Minotaur by Howard Litchfield



City and ruin in culture and psyche

devastated cities from that conflagration provide clear examples of lessons that are still in need of learning. Modernity, ruins and war as a trinity has inspired considerable exploration in recent years, twentieth–century war in particular and, since the destruction of the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001 and the American–British–led invasion of Iraq in 2003, also twenty–first–century war. While Simmel regarded ruins resulting from acts of war as undeserving of metaphysical significance and Macaulay regarded them as undeserving of the ruinophile's reverence, later ruin scholars recognise that war is both a profound generator of ruins and that ruins thus generated, albeit not unproblematically, can be perceived as “aesthetically stunning configurations”.14 Exploration of this trinity demands, in new ways, to be pushed beyond the conflicts of twentieth–century modernity to fully encompass those of our present, digital, hyper–modern era, and it demands new ways to be brought into popular consciousness.15

While both war and nature are producers of ruins in the real world of concrete, brick and rubble, artists produce ruins in the realm of imagination, and reproduce and represent real–world ruins and urban decay in an enormously wide range of mediums. One of the early pioneers and a recognised master of Ruinenlust was Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–78), who, inspired by Pompeii and the classical ruins of Rome, gifted to the world engravings depicting fantastical ruinscapes and labyrinthine imaginary prisons where the rustic, the cities of the past and the authoritarian structures of the future intersect. Pompeii and Herculaneum inspired other artists in more traditional ways; well into the nineteenth century, painters produced large canvases of their imaginings of the first–century Vesuvian destruction. By this time, Ruinenlust had already impregnated European art and had established extensive roots in western culture.

Dominated by two world wars, the first half of the twentieth century witnessed a decline in the prominence of ruin and