New Ruins – A Realist Aesthetic for Landscape Architecture

21-06-2019 00:06

The illusion of mastery has driven us into the bottomless well of ignorance – Gilles Clement (1)

A black centerpede makes its home in a rotting piece of wood.
Cracked masonry bricks nestle wind blown seeds.
Oxidizing steel rusts through,
A pockmaked surface.
Sculpted hills make for pioneering plants to flourish.
Fractured concrete walls,
Roots run down deep.
Osymandian arches reminds me of my silly aspirations.

A Return to Realism 
Developments in western philosophy are beginning to influence the architecture and landscape architecture profession. We are now facing a turn back to realism in contemporary thought (2).

Realism is the belief that reality is outside the human mind in a ‘real’ form which is the counterpoint to idealism which is the belief that reality is primarily within a human mental construct found in an ‘ideal’ form. Considering that most of western philosophy since the 18th century has been idealistic in nature it is significant that only now a genuine realist counterargument is forming (3)With a long and rich history in Eastern philosophy it is interesting to see Asian philosophical realism now finding a new home in the West. Text such as the Chinese Daodejing (The Way), I Ching (Book of Changes) and more contemporary Japanese works such as the Seibutsu No Sekei (World of Living Things) and Fudo (The Milieu) are beautiful inquiries into reality outside the human mind. As Carl Jung writes ‘The actual form, however, seems to appeal more to the Chinese sage than the ideal one…[and] while the western mind carefully sifts, weighs, selects, classifies, isolates, the Chinese picture of the moment encompasses everything down to the minutest nonsensical detail, because all of the ingredients make up the observed moment’ (4).

With this new interest in realism we are now seeing a genuine revisiting of aesthetics, similar to eastern philosophy, and an engagement with the actual rather than the idealised form of things. This has profound impact for the architecture and landscape architecture profession still in the grips of a post-modern deconstructivist way of working where the sensuous, aesthetic world is nothing but resultant byproduct of idealist thought. This is significant for me as I believe a realist philosophy is more fitting for our time, the anthropocene, where we’ve simultaneously discovered the dramatic effects of the human race on the planet and at the same time our futility in our ability to do anything about it. The illusion of mastery has been lifted and we, as the human race, have little if any ability to decide what has been, what is and what will be. A realistic philosophy on the other hand acknowledges a non-anthropocentric realism where profoundly complex and entangled truths exists beyond our grasp and where a constant aesthetic engagement with our ever changing world is at least an attempt at real connection.

Aesthetics is a dirty word
As part of this essay on New Ruins I need to look at two words that are out of fashion; aesthetics and aestheticise. By espousing realism, I believe, we need to re-engage with these words and their associated practices seriously. Currently, aesthetics is a dirty word. Maybe due to our recoil from modernism we do not talk about how things look, as it seems shallow and superficial. Instead we discuss, what things mean, how they move, what their effects are, the process of their becoming, ad infinitum, all of which make the aesthetic object disappear amongst a smothering of relations.

Now to be clear, when I say ‘aesthetics’ I am not referring to the common definition of the philosophical inquiry into art, beauty and taste (5). Instead I am referring to a broader epistemological study into sensori-emotional values and the radically open Speculative Realist interpretation of any relation between sensuous objects (6). To put it more simply, aesthetics is how we see, touch, smell sense and interpret things in front of us. Furthermore it could be expanded to how any object relates to any other, say a tennis ball hitting a racket, the sun warming a dog’s back or water sitting in a cup. These are all aesthetic relations even though they don’t involve a human at any point to observe. This is nothing more than a re-claiming of aesthetics as our primary way of understanding the world. Being unduly neglected for too long, it is with this new perspective that landscape architects can once again read, design, discuss and immerse in landscapes as they appear rather than what they ephemerally allude to.

