Big Ruins: The Aesthetics and Politics of Supersized Decay – Manchester, Wednesday, 14 May 2014

I’m excited to be involved in the ‘Big Ruins’ conference, to be held in Manchester later this year. Conference organiser, Paul Dobraszczyk, describes the event: “As global capitalism intensifies its hold on the planet, so its ruins are scaling up in size: from vast junkyards of jumbo-jets in Nevada to entire empty cities in China waiting to be inhabited. Meanwhile the urban ruins of the Cold War era continue to resist appropriation, whether because of their toxicity, ideological misplacedness, or as a consequence of intractable ethnic conflicts. Coupled with a recent plethora of (post)apocalyptic visions of ruined cities in cinema and computer games, the links between real and imagined ruination are becoming increasingly blurred. If we are to imagine large-scales sites of decay, how might their possible ruin be represented in a way that helps us adequately respond to that very possibility?

This conference will address that question by focusing on the wider significance of big ruins in an age of global capitalism. Drawing from a wide range of sites – both real and imagined – this conference aims to create a dialogue between big ruins and the culturally-prescient theme of the imagination of disaster and to open up an emancipatory space that, following Slavoj Žižek, accepts the universal inevitability of ruin in order to break its ideological grasp and thus to suggest liberating alternatives.”

The event is free and you can register here.

Confirmed speakers and paper titles are:

Keynote

Tim Edensor: ‘Ruins are everywhere’

• Formations

Luke Bennett: ‘The ruins of ruins’

Michael Crang: ‘Mired but alive’: the aesthetic taming of toxicity

• Ideologies

Anca Pusca: ‘Postcommunist ruins: the fine line between decay vs. rebuilding’

Mark Sanderson: ‘Derelict utopias’

Matthew Philpotts: ‘Rocket-fuelled ruin: Re-territorialising the traces of German dictatorship’

• Explorations

Emma Fraser: ‘Reading the ruins of Detroit: poetic, dialectical and phenomenological approaches’

Clare O’Dowd: ‘Gregor Schneider and the ghost towns’

Paul Dobraszczyk: ‘40 years later: ruin gazing in Varosha’

Camilla Røstvik: ‘Like sleeping dragons: an exploration of the ruins of CERN’

• Futures

Carl Lavery & Lee Hassall: ‘Return to Battleship Island: Future of Ruins’

William Viney: ‘Futures in ruin’

Andrew Hardman: ‘Where is my apocalypse? Living in a ruined future’

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