Poetics of ruin

Emma Fraser

Friday 30th April, 10am-12pm

Presentation Room, Bon Marche (UTS Bldg. 3, Rm. 510)

Presentation: 20mins

Modern ruins, as tangible remnants of the recent past, offer the potential to transport us radically beyond the experience of the everyday to a unique space of transition between past and present, the affect of which is heightened by its proximity in time to the moment of immediate experience. As representations of the broader transience of history, they fracture the notion of progress, of finite beginnings and endings, of distinct readings of past events – they are spaces in which the conflict between a dead past and an accessible, readable history plays out.

To explore the notion of “experience” in disused, “dead”, or otherwise decaying spaces, this presentation will present a slide-show of “holiday” snaps from various locations, including the abandoned town of Pripyat in Chernobyl, the industrial ruins and asylums of Staten Is. in New York, and the monumental ruins of Detroit’s inner city. The majority (if not all) or the images will be the work of the presenter. Through a seemingly trivial mode of presentation, the slide-show will demonstrate the qualities of ruin-space—particularly the aesthetic and material contrasts with typical tourist destinations (both “whole” sites, and ancient ruins).

Given the informal nature of the presentation, the images chosen are not intended as works of art or professional photography; that is, some will include imperfections (blurry images, raindrops on lenses, dark or incomplete images etc), as they are not a representation of a particular place or time, or an artistic vision, but rather a record of actual experience in ruin-space.

Emma is currently undertaking a research masters at UTS titled “Interrupting Progress: Ruins, Rubble and Catastrophe in Walter Benjamin’s History”. She completed her undergraduate degree with honours at UTS in 2007, and spent 2 months overseas in 2009 exploring and photographing abandoned and decaying buildings, particularly in Pripyat (Ukraine) and Detroit (USA).

Emma has published articles on urban decay, “dead space” and ruins, and hopes to eventually compile enough original material for independent publication or exhibition.


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A two day forum of creative research, experimentation and practice held from April 28-30 at the University of Technology, Sydney, and Serial Space Gallery, Chippendale.

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