Thursday, June 30, 2016

What even is remain?

Recently, I did some very late editing to an earlier post, that on modern ruins. Like all of my translations, it suffers from the fact that it is a rework of a piece I wrote when I was less language. Revisiting them means noticing that they do other things in text than in retrospect. The temptation is always there to edit them so that grammar and sentiment align.

I keep them around for the sake of archaeological preservation. No sense pretending the past isn't affected by learning and personal growth. Old writing always happened before the learning that came afterwards.

Thing is. It is possible to look upon contemporary architecture as modern ruins, and read it as such. Certain time periods had certain architectural norms and standards, and built accordingly. These norms and standards have mostly faded away, but the buildings remain, and with an astute enough eye it's possible to read past sentiments off the walls. Sometimes literally - either by design or later additions, such as graffiti - but mostly in implicit terms. Either the writing is on the wall, or the wall is the writing.

It always amazes me how much can be conveyed through architecture. It's never just about keeping the roofs supported and the walls upright. A whole aesthetic is conveyed by just standing around. This is the way things are, the walls say. Because they are.

There is a literacy to these things. Knowing the mindset and zeitgeist of the times that built the buildings around you lets you decode them more skillfully. You can see the optimistic bureaucratic 70s peering at you from the brick boxes, and the 00s from the confused rectangles that looked worn the day after the construction crews left. The past is on display. It remains.

These buildings weren't meant to be ruins. They were meant to perform functions in the present. To house, to store, to home. To present, as it were.

Nowhere is this as apparent as in abandoned buildings. Every part has a specific function, a designated task to be performed within. The fact that it hasn't, and hasn't for a long time, only underscores this intentionality. Dusty conveyor belts convey more than dust. Past design insists itself. It remains.

The question does insist itself. How far-fetched would it be to propose that not all ruins are physical, and that some are ideological, political, social?

It is a question to live by.

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