Monday, March 14, 2011

Beauty in Decay

One of the images from Beauty in Decay,, which is reviewed in Dwell magazine, with a brief slide show.


In the course of architectural research for a writing project, my son, who has the good fortune to work in a library, brought home a book that he had to pry from my hands. Beauty in Decay is the companion piece to bottomless waters in my ambivalent heart.

Ruins took on new meaning for me when I read Thomas Moore's The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life. In his chapter, "Ruins and Memory," he speaks against restoration that tries to improve upon the past in the name of preservation. In our race toward the future, we have lost the enchantment of the unbuilding of a culture that, in his words, speaks to the soul.

"We try to repress ruins," he says, "especially in America, probably because we have little appreciation for failure, ending, and the past."

My son calls it the haunted house feeling, the chill that overtakes us, even as we are being pulled closer to the repellant beauty of life abandoned. The photos stir a response beyond words. Given enough time, impression may give way to vocabulary but the language will not arrange itself in any recognizable order. For now, it is enough to sink weightlessly into these chambers, these hallways, shells and skeletons. Even visited as images, distant from the spaces themselves, the rooms murmur with embeded memories. We are not strangers here.

25 comments:

Elisabeth said...

We need to feel haunted at times, Marylinn, and those reverberations from the past remind us of what lies behind us.

These are glorious notions here. And I agree, progress is not always for the good, if it tries to deny our forebears.

Antares Cryptos said...

Once again:) I love ruins, especially the ones that nature partially reclaimed.

Always wonder about what life was like and going to have a look at this book of course. Thank you.

Angella Lister said...

given this post, i think you would be haunted in a good way by The Kingston Lounge, linked on my blogroll.

Erin in Morro Bay said...

There's a great website http://www.beauty-of-decay.com/
not sure if it's connected with this book or not, but the same sort of wonderful aging, worn, delicious decay. The older I get the more I'm into seeing decay as beauty!
Erin

Marylinn Kelly said...

Elisabeth - Thank you. Progress is not always good, shiny is not always better. And the fact is, we ARE haunted, carrying remnants of the past as well as encountering them in the external world.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares Cryptos - Machu Picchu comes to mind and more contemporary structures with the creeping vines. I think you will find the images in the book grab hold and don't let go.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Angella - Thank you. I will skip over and have a look. Haunted in a good way, sounds like a perfect match.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - Thank you for the link and I will go look. Maybe it is the realization (or acceptance) of our own impermanence that helps us learn beauty exists in endless variation.

Antares Cryptos said...

Marylinn, in case you haven't read yet. Rob's surgery went well. Let me help you with that vending machine;)

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares Cryptos - Thank you for the update. I left notes...one for Robert and one to demand repayment of my coins lost in the vending machine. Or maybe we can still shake something loose...

Antares Cryptos said...

:)
Let me help you with that: *upends thieving machine*. There. That should do it.

Antares Cryptos said...

Less urban, but stunning. Have a look at Ta Prohm temple images.

RachelVB said...

I've always been drawn to ghost towns, abandoned buildings, poking around places that still have things, feelings left behind.
It's how we trace ourselves somehow. It's interesting to see what we don't need or couldn't take with us. It makes you wonder what we really can live with and without.
xo

Jayne said...

One wonders what stories hide in those ruins. We should indeed, have a certain reverence for our ruins. But much of the razing (or restoration) of old structures in the U.S. has to do with health and building codes, and certainly, liability.
I think it's the history and the untold stories in these ruins that speak to me. "Haunted house feeling" is the perfect way to describe it.

susan t. landry said...

in brooklyn, ny, there is a wonderful theater--used for live productions--in which the renovation design deliberately left much of the original decaying interior while upgrading lighting, bathrooms, etc.
i saw a Chekhov play presented there, and i think the total theatrical experience--enhanced immeasurably by the setting--was the finest i've ever seen.
on a personal level, i aspire to decaying beauty...
:)

Pamela said...

These are beautiful images. I have ordered the book today.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares Cryptos - Yes, that was just what we needed, thanks...whacking the darn thing with my cane wasn't working.

And I will check the temple images. Thank you for the referral.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel - Ghost towns were often destinations of family weekends or vacations. An image of peeling, flowered wallpaper in a house, a town, abandoned for decades, has stayed with me. Many of us have things we left behind when the only choice was to go. I think these places inhabit us.xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jayne - Perhaps it is the way they stimulate our imaginations but the empty places seem so much more full of stories than any inhabited ones. The images in this book are particularly haunting.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Susan - What genius, to leave the theater in partial decay, the greater atmosphere, ghosts in peripheral vision. I can imagine how remarkable the production must have been.

Decaying beauty, so much more to recommend it than mere aging. Yes, I like that. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Pamela - That's pleasing news...I know the images will give up their stories to you. Though the possibility of becoming lost within them is also strong.

Hannah Stephenson said...

I'm very happy to find your blog through your sweet comment on mine. Thanks for that.

And thanks for this. I want to read it immediately.

I have another recommendation that you will love...Rebecca Solnit's "A Field Guide to Getting Lost."She has a whole chapter on Ruins--you'd love it, I think!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Hannah - Welcome and thank you for your recommendation. "Beauty in Decay" has a way of lingering on the edge of awareness, seeping in among other thoughts. Ah, such images.

Kathleen said...

That Thomas Moore book was very important for me, too, Marylinn.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kathleen - Finding "Re-Enchantment..." made me feel as though an expert witness had been called who provided evidence that much of what I believe is actually true.