Posts Tagged ‘ruins’

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

R-U-IN?S Catalogue #0001 is a zine and .pdf by Iain Ball, Sebastian Moyano, Matteo Giordano, and Kari Altmann, who initiated the project.

It consists of 95 pages of collaged photographic media depicting digital technophilia such as product shots of Sony flat screen televisions, computer-generated pornography, and portable memory storage devices, as well as crumbling geological formations in barren landscapes such as canyons, deserts, and beaches. In many of the images, these themes are combined as in, for instance, the product shot of a flat screen television displaying imagery of the Grand Canyon.

At first glance, this confrontation of the ancient and natural with the contemporary and electronic may seem arbitrary, but as one moves through the imagery, a provocative logic emerges.

The title of the piece gives one a clue as to where to go from here.


It reads as both “Are you in(s)?” and “ruins.”

“Are you in?” mutated into the text message lingo of “R U IN?” brings to mind social status, cliques, peer pressure, coolness, fashions, and the latest technological gadgetry. R U in or R U out? It also reads as something aggressively temporary – something one knows will quickly lose its luster, but for the moment, is the only place to be.

“Ruins,” on the other hand, are the crumbled remains of what was once “in.”

Taken together, there is a fluid exchange between “R U In?” and “ruin.”

That is to say that the newest technologies are monuments to themselves before they are created. No one really believes that a piece of technology will last beyond a couple of years at most.

When one pages (or scrolls) through the Catalogue, one, then, sees less of a clear delineation between “new technology” and “old rocks” and more a continuous stream of dead surfaces: ruins.

In the text which appears on the final two pages of the Catalogue, the artists explain their intentions in similar terms.

They write:

R-U-IN?S is a project initiated by Kari Altmann using an archaeological approach (online and offline) to search the deteriorating surfaces, objects, and codes in the contemporary world. Topics of interest were addressed as ruined places and times in the database, from which artifacts and recordings were taken.


Shortly later in the text, the artists make the point that because this “archaeological” investigation into the database is conducted in the very database it mines, “it became a study in and of itself.”

This suggests that, not only are all of the images and actions depicted in the pages ruins, but that the software and hardware one uses to view the images are always already ruins as well.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010 is a website by Kari Altmann.

The content of the site is a relatively lengthy, vertically-scrolling display of approximately seventy still images and YouTube video players set off against a white background – no text.

That in itself is nothing new – artists have been making these types of heterogeneous found image displays for some time now and, as Seth Price points out in his Teen Image essay, the style is itself lifted from something print magazines have been exploring for at least fifteen years.

But what distinguishes Altmann’s project from what Price terms “hoardings” is the self-reflexive intentionality of her particular images.

She wants to show you something in particular: time, decay, built-in obsolescence. We see collisions of two themes: obsolete technologies of the “just past” such as compact discs or previous generations of flat-screen televisions as well as crumbling architectural details and rock formations of the ancient past.

In the most potent images, we see both at once – dialectically. The first diptych of images at the top of the page gets at this. In the image to the left of the diptych, one views what appears to be two fangs – the sort of relic one might see in a display of fossils and bones of pre-historic animals at a natural history museum.

However, there is a USB connection sticking out of the base of each of these fangs. Their power resides not in the prick of their tips, but in the information they store as little Flash Drives.

In the image to the right of the diptych, one views a broken slab of what, at first glance anyway, reads as an “ancient monument” – perhaps a temple – displayed behind a glass cube in a museum setting.

However, as much as one views the ancient slab, one views the rainbow colored reflection ring generated by the flash of a digital camera. The image is a collision between the ancient and technological.

As one scrolls-down through the rest of Altmann’s images, this tension is explored again and again and again. Through the repetition of the theme of technology and ancient ruins, Altmann creates a portrait of endless technological obsolescence.