Welcome to our Blog

Click here to read the what this blog is all about.
Click here to see a listing of posts arranged by category.

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Too Young and Vibrant for Ruins"

As details in a previous post, Ground Zero in New York is perhaps the most well-known modern ruin of our time. As such, it is a prominent case in which people have asked some important questions about ruins and suffering: is it okay to enjoy ruins? Is it okay to find ruins beautiful, when in fact they may have been the source of pain? How does our understanding of ancient ruins color our view of them?

In a recent article in the journal Afterimage from Nov/Dec 2008, entitled "Too Young and Vibrant for Ruins: Ground Zero Photography and the Problem of Contemporary Ruin," Weena Perry addresses these questions. She asks how we should relate to photographs of the World Trade Center ruins, and starts by drawing a comparison between them and ancient ruins:
"The remains of those interlocking perimeter columns--a High Modernist innovation for what briefly was the world's tallest building--became likened to the ruins of a cathedral. The invocation of religious architecture both expressed the sacrosanct nature of Ground Zero for many and connected the ruins to western culture's venerable past. Valid, too, is the comparison of the towers' shell to the pagan ruins of ancient Rome, especially the Coliseum."
Workers at Ground Zero are compared to the monks of Casper David Friedrich's paintings - both had a higher purpose in mind, and went on with their work despite the ruined nature of their building. However, a key distinction here is that while the monks were presumably doing what they had done while the church was intact, the Ground Zero workers were not going to trade stocks or write insurance premiums; rather, they were clearing the rubble and searching for remains.

Perry surveys various editorials that have been written about the ruins, in which people asked if it was perverse to find the ruins beautiful, and in which people looked at the ruins as symbols of resilience and survival, rather than as signs of destruction.

There is also an interesting distinction made between the ruins in NYC, a vibrant city, and those in midwestern cities, like Detroit, in which ruins are caused by neglect and decay. Despite the great suffering associated with the former, they are somehow more hopeful and less morose. Another comparison is between American ruins and European ruins. "America is considered 'too young and vibrant for ruins'", so when deciding how to preserve a memorial, it seemed wrong to many to leave actual ruins in place. Perry writes that the study of ruins has always been tied to a fear that this could happen to us as well. European and American scholars look at the ruins of Greece and Rome and fear that this will be our fate as well. The WTC ruins are unencumbered by this fear, as they happened in a thriving city and could quickly be rebuilt. However, even so politicians worried that this hit too close to home.

No comments:

Post a Comment