2021-06-22Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/25943
Aura of decay: Fetishising ruins with Benjamin and Lacan
In recent years, geographers and related social scientists have worked intensively against the fetishisation of ruins. The ruin fetish is widely considered as being problematic, because it does not allow us to face the complex reality of processes of ruination and instead turns the ruin into an object with a fixed meaning and transcendental value. This paper supplements this current state of research via the fetish concepts of Walter Benjamin and Jacques Lacan, who both grasp fetishisation through the inscription of fantasy into an object. This fantasy is not inherently bound to the fetish object, but persists depending solely on our standpoint to it. The paper elaborates on the ruin having to be perceived from a certain distance to obtain a status as fetish object by turning into a nostalgic rem(a)inder of loss. While the fetishist maintains a distance to the fetish object, the explorative view of ruins, dismissively coined as “ruin porn,” is distinguished by its manner of getting as close as possible to it. Ruin porn is therefore not, as it is often stated, the most recent peak of the ruin fetish, but rather a way of losing sight of the ruin’s aura, a way of turning the fetish object into a pile of waste. Artists, on the other hand, bear witness to something that lies beyond the factual givenness of the ruin and thus reintroduce the fetish back into it. Shifting between these ways of fetishising, defetishising, and refetishising ruins, the paper investigates the conditions of the ruin fetish and ultimately calls for a more serious engagement with fantasies as a way of getting with the ruin fetish instead of getting over it.
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