Memento Mori

Remember you will die.

When I stand in front of ruins I definitely have that chill down my spine that makes me reflect on things. We could better understand what I mean by bringing Brian Dillon into the equation. In fact, he perfectly summarize why ruins are important and most of all how they impact us. First of all, to what extent we can call decaying buildings as ruins? Dillon specifies that “there must be a certain (perhaps indeterminate) amount of a built structure still standing for us to refer to it as a ruin and not merely as a heap of rubble” (Dillon, 2014). He continues:

“Ruins embody a set of temporal and historical paradoxes. The ruined building is a remnant of, and portal into, the past; its decay is a concrete reminder of the passage of time. And yet by definition is survives, after a fashion:  At the same time, the ruin casts us forward in time; it predicts a future in which our present will slump into similar disrepair of fall victim to some unforeseeable calamity. The ruin, despite its state of decay, somehow outlives us. And the cultural gaze that we turn on ruins is a way of loosening ourselves from the grip of punctual chronologies, setting ourselves adrift in time. Ruins are part of the long history of the fragment, but the ruin is a fragment with a future; it will live on after us despite the fact that it reminds us too of a lost wholeness or perfection.”

Dillon inadvertently omitted the word that summarize the reasons why we are so intrigued by ruins: Nostalgia. What is nostalgia? Andres Huyssen has the perfect answer:

Huyssen states “Nostalgia’s primary meaning has to do with the irreversibility of time: something in the past is no longer accessible. […] In the body of the ruin the past
is both present in its residues and yet no longer accessible, making the ruin an
especially powerful trigger for nostalgia (Huyssen, 2006)

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