Ruin Time Ed Keller, December 2010

"…essentially a 'functional ruin'…" Let’s begin with a question: what attributes might be common to crumbling empires; or points of 1 contact and conflict between empires? Ruin. Ruin, decay, noise. The places where topological invariance begins to collapse across all scales. And ruin, arguably, has an inexorable relationship to horror. One track that stitches them together is the sublime, and a subjective set of criteria: anthropocentric reactions to ruin. Ruin as mise-en-scene. But another approach would assess the value and function of bodies in time in both ruins and horror. Ruins are more or less freed from the burden of use value. In parallel, horror tests the limits of a recognizable body, experimenting with the places and operations where that body’s inviolability fails, getting close to the limits of ‘life’. There is something paradoxical in the idea of a ‘functional ruin’. A zombie: both living and dead. Or: a thing that mistakenly thinks it is alive… In both cases, ‘temporal value’ has something to do with describing the range of possible futures and pasts that any given body has access to. So an empire in decline would not only trigger a 2 complex kind of Garcia Marquez-ian infinite nostalgia for its population; it would also exist as a vast, non human system that, as a slow moving, tectonic and aeon spanning computation, functions to process all the input output cycles [humans] that pass across its circuits, and through ruin, add more errors into that computation. Some of the humans might become dimly conscious of that operation. How? Perhaps something to do with ‘representation’. But, what is this eponymous Ruin Time, anyway? One could enthusiastically announce: 'It's ruin time!', as in a beer commercial. Thus marketing a global anti-soporific: the corrosive brew that ends all parties. Or more portentously, we might simply meditate on the quality of a time that would only be found in ruins, noble, eternal, mostly non-human. The skeletal armatures of an entire empire, rendered in architectural forms and sequences that retain only the larger scale gestures of a global moment of denial. Frozen, being blown backwards into the future. Or, finally, we could understand it as a command: 'Ruin time.' Delivered in a voice unmodulated, sub-bass, in a register far beyond human hearing, as from a roiling, black cloud: the relentless command for us to go forth and ruin time. Dust motes, the cumulative energy of billions of particles aggregating into a dead-substance-voice: legion, brief, eternal, pervasive: "Ruin TIME!"


Bold italic paragraph headings were extracted from the Simon Preston Gallery notes for the J. Gerrard exhibit, winter 2010 2 Gabriel Garcia Marquez has developed a geopolitically resonant idea of ‘nostalgia’ in his novel Cien Anos de Soledad, both within the diegetic envelope and in the positioning of the novel itself against the real world.

Everything is far away. in an ‘unflinching…orbit’. So: would these lines not work also as a voiceover for John Gerrard’s Cuban School ? Insomnia. what then is that illness? With whom.. fluorescent-lit office interior. Sparks fly. as the reliquaries of one fragment of a revolutionary movement slowly crumble? Was it not Proust who observed that "It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognize that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom. eyes in a fine frenzy rolling. 3 Fight Club [Fincher 1999]. References swarm around this trope: the delirious orbit. What is the substance of time. a copy room with cubicle drones all performing the same repetitive tasks. vast distances… and simulacra. themselves. whole worlds apart. contemplating how ‘deep the rabbit hole goes?’ And: what is far away? Is it the success of liberatory communism [far away in time as well as space]? And what exactly is being copied here? An architecture and infrastructure lifts its typological principles from other places in the world [Eastern Bloc design] similarly engaged in a renunciation of certain economic and political systems. They go together. Cuba. the implied catalytic social functions in that eastern bloc model simply lifted. a quasi-cinematic methodology is at the heart of Gerrard’s work: in camera movement. who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body. nothing is real. And it has something to do with ‘representation’. so close…] And which then is that body? These are all questions Cuban School begins to ask."Constructed in the 1960's to a modular Eastern Bloc design…" Empire. script by Jim Uhls. And a barely perceptible flash frame of Tyler Durden [revolutionary th extraordinaire] only 1/24 of a second long. nearing utter ruin] and its position in Cuba. do we live if we live not alone? What recourse has that school. Let’s insert a flashframe image of Che as a stand-in for Tyler Durden… Or is the ‘caretaker’ more appropriate? A copy of a copy… More questions: who or what cannot sleep? Cuba? Or the outside world? Compare the geopolitical resonances of the real school [by which. I mean the real building. post-empire."3 What does the eye see as we hear this voiceover in Fight Club? A truly banal. from a kind of distillation of modernism? "…an unflinching camera orbit…" [combined with a reconstructive methodology] We are told that Gerrard works ". Identical Starbucks coffees.. "With insomnia. chained to a creature of a different kingdom? [O. which ends by destroying a part of global credit history. with the implied critique of capitalism we find in Fight Club. or what. Miami. these things.. Would it be that Cuban resistance to a global dream continues via a restless insomnia? Who else of the global constituency is pacing their chambers late at night. based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk . But what essential characteristics can be transferred by copying a copy." So. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. the endless shot.from extensive photographs and topographical satellite data […] the artist and studio have hand-built a meticulous virtual world." In thinking of something like a ‘cuban school’.. the status of reality.