To Aestheticise landscape 
Similarly our second word, aestheticise , is equally as unpopular in contemporary design critique. As other disciplines start to look at aestheticising practice this has a flow on effect to landscape architecture. This practice is dramatically different to the postmodern notion of ‘liquid times’ where everything is a deconstruction, a constant re-configuration of hidden flows and networks (7). Instead to aestheticise is a solidifying practice where objects (8) are understood how they appear visually, aurally and sensorally. To aestheticise something, as a verb, as a doing word, is to enact a realist philosophy. The active-ness of aestheticising is important, as it infers a real time engagement with the process of becoming. To aestheticise is to delve deeply into a world of stuff, complicated stuff that we don’t really have a grip on. It is a sincere practice as opposed to the totally insincere post-modern liquidity, explaining away until the thing we observe disappears under our analysis. As Tim Morton says ‘sincerity eats irony(9). With post-modernism being deeply ironic, disengaging and illusory it is with aestheticising landscape that we may re-engage with a more honest, solidifying, real-time practice that will change the landscape architecture profession. 

Aestheticisians: Harman and Seel 
For this essay I lean heavily on the aesthetic practice of two contemporary philosophers Graham Harman and Martin Seel. As aestheticisians they are concerned with the complicated interplay of illusion, reality and appearance. This is relevant for landscape architecture and this study of New Ruins, because I believe there is no strong philosophical grasp of what and why we actually make things i.e. do we make ‘real’ stuff, the stuff of dirt and wood and precast concrete, or do we only make illusions or representations? Currently landscape architecture works on a simplistic binary of all that stuff outside is real and all the nice pictures we draw as representations with not much elaboration any further.

For Graham Harman aesthetics is an engagement with objects in the broadest sense of the word (10). Of up most concern is the relationship between things that are real and the aesthetic experience of what seems real. To paraphrase Harman, objects afford us a particular aesthetic interaction making it seem that the inwardness of those objects, that their executant reality is open to us. In fact we never have true access to these objects but only their fleeting, ghost-like, temporal aesthetic (or sensual as he puts it) appearance. (11) It is in this aesthetic world, that we do not ever have full access to, objects always have something left ‘in reserve’. There is always a barrier between what is real and what is sensuous or aesthetic. This idea of objects having something ‘ in reserve’ is of value to this discussion, I will elaborate further, as it opens a world of possibilities around emergence, unpredictability, contingency, serendipity, change, chance, negotiation and tactics and challenges notions of authorship, intention, autonomy, determinable truths, power dynamics, purity, sustainability, liberalism, influence and clarity in design. Why is this important? Because if we take this ontological stance, access to the ‘real’ or to the truth of things is an impossible task. Furthermore if we only have access to their ‘fleeting appearance’, i.e. aesthetics, we should take very seriously the way that objects appear to us, affront us.

Martin Seel’s aesthetic practice focuses on what he terms the aesthetics of appearing. This I have interpreted as to aestheticise, the verb, as Seel is most concerned with the act of becoming and less concerned with aesthetics as a noun, a solidifying, defining practice, that is more typical of Harman’s approach. Seel brings an activeness to the changing experience of aesthetics. Seel really injects this idea of the present, perception, attentiveness and the ‘concrete here and now’ as he puts it. There is something quite Buddhist in his sentiment, the idea of wherever you go, here you are. In this way perceiving something aesthetically is an ‘attentiveness to the play of appearances’ This aesthetic experience cannot be produced prior nor experience after the direct contact with said object, as it demands the ‘conceptually graspable given’. Seel is against two types of understandings of aesthetics. Firstly the aesthetics of being and secondly the aesthetics of illusion. Aesthetics of being is the belief that aesthetics allows direct access to being, the true nature, of that object. On the other side of the argument, aesthetics of illusion is the idea that aesthetics creates a separate zone or experience ‘where nothing can be inferred about the constitution of reality’. Seel instead, rejects these two notion and suggests his alternative of an aesthetics of appearing. This appearing is neither the real nor illusion, but not totally disconnected. It is aphenomenological event where one tunes into the momentary and presentsensuousness of an object. Or as Seel puts it:

‘[aesthetics]… is about nothing else but the perception of something in the process of its appearing…. Neither determinable being nor irreal appearance, but the momentary and simultaneous repleteness of the process of appearing, constitutes the first touchstone of aesthetic conduct.’ (12)

Though Harman and Seel’s approach to aesthetics is different where they overlap is where they believe that access to reality is not possible. the ability to understand, see or comprehend real objects (Harman) or aesthetics of being (Seel) is not attainable in an aesthetic experience. The only thing that is possible is an aesthetic experience of a sensual object (Harman) or the aesthetics of appearing (Seel). This aesthetic experience for Seel is neither truly real nor an illusion whereas for Harman sensual objects are sometimes defined as illusory and sometimes defined as engaging with the sensual object as it’s own unique form. In this way sensual/aesthetic objects (noun) and the aesthetics of appearing (verb) are part of this unique phenomenological event we find ourselves in when we come into contact with almost anything. Furthermore, the key thing to take away from these aesthetic practices is a commitment to aesthetics not as a way to access reality nor fully a practice of illusions. Instead, what this opens up is aslipperiness, space to grow and move in landscape architectural practice that will be elaborated in the following paragraphs.

