A User's Guide
- Available for pre-order. Item will ship after November 30, 2021
In the middle of the 18th century, a new fad found its way into the gardens of England's well-to-do: building fake Gothic ruins. Newly constructed castle towers and walls looked like they were already falling apart, even on the first day of their creation. Made of stone, plaster, or even canvas, these "sham ruins" are often considered an embarrassing blip in English architectural history. However, Sham Ruins: A User's Guide expands the specific example of the sham ruin into a general principle to examine the way purposely broken objects can be used both to uncover old truths and invent new ones. Along with architecture, work by Ivan Vladislavić, Tom Stoppard, Alain Mabanckou, Aleksei Fedorchenko, Michael Haneke, and Sturtevant is used to develop this thesis, as well as artifacts such as pre-torn jeans, fake histories, and broken screen apps. Using these examples, one of the key questions the book raises is: What is it that sham ruins ruin? In other words, if real ruins are ruins of what they actually are, then sham ruins should be considered ruins of what they are not. Thus sham ruins are about imposing new meaning where such meaning does not and should not exist. They also can show how things we think are functioning well are actually already broken. Sham ruins do this, and much more, by being lies, ruses, and embarrassments. This is what gives them the power with which we can think about objects in new, unintended ways.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Not Just Ruins
Chapter 2: The Potential of the Past
Chapter 3: Total Replication
Chapter 4: Ruins on Fire
Brian Willems is associate professor of literature and film theory at the University of Split, Croatia. He is most recently the author of Speculative Realism and Science Fiction (2017) and Shooting the Moon (2015). He has curated exhibitions of new media art in Croatia and Slovenia and is the author of the novella Henry, Henry (2017).