And. if it works. And the above mentioned Fight Club. he came across a 3D scan there. and he became 4 convinced this was the sculpture of the future.ece Was that not also. In 1997. . Bryan Appleyard observes: 'He studied sculpture at Ruskin School of Fine Art. Brian DePalma’s film Blow Out orthogonally permutes this form of time control by insisting on a coupled relationship between a political time-plane and all ‘media’." The Sunday Times.. yes: Antonioni’s Blow Up also deals with a ‘murder’ and the ‘evidence’ that can function to ‘prove’ that an event has transpired. another reference emerges: J. and real world events [in both Vaughn’s and Sheppard’s cases copulation] all conjoin to constitute the ‘machine’. A very clear set of protocols for gathering evidence. subliminal 7 kino-mind that Gerrard invokes in Cuban School. G. but the larger scale consciousness of the event that is invoked by Blow Out is closer in spirit to the subtle. copied faithfully. 4 5 http://entertainment. Ballard. Recall the meticulous reconstruction of events that Vaughn pursues in Crash: the original event of an historical car crash. March 2010 One is reminded by this slightly salacious anecdote [seemingly completely unhinged from Gerrard’s output] of characters in various Ballard tales. distinct kino-time thinking. in this case. Each one with unique. Apropos of Gerrard.Sheppard gazed for hours through his stop-frame focus. Reggio’s Koyaanisquatsi. Noe’s Enter the Void. as if he would find among these images an anatomical door. untethered from the 2D surface.500 women a year so that Marks & Spencer could get their bra sizes right. natural superimposition of all times. Which will. that time and space do not permit me.' Sheppard’s machine. and propagated forward into the future to enable any and all ‘survivors’ to participate not only in the ‘fertilizing’ energy of the crash. which would contrast the model of ‘late modernist’ time and the political agency that can emerge from Blow Up. mapping. 7 There’s another spool to be unwound here. and the drained swimming-pool in the even-brighter sunlight outside. They let him have a go.. the methodology of filmic re-construction that Travolta’s character employs is explicitly tied to a political assassination and the criminal investigation of the event post-facto through sound and 6 image re-composition. “It was a sculptural photograph. In Blow Out. A perhaps less known but similar project is carried out by the character Sheppard. the surrealist paintings. It was a sea change in the way you could think about photography. the Cuban project: A geopolitical time machine? 6 In fact.and all the supporting evidence which that gesture" Gerrard blagged his way into the company that did it. Anne Godwin did her best to help Sheppard construct his "machine. was scanning 2. There’s a blurring of simulation and simulacrum in Vaughn’s project. one of the keys in a combination whose other tumblers were the Marey chronograms.timesonline. is a pornographic protocol. Sokurov’s Russian Ark. in a way.". and is itself a masterful hybrid reconstruction of Antonioni’s Blow Up and Coppola’s Conversation. combined with drawing techniques. Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Oxford. re-photographing. in 'Myths of the Near Future'. as fundamentally different than the temporal model we have in Blow Out. But before them. DePalma does Vertov. re-drawing. curiously. the viewer of the film basically learns how to make a film during the in-diegetic investigation. and ultimately his demise is linked to his keen awareness that one has to mix those kinds of representation with reality itself. but all the ancillary relationships that the event would then afford them. a story in Ballard’s haunting compilation Memories of the Space Age: 'During that week. Or to perceive what he suspects is the already present. allow him to 5 navigate time freely.