Weird Realism 
In this space between determinable being and illusion is a kind of aesthetics, a kind of relation to the world that lays the fruitful soil for a new landscape architecture. Building upon Seel and Harman’s work a kind of loose reality emerges as a way forward. Fittingly, Architect Mark Foster Gage is working with what is called weird realism. This is an aesthetic engagement with things that are complicit in ‘the strange, the vague, the unknown and the unknowable‘ (13). Weird realism is the notion that aesthetics is a slippery process of becoming. For Gage, who writes mostly for architecture, this loosening of an imperative for aesthetics and realism to be a kind of literalism or mere illusion of reality is liberating and ‘ offers fertile fields for developing newer, slipperier, and more uncertain forms of architectural practice.’

I believe that, even more so for landscape architecture, should a kind of weird realism be easily assimilated into practice. For example collage and montages that are slippery and weird are more easily suited to an communicating an immersive landscape experience and therefore a deeper understanding, or connection than an hyper-realist rendering (14). Furthermore engaging with the emergent properties of growing plants is an aesthetic of appearing. We will never know a plant’s true nature, it’s aesthetics of being because plants always hold something ‘ in reserve’ that they won’t tell us. In this sense, plants are weird, they have their own personalities in the sense that their internal planty-ethics let them influence us, other plants and their own micro-habitats. 

The Gap 
Most fitting for an aesthetically driven landscape architectural practice is the idea of the ‘gap’ which I take and elaborate further from Julian Raxworthy’s PhD Thesis (15). When discussing Catherine Mosbach’s Bordeaux Botanic Garden’s he states:

To have material change in a project there must be a physical ‘gap’ that can accommodate change and this gap must encourage a process of growth or decay. The gap is a space of movement, and the material is the ‘fuel’ for that movement. These are physical design issues, but underlying them are ideological, disciplinary issues concerning how designers see change; but, more, importantly the creative agency of the dynamics of mineral or inorganic materials.’ (16)

Where many landscape architects would be familiar with the idea of designing a ‘physical gap’ to accommodate unforeseen change what Raxworthy alludes to and what I am trying to outline is the added dimension of a ‘metaphysical gap’ that builds a deeper philosophical position for landscape architecture. Both the physical and metaphysical gap inform a more grounded and tactical approach to design. This physical/metaphysical ‘gap’, can be understood in the context of Harman’s ‘ in reserve’, Seel’s ‘aesthetics of appearing’ and Mark Foster Gage’s ‘weird realism’ but also builds into it the more everyday sentiment of a physicality of design, pruning branches, welding steel, laying concrete foundations.

To take an example, on one side is the designer’s reality or experience of an object, on the other is the real object and in the middle is the ‘gap’. This is anuncrossable chasm where the designer never has full access to the reality of an object. For Raxworthy this ‘gap’ is the reason for novelty in landscape architecture, for change. Where Raxworthy and I differ is that Raxworthy believes though gardening we in some way have access to something that is real. I disagree, what I believe instead is that through gardening we may reduce the size of this gap, we can get the standard deviation down to a minute level, through a deep reciprocal relationship with landscape and plants, but we will never have full access to the weird planti-ness of our non-sentient colleagues, the plant’s internal ethics (17). We will never truly know how that plant decides to reach for the sun or dig it’s roots deep into the soil. It is in this tension, the uncrossable ‘gap’ that we get the weird and beautiful emergent change in landscapes that we will never be able to predict.

