, then maybe this project isn’t for you.
So what’s in it for you?
Well, besides the tremendous feeling of satisfaction associated with such a worthy project- an endeavor with nothing less than the potential to redirect the our cou
It’s getting harder and harder to ignore limits to growth on this finite planet of our—the short version is that, as we are on the cusp of this new period, period of contraction
Where 200 years of exuberant growth is about to reverse directions. Instead of more every year there will be less. Fewer and fewer resources to be divided amongst a global human population that is still expanding.
If you’re a subscriber in the myth of endless progress then maybe this project isn’t for you.
But if by chance you live in a reality based world where the laws of physics and geology still apply, then this project may have something to offer.
Each leg of the journey—and this next one will be…
I’ve got the bike: (fast montage of bike images flash by.
I’ve got the camera.
Tim: I recently read your Industrial Ruins text and wanted to thank you for your incredible insights. The book is my new bible and accompanies me everywhere. You’ve put into eloquent prose many of my long held convictions regarding the value of industrial abandonments. I’m on the verge of launching a long-term research project I thought you might be interested in. For the next few years I’ll ride my bicycle through many of the world’s industrialized nations—documenting and interpreting the contraction phase of the industrial age. My primary focus will be the structures and landscapes left behind as 200 years of exuberant growth slows and begins to reverse direction. I’ll also be looking at some of the megastructures (nuclear power plants, elevated roadways) that are likely to persist as monuments in the long term.I wanted to turn you on to a couple films that apply to your book’s section on how ruins are portrayed in contemporary cinema—maybe you’ve already seen them, but just in case. The Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky often used such sites as realms that embody a kind of deep personal introspection. In his film Stalker, shot mostly at a breathtakingly beautiful abandoned hydroelectric plant in Estonia, there is a room deep within the ruin that’s said to be able to grant one their innermost desire—even if the true nature of that desire is unclear to its subject. The spiritual and the supernatural abound.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nostalghia Both films contain scenes where it rains indoors—an effect made possible by the permeable nature of the ruined spaces the director uses. Although my background is firmly rooted in the visual arts, I’ve found myself doing a great deal of writing on my topics of choice lately. I’m currently writing a piece, using your work as a foundation, on sleeping in ruined space and how the dream like nature of ruins means waking up in one is somehow parallel to that ‘dream within a dream’ experience we occasionally get. I wondered if you had any expanded thoughts on ruins as dreamscapes—perhaps as physical manifestations of our collective unconscious filled with disembodied half forgotten fragments of memories, hopes and aspirations—all floating around together in this disorganized space we tend to collectively repress. (Or something like that.) Here are a few links to some video work I’ve done with abandonments. Most are pretty short and I think you’ll really like them. Blue Room: SF Naval Shipyard (1m 6s)
http://vimeo.com/6990384 The joy of infinity (2m 27s)—the audio track for this one was recorded inside a disused water tower near my home. No manipulation.
http://vimeo.com/6079374 I’d be happy to send you a compilation DVD of this work if you’d like to watch them again in their full resolution glory. Just email me your address. And lastly, here’s the link to the larger project’s website. It’s called The Illuminated Thread and isn’t a small site so slow connections are not advised. http://illuminatedthread.com/ All the best and thanks again!
firstname.lastname@example.org see collapse with Michael Ruppert
When an empire is about to dissolve, it builds its most outlandish monuments
The primary “immature” cultural concept—“You are the most important person in the world”—is shouted is shouted at us daily through TV, the primary spokesvehicle of our culture. The constant reinforcement of this message keeps our culture immature and prevents us from growing in maturity.
Freedom from want
The reason for the persistence and intensity of these messages is simple: when people behave like children, wanting immediate gratification for their every desire, they are the ideal consumers. Only when we turn off the messages can we begin the process of maturing—and this is rarely done.
You should perfect your brownlands workout—maybe shoot it or at least write about it. Might make a funny piece
Shoot it over a few days so your clothing changes.
Need relationship advice?
Have an idea you want to hash out?
Need to vent about work, school or family?
Concerned about the collapse of industrial civilization?
Need to be talked into/outta doing something potentially drastic?
Or just wanna gossip about your strung-out roommate…
Tête-à-tête with Brett When your friends tire of hearing about that dude or gal who’s playin’ you like a Casio keyboard, I’m your intimate in reserve! So change your g-chat status to “over-n-out suckas!” and sit across from another living breathing human being. We’ll talk about whatever you want while our warm beverages steam up a café’s windowpanes on a chilly fall afternoon. No subject is taboo or too mundane (although I’ll struggle with team sports).
How it works:
You buy the espresso (or an oatmeal cookie) and for one hour, my ears belong to you.
All ages, genders, ethnicities, political affiliations, sexual orientations, social classes, and physical dimensions welcome. (no police officers or vampires please)
First choose a Downtown Davis café: Mishka’s
Tea List Tearoom
Delta of Venus
Then choose a time: Seriously whenever so check the hours of your preferred café and email me at least a day in advance of when you’d like to meet.
I have: a master’s degree
twenty-nine years of life experience
vast blocks of unstructured time
a sense of humor
I haven’t: any official counseling credentials
fluency in a foreign language
a sinister ulterior motive
a facebook account
the swine flu (as of this writing)
references available upon request.
see also: Illuminatedthread.com
So Miran Park emails in response, which is good because I was beginning to think there was something screwy with my email. And I respond:
It's good that you asked about the "why"-- gives me reason to answer if for myself.
"busy in life" is exactly what i'm not-- a condition that's taken much work to arrive at. I have an affinity for cafe's (that actually more closely resembles an addiction) and am always looking for new ways to rationalize spending so much time in them. I'm not doing anyone any good staring at a laptop screen and people always wanna talk so...
Maybe its my little way of subverting the trend toward technologically mediated communication displacing face to face interaction but i'd imagine I'm at least like five years behind the curve on that one-- it's almost cliché to critique that shit at this point.
I'm actually not stellar with interpersonal communication so maybe i'm forcing myself to practice-- Oh!... !... and practice in a way that is (supposedly) free of the responsibilities (and expectations) that come with relationships not neatly contained by a one-hour-appointment.
Not sure why i wrote the post in the language of advertising-- i guess it just seemed like the most craigslisty approach plus maybe there's a touch of irony in there somewhere.
Hopefully that didn't completely satisfy your curiosity and void your reason for wanting to meet. I did just include three "maybes" in like not too many sentences so you shouldn't consider this a thesis statement or anything. Maybe there's more.
(plus it’s funny/ironic that we’re communicating by email if you’re critiquing technologically mediated communication)
plus, it’s nice to have a stranger buy you something even if it is a $2 espresso.
I don’t think this has direct relationship to your work? I mean how could it not to some extent—you did come up with it—but that doesn’t explain everything
I think it’ll be pretty interesting to see how this pans out in terms of expectations—both for looks and personality. The facebook check was bad but it was a temptation that had to be yielded to. We shall see.