Though constantly in decay, ruins continue to fascinate the observer. Their still-standing survival is a loud affirmation of their presence, in which we can admire the struggle against the power of Nature aesthetically manifested during the decay.
This volume takes a thematic approach to examining the aesthetics of ruins. It looks at the general aspects of architectural decay and its classical forms of admiration and then turns towards ruins from both classical and contemporary periods, from both Western and non-Western areas, and with examples from “high art” as well as popular culture. Combining the methodologies of art history, aesthetics and cultural history, this book opens up new ways of looking at the phenomenon of ruins.
Introduction / Part I Classical Tendancies / 1. The fragile presence of ruins. General aspects of the aesthetics of architectural decay / 2. The golden age and fall of ruins / 3. In front of ruins / Part II Modern Appearances / 4. Ruins in East-West perspective / 5. Contemporary ruins. Investigations into a contradiction in terms / 6. “Learning from Detroit?” – From materialised dreams to bitter awakening. Aesthetics around decayed shopping malls / Part III When in Works / 7. Cracks in the walls / 8. Eulogy to the fragment. Artworks and ruination / 9. Ruins as context and scenery. Temporal interference as source of aesthetic experience / Part IV Afterlife 10. Mall with lamassu. Imitated decay and aesthetic education in thematic commercial centres / 11. What remains of that which has remained? Against the eradication of ruins / 12. “Time transformed into Space”. Orhan Pamuk and the museums of remembrance
Dr Zoltán Somhegyi is Assistant Professor of Art History and Cultural Studies at the College of Fine Arts and Design, University of Sharjah.
Zoltán Somhegyi surveys ruins from across the globe, covering remnants of antiquity, contemporary urban decay, ruins pictured in artworks, and artificial ruins from eighteenth-century gardens to present-day shopping malls. His sophisticated reflections draw upon extensive research from several disciplines, providing a wonderfully readable introduction to ruin appreciation as well as an indispensable resource for scholars.
The book Reviewing the Past: The Presence of Ruins by Zoltán Somhegyi is a must-read book about a very topical subject. We live in an age of ruins. On the one hand we save, document and reconstruct with great technical and financial effort all the fragments that have been historically preserved, and on the other hand new ruins are created all around, through war and iconoclastic terror and furor. Numerous aspects of the cultural and art historical, aesthetic, political and ideological ambivalences that determine the theme of ruins are dealt with in this legible and knowledgeable work.