Call it what you will, a gap, in reserve, aesthetics of appearing, weird realism, what all these ideas hold in common is a stance that access to reality is not ours, it is unattainable. In doing this we are firmly placing ourselves in a lineage of philosophical realism, where reality lays outside of human cognition. Accepting this indeterminacy, this weirdness of our experience leads us to a physical and metaphysical appreciation of aesthetics where we take very seriously our immediate, sensuous reading of stuff.

New Ruins 
In landscape architecture as the professional pendulum swings between idealism and realism I am currently clearly more interested in the streams of realism. The idealism of landscape urbanism, sustainable design, and the McHargian propositional geography(18) approach has not led to particularly inspiring formal outcomes in landscape architecture projects. I think projects suffer when they are driven by ideas and ideals with how they look being but a mere byproduct of a process. Funny enough, maybe the realism of modernism, it’s clear goal of expressing formal aesthetic outcomes, has been laid to rest long enough that it may just be back in vogue! Taking this trend there is a revisiting of aesthetics, formal appearance and challenging the idea that form and process are ontologically separate. Raxworthy’s thesis for his latest book Overgown is to ‘break down the polarisation of form and process by showing form as a process in relation to growth…’ (19). Here, Raxworthy is essentially enacting Seel’ s aesthetics of appearing. Raxworthy is one of the few people that appreciate aesthetics in landscape architecture. He talks about medium specificity, from Greenberg, saying that if we are to take Greenberg’s hypothesis landscape architecture should be ‘taking the outcomes of the discipline as they are, not what they represent’ (20) In this sense Graham Harman would say that we should not overmine the object, and Greenberg would say medium specificity is acknowledging what is ‘unique and irreducible in each particular art’.

As Raxworthy looks at the specificity of plant growth as the key medium of the projects he explores, in this essay I would like to instead draw our attention to what I name oxymoronically: ‘New Ruins’. These are loosely lumped projects where materials are designed to change, be that decay or growth. I refer to them as ‘ruins’ as the aesthetics outcomes of these designs look, in our current context, unfinished and therefore less valued. Designed places, currently are expected to be nothing less than Apple Store, for immediate consumability. The general expectation of something ‘designed’ is to attain the sleek, white, finished clarity of global capitalism. When aesthetics deviate event slightly from this we do not yet have a developed visual vocabulary for designed things that intentionally look unfinished, hence my counter intuitive term New Ruins. New Ruins is an aesthetic outcome with a ‘gap’, both physically, as they appear on a continuum of aesthetic change, they look unfinished, or forming or breaking down, and also metaphysically as they are part of a dialogue about the nature of reality and the inaccessibility into their true internal workings. 

A key example I would like to look at Gilles Clement’s Parc Henri Matisse and especially the centerpiece the Île Derborance. Designed as a completely inaccessible garden in the centre of a downtown park in Lille. The ‘small hill’ was designed as, as well as, literallyfunctioned as an abandoned space, a New Ruin. The Île Derborance stands over two meters tall so the average person cannot see clearly the entire structure, it is unreadable as a single entity. Concrete walls enclose the excavated rubble on site. The rubble is piled inside and creates its own unique microclimate, Clement is noted to say that originally there was a planting scheme for the top of the little mountain but because of budget restraints it was laid bare and left to its own devices (21) I think this isserendipitous, as wandering seeds eventually settled, a new novel ‘abandoned’ ecology grew quickly upon the New Ruin, adding to its aesthetic effect and real processes as aninaccessible ecology. Clement has a unique way in designing and constantly engaging with his landscape projects and the Île Derborance is case in point. Clement intentionally stages parts of his design to do absolutely nothing. I call this in other writings; non-utility. In doing nothing, in being abandoned one is taking a realist philosophical stance, that there is a reality outside human cognition. Plants will live out their hidden lives and logics without human observance. Clement proposes directly that designers should create spaces of non-utility as complex ecological, political, aesthetic, and deeply philosophical spaces (22).

Here Clement opens his ethics up to a world of non-sentient beings. i.e. plants. He allows a ‘gap’ between his reality and theirs by acknowledging and designing a place where instead of New Ruins being seen as a ‘ loss of power over space, an abandonment or neglect, we can on the contrary look at them as a rehabilitation of the space…A wasteland can be a treasure’ (23). Clements and the Île Derborance is a key example of a New Ruins, recently constructed it creates an aesthetic that is indeterminate and changing. Furthermore the fact that it is inaccessible and fortress-like is in line with Clement’s own philosophy of what I call non-utility. This is ametaphysical stance where the complexity of the natural world lays beyond our grasp and that by letting things change by their own internal ethics acknowledges a broader realist philosophy.

