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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, March 16, 2008
    British Industrial Ruins


    Factories relied for their smooth running on the rigid ordering of space, materials and people. People and things were assigned specific places within which they ought to remain. With ruination, the order of the factory falls apart as the previously contained comes tumbling out of place to mingle in profusion. The banal traces of power can still be identified: the routines, the apparatus, the spatially organised hierarchies and systems of work, and the notices drawing attention to rules and practices. Now, the offices situated above the shop floor crumbles to join it. Things are now out of place. In the factory products were compiled, listed, enumerated, stocked in units ready for transfer, but now these stacks mingle amidst an array of material. The order of the factory and the discipline to which it subjected its workers was transitory and seems arbitrary, but new ways of regulating workers and creativity persist according to fashions in management.

    The disordering of the factory which reveals it to be a part of history, contrasts with the heritage industry, which selects fragments of the past and places them into ordered displays and subjects them to narrative interpretations. Here, things are isolated, positioned against uncluttered backgrounds and do not co-mingle with other fragments. This presentation and codification of the past eclipses mystery and strangeness, replacing it with legitimate and authoritative ways of remembering, akin to the display of commodities, shiny, separate and alone. But the removal of clutter, disguises the profusion of matter and meaning.
    An extract from an engrossing website in which Tim Edensor takes a different view of British Industrial Ruins than the bureaucrats, city promoters and planners. Neither arenas of deviancy or potential prime investment, Edensor instead sees the decaying sites of our manufacturing past as places which might 'stimulate a critique of certain contemporary social and cultural processes.'
    As spaces by the side of the road, ruins can be explored for effects that talk back to the quest to create an impossibly seamless urban fabric, to the uses to which history and heritage are put, to the extensive over-commodification of places and things, to middle-class aesthetics, and to broader tendencies to fix meanings in the service of power.
    Fascinating stuff. Thanks Phil for the link.

    Pics: Tim Edensor from British Industrial Ruins