improvising a funny valentine for the noisy time-flow-system of failed revolution. Or perhaps these vestigial organs revolt from the host. latent components of our world. when Scotty and Judy repeat what Scotty and Madeline have before. unseen. not so distant from Gerrard's own prior work. media as a cryptogenic system which can somehow engineer a place of overlap for all this: all parts of the cartographies that Ballard’s & DePalma’s characters take on as urgent [and doomed] projects. this recreated ‘sublime everyday’ touches a nerve that is interior to a broader tele/empathic distance viewing of the hidden. Somehow. pp 87-97 9 Russian Ark’s single take through the Hermitage hopscotches us across multiple temporal substrates. Enter the Void manages something similar within the scope of a single lifetime.and if one considers the 8 general stupefaction with which they seem to be viewed. in unison yet varied. we might distinguish between the varying faces of ruin. Animals. cf. Horror is a body radically temporalized and has little to do with space but everything to do with time. learning in the crumbling infrastructure of a twilight global experiment. The clamour of being would then be an infinite assembly of trumpet brass. where Reggio uses long. the different species of decay. But now understood as constituting the nature of a global time-form that might uncouple itself from the monotonic cycles of capital. ruin time returns again." We began by asking what attributes would be common to failing empires [ruin?]. Texas). and we end by asking: what constitutes a landscape of decay? And what would it matter if ‘formal integrity’ was lost? By classifying entropy. spanning centuries. in Vertigo. The orbit of the kiss.the sunset of support for the Cuban project. blown with an embrasure akin to Chet Baker's beautifully mangled tone. . the earlier US dust bowl. organismic time. The horror of failed historical projects of resource allocation can be rubbed crosswise against the time control we find in Gerrard’s work: and the cinematic trope of the endless shot returns. but deployed across thousands of miles and centuries. unseen. and the unpredictable anabasis of upstream life-noise at a wormhole in both the plot structure of the film and in the very fabric of time itself. One thinks of Koyaanisquatsi. releasing seeds of some kind of 10 radical aphasia that breeds novelty in the ‘yet to come’. appendages slouching toward the global operating theater to challenge their own amputation? Gerrard’s work seems to be trying to compass this territory. Dark comparisons. possibly at its end. And the image of technology 9 catastrophe in the endlessly falling. Dust Storm (Dalhart. Baker scores the soundtrack that I imagine behind all of the ‘films’ that chronicle this ongoing project: a Chet Baker on the shores of eternity. producing raw noise at some scales. the embargoes. and swarm upstream to the source. in his Cyclonopedia [2008]. come unstuck and enter the flows of a vaster general economy. "…the melancholic demise of a political vision…" What other vestigial rearguard organs exist. Into the context of an entropic system. soaring takes to compress landscapes revealing billions of years of geo-cosmological time into close proximity with the fragility of human. 10 …to steal a phrase from Badiou and repurpose it against his grain. students. being readied for slaughter. at the end. But melancholia is never quite final. flaming. in all its scales and implications. Dust Storm takes on weird aspects when one superimposes it over the various Iraqi dust/sand storms that have been videoed and posted to YouTube by occupying forces. 2007. intuitively. "…disinheriting its formal integrity through entropy and decay… questioning their resilience and capacity to exist as potent entities once complicit resources are depleted or removed.This son-image recreation of the event as political representation has a nearly eschatological force. exploded rocket engine. 8 One thinks here immediately of Reza Negarestani’s investigation of dust and the ‘desert storm’.

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