The Île Derborance with an emergent, ruined ecology growing ontop

Sham Ruins in English Gardens 
Looking back into the past there has been a long history of designing ruins in gardens, especially in Europe. These range from old buildings, viaducts, walls grottos and many other forms. Most readings of these ruins have been negative, believing they will always pale in comparison with the ‘real’ thing, hence the commonly named Sham Ruins. Furthermore these readings usually rely heavily on a representational analysis. i.e by looking primarily at the political, historical, symbolic or metaphorical the object disappears under a sea of analytical relations.

An alternative to this analysis is an interesting critique is from Kasie Elaine Alt (24) that brings the ruins back to their own aesthetic experience in the garden, as their own unique objects. Elaine Alt outlines that the designers of these structures as well as the majority of the visitors knew that these ruins were fake. There intention was not as a surrogate to the real thing but as objects with narratives and essences of their own.Elaine Alt states:

‘It is not ‘real’. And yet the difficulty in discussing these objects, follies in general and fabricated ruins in specific, is that they are ‘real’. They do exist, materially, physically, and conceptually. Though fabricated, that is fictional or not what they appear, the fabrique is an object separate from the ruin proper, with its own effects and symbolism in the garden.’ (25)

These unique objects play with reality, aesthetics and narrative to create a kind of weird realism, a joyous slipperiness of reality. The theatrical nature of these objects is of importance. When writing about the Gothic Tower at Wrest Park Elaine Alt outlines that the builders knew full well of their fabrications and furthermore took enjoyment in their further elaboration. Playing with notions of honesty the original designers also named the ruin the ‘Hermitage of Truth’ knowing full well about the sites fabrications but at the same time linking the site to popular ideas of the time of respite, hermits, and a site of contemplation(26). Here, the fact that something is true is less important that the ability for the object to open a kind of dialogue or way of thinking. The creators believed that blurring of fact and fiction, in a way enhanced ones aesthetic experience of a place and lead to an impassioned engagement and playfulness with it. The creators believed that truth could be found within fiction that that they were not mutually exclusive.

The Gothic Tower as it stands today
The tower circa 1881. Notice the uncontrolled growth on the tower and how it enhances rather than detracts from the ruined experience, demonstrating its physical/metaphysical ‘gap’.

Parafictional Architecture 
This kind of thinking, that truth and fiction are actually closer than we realise is being explored by the likes of Mark Foster Gage in the form of para-fictional architecture.(27) It is interesting to see that classic Victorian designers and hyper-contemporary architects like Gage are interested in how reality is not so clear cut. Presently Gage is exploring how para-fictions may enliven architectural practice, stating:

‘Might architecture’s power in this new world be conducted through an elasticity of the real that encourages citizens to develop doubt about their presented realities’ (28)

Gage’ s work on the Geothermal Futures Lab where he installs para-fictional golden architectural relief poses as a prototype for the energy extraction of ‘laser ablation geothermal resonance technologies’. From the outset Gage makes clear that all information surrounding the exhibition is not true (29) But similarly with Sham Ruins this contemporary parafictional architecture’s main intention is to elicit a response, not to some plausible reality. Its intention is to explore potentially inconceivable futures, and with enough inquiry possibly new hyperstitions are created(30). This also opens up a space where truth may be found within fiction.

These examples loop back to the idea that embracing a weird realism, a looseness of aesthetic experience may be of deep value. New Ruins, Sham Ruins and para-fictional architecture all hold the similarity that that a physical/ metaphysical gap allows for aesthetic play. A ‘ruined experience’ where the way things appear, their intentions and truthfulness are ambiguous lends to a healthy flexibility of form and interpretation. The viewers appreciation of the ‘ruined experience’, whether the object decays, breaks down, walls crack, plants grow from the roof, or whether viewers constantly misinterprets or reinterprets as part of the aesthetic engagement is the unique message the object instills.

