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Numerous studies have focused on modernity’s destructive effect on traditional life- worlds, the desertion of villages and the ruination of rural areas. However, the fact that the modern condition also produces its own ruined materialities, its own marginalized pasts, is less spoken about. Since the 19th century, mass-production, consumerism and thus cycles of material replacement have accelerated; increasingly larger amounts of things are increasingly rapidly victimized and made redundant. At the same time processes of destruction have immensely intensified, although largely overlooked when compared to the research and social significance devoted to consumption and production. The outcome is a ruined landscape of derelict factories, closed shopping malls, overgrown bunkers and redundant mining towns; a ghostly world of decaying modern debris normally left out of academic concerns and conventional histories.

This ruin-landscape is the topic of the current research project. Based on selected case studies of industrial ruins, abandoned fishing villages, war remains and mining sites in Norway, Russia, Iceland, Spain and the United States we want to explore how the ruins of modernity are conceived and assigned cultural value in contemporary academic and public discourses. Our research will cover three main themes: the aesthetics of waste and heritage, the materiality of memory, and the significance of things. Through these themes we want to develop theoretical arguments that help to understand why the derelict materiality of the modern to such an extent has been devalued and marginalized, but also to suggest possible means for reaffirming its cultural and historic significance.

– Opening of Ruin Memories, a Portfolio

The Ruin Memories project has recently come to an end. The portfolio series, based on exploring the relationship to the forces of modernity–global industrial capitalism and the trends it engenders–consists of a number of vignettes and writings, each considering a different ruin or process of ruination, abandonment, and memory.

The main “portfolio” includes:

Alfredo González-Ruibal “Forgotten Battles. Ruins of the Spanish Civil War
Bjørnar Olsen “Abandoned Childhood: Sarnes Internat
Mats Burström “Treasured memories: Tales of buried belongings in wartime Estonia
Elin Andreassen, Hein Bjerk “Managing the scars of terror
Gavin Lucas “Concrete Modernity
Timothy Webmoor “Entropic Chic and Proximate Ruins

The vignettes, really a series of case studies, include:

Marko Marila “Turning to things – ontology, epistemology, and a case of metaphorism”
Elin Andreassen and Hein B. Bjerck “Back in Pyramiden, Svalbard
Alfredo González-Ruibal and Manuel Sánchez-Elipe “Ephemeral ruins, transient landscapes
Tim LeCain “Berkeley Pit, Butte Montana
Mats Burström “Planning for the Unthinkable
Bjørnar Olsen and Christopher Witmore “Sværholt: Memories of a Northern War Site
Caitlin Desilvey “Butte, America: ruination, reclamation, and the remainder
Gavin Lucas “Ruins-in-the-making: Viðey in the bay of Reykjavík, Iceland
Timothy Webmoor “Building 500
Elin Andreassen (photo) and Hein B. Bjerck (text) “Demolishing an “Emotional Landmark” in Trondheim, Norway
Gavin Lucas “Fast Ruins. Nature and Modernity in Iceland
Hein B. Bjerck “My Father’s Things
Þóra Pétursdóttir “A Brief Seasonal Ruin-memory

Image from ruin vinette A Brief Seasonal Ruin-memory A Brief Seasonal Ruin-memory  by Þóra Pétursdóttir

Image from ruin vignette “A Brief Seasonal Ruin-memory” by Þóra Pétursdóttir