Light and the Aesthetics of Abandonment: HDR Imaging and the Illumination of Ruins

The online circulation of photographs of abandoned places has been considerably influential on the contemporary visual culture of ruins. At the hands of online content-editors and users, images of ruins have become the subject of listicles, click-bait posts, image aggregators, and image hosting sites (sites such as, Buzzfeed, Imgur, and Distractify). Considering the high volume and frequency in the circulation of images of ruins as components of visual lists of the top abandoned places, this paper contemplates the relationship between the ruinous and the abandoned. When Svetlana Boym asserts, “ruins give us a shock of vanishing materiality” (Boym 58), we must consider that this shock is most commonly conveyed through images. In the case of contemporary images, this sense of “shock” is often visually achieved through distorting the tonal range of photographs of decay and abandonment. Images that are tone mapped to display a high dynamic range of luminosity (commonly, “HDR photographs”) appear surreal – a disturbed reality distinct from that which we encounter day-to-day. The paper considers how light, in the manipulated tonal range of the photograph, problematises the ruin’s signification of meaning

Keywords: ruins; abandoned places; photography; HDR; light

Kushinski, Alysse. "Light and the Aesthetics of Abandonment: HDR Imaging and the Illumination of Ruins” Transformations, Issue 28 (2016).

Super-Material Culture: Thinking Through a New Discourse of Ruins

The discourse on ruins, like ruins themselves, is fragmented and dispersed. Representing both decay and what remains, the ruins’ relationship to temporality is complicated—they can be construed as means for both looking back, as well as looking towards the future. The recent resurgence of literature and theory on the subject matter is consolidating existing work and defining new lines of inquiry. This article investigates the current discourse on ruins through three recent texts. Significant to them all is the dialectical nature of the ruin as both the absence of, and endurance of, material form. All three texts consider ruins through the lens of the built environment and problematize classic conceptions of ruination in consideration of the contemporary moment. Looking at ruination through architecture theory provides a contrast to the romantic accounts of ruins that originally defined the discourse. Through these texts we can see certain limitations of the discourse of ruins, but also visible are nuanced approaches that redefine the ruin as more than just a site or object, but also a set of processes that reflect our relationships to material culture and the built environment. To this I assert a necessity to reconfigure the way we de ne ruins in light of the contemporary moment. The discourse of ruins, while still speaking through earlier tropes of a fragmented ruin studies, is no longer just a survey of the subject of the ruin—it is becoming a mode through which we evaluate the changing nature of our relationship to material culture.

Keywords: ruins, ruination, architecture, super-materiality, waste 

Kushinski, Alysse. “Super-Material Culture: Thinking Through a New Discourse of Ruins” e-Topia, Thresholds: Presence, Absence and Territory (2016).

Non-Commemoration and the Nation: The Politics of Memory and Forgetting in the Former Yugoslavia

The concepts of monumentality and collective memory have not been neglected by discourses concerning national identity. However, insights favouring forgetting and counter-memory are considerably new approaches  to reconstructing identities and redressing tragedy after pronounced violence. Erecting monuments is often a strategy towards building and inciting public memory and defining the nation, but they can also be used as a means of masking histories and manipulating national narratives – this is seemingly the case in a number of post-war monuments throughout the former Yugoslavia. The interplay between cultural heritage, memory, and space is a huge component of national identity; the installation of monuments memorializing non-Yugoslav celebrities throughout the newly defined states serve as a means to reconstitute identity, redefine heritage and avoid the celebration of a painful past. This paper will examine the potential consequences of manipulating public space through the erection of structures that function to disguise. By discussing the way in which identities can strive to strategically avoid the state in the ‘non-commemoration’ of the nation and its inflicted traumas, I hope to demonstrate that the state is always present: That even through neglecting it – it is always referenced, that the academic conceptions of the state can operate, not just by identifying and treating the state as an actor, but also by simply acknowledging the state as spectre. By comparing these contemporary structures to the numerous national monuments dedicated to victims of fascism built after the Second World War, I will show how the relationship between the state and memory has shifted in some regards and stayed the same in others.

Keywords: Yugoslavia; nationalism, monumentality, counter-memory, turbosculpture

Kushinski, Alysse. “Non-Commemoration and the Nation: The Politics of Memory and Forgetting in the Former Yugoslavia” University of Bucharest Review, 01/2013 (November 2013), 68-76