The Beelitz Sessions - Ulli Richter and Christoph Knoch

the term most familiar to and used by ruin scholars of the Anglo–Saxon world. Inadequately translated as “ruin lust” or “ruin pleasure”, Ruinenlust does indeed signify a desire for and a delight in ruins, but it is more than desire and delight: it encapsulates a personal experience of the sublime that, in intense cases, can be a transcendental experience that puts one in touch with eternity. The word speaks of powerful emotions, from joy and a yearning for more, to fear and even terror. It represents experiences that can be uplifting, calming, liberating, experiences that can be addictive. It touches on eroticism's dance with death, embracing the concept of the individual penetrating the eternal and, at least momentarily, being absorbed by, becoming lost in, the eternal. Reciprocally in this experience of the sublime the eternal penetrates the individual, who, with a glimpse of eternity, becomes pregnant with the knowledge of mortality.

The eighteenth century is widely acknowledged as the timeframe during which “the ruin arrived centre-stage in European art, poetry, fiction, garden design and architecture itself”.3 There is, however, evidence of the even earlier prominence of ruin themes in art, that weathervane of culture, and to a lesser extent literature. Rose Macaulay, one of the godparents of twentiethcentury ruin scholarship, ruin connoisseur par excellence and the one credited with first utilising Ruinenlust in the English language, in 1953 argued in her Pleasure of Ruins that, with a momentum established during the sixteenth century, the seventeenth century saw artists “painting tranquil classical landscapes, where broken arches and columns stand above luminous water under luminous skies.

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