Sham Ruins and New Ruins Aesthetic Commonalities 
Chronologically New Ruins allude back to Sham Ruins but we must acknowledge that these objects were from different periods with different paradigms. For Sham Ruins the picturesque was a period awash with poetry, narrative, the sublime, art and colonial and political power struggles. There was no strong sense of humans dramatically changing their environment nor much environmental protection. Now days, New Ruins have the ecological apocalypse, global warming, ecological science and the sustainability debate floating around their form. Having said, that Sham Ruins and New Ruins have some commonalities. These objects may be seen as ‘interpretation machines’ (31) that ‘make complex knowledge possible; they can impart knowledge and their perception often requires a special knowledge.’ (32)

Time
These ruins engage with the concept of time, especially the passing of time. Sham Ruins engage in a lyrical and poetic sense of time, alluding to historic narratives and blurring a visitors experience of past and the present, intentionally playing tricks with it’s ruined aesthetics, and enjoying the confusion over it’s construction, and authenticity. It’s intention is to create a parafictional experience that plays with our sense of time. This is of the period where recreating in a park was not only a ‘natural’ experience but also political, historic, poetic, and fantastical. New Ruins sit in a contemporary paradigm of heightened utility, as Raxworthy alludes, these ‘interpretation machines’ have a purpose, a job to do. This sits in a backdrop of ecological, geological and sustainable time. New Ruins engage with these contemporary time-frames but at the same time challenging these notions. In placing the aesthetics of appearing, the formal outcome of time front and center, New Ruins show how time, how they decay or grow in relation to the human entity, uncovers their more honest nature. Engaging with and celebrating uncontrollable concepts like entropy, emergence and growth New Ruins are the formal outcomes of ecological shape-shifters. Time is celebrated, not controlled. The designer is entangled in her relationship with the objects she designs both growing, decaying and changing together. 

Against Literalism 
These ruins are against literalism. Literalism is the belief that a thing can be totally explained, totally encapsulated by a perfect description of that thing, be that prose, graphic representation, mathemetisation, or the human senses (33). Seeking the literal meaning of something intends to encapsulate everything that is knowable about a given thing which relies on using generalised descriptions. Therefore literalism is a kind of idealism. Instead we look to realism for more honest formal outcomes. These Ruins stand against literalism by playing with their aesthetic outcome. By not looking ‘complete’ nor ‘destroyed’ they present themselves in a moment, in an aesthetics of appearing. They have form but they are not fully formed. So to they are styled but they do not appease an idealised school like brutalism, deconstructivism or sustainable design. As they are aesthetically indeterminate they shake off any literal interpretation when they are looked upon. They are not finished and nor they ever will be.

Against Purity 
These ruins cannot achieve an aesthetic of purity. A pure white aesthetic is more often than not a literal aesthetic, purity tells the viewer that everything is knowable, conceivable, digestible in a single viewing. This aesthetic has no ‘gap’ both physically and metaphisically for slippery change, for emergent ways of being, for weird realism. Instead New Ruins and Sham Ruins embrace a inherent complexity where singularity is no constant. As an example, let’s take a the garden wall. A garden wall could be made from a variety of materials; stone, wood, concrete, brick metal etc. One may make the wall perfectly, from one material, say metal and maybe even paint it white. Another may make it from stone, irregularly placing them, filling some of the holes with either cement or soil. These two examples have two dramatically different philosophies underpinning them. The perfectly painted white wall, expressing it’s literal white-wallness has no physical or metaphysical room to move, as soon as mould starts to creep up from the base or dirty rain streaks down from the top the pure white wall stops becoming a pure white wall. It is forever ontologically fragile. On the other hand the irregular stone wall is able wiggle and when also mold starts to creep or it is battered with wind and rain it’s aesthetics of appearing is negotiable, it’s form can shift and bend while being ontologically anti-fragile. A New Ruin is exactly this, it is designed for change so as a rock falls off here, a plant grows through a crack there the aesthetic experience is actually enhanced! A further argument could be made against sustainability, because at its worst a sustainable philosophy is one of stasis and purity in form and outcome. To be ‘sustain-able’ is the ability to stay the same for as long as possible. In this sense New Ruins are not sustainable as their aesthetic is radically changeable. This is a much more progressive position to hold than trying to stay pure to form, shape and use. New Ruins are indeterminate, embracing novelty and change. The designer, the manager and the viewer all understand that this is a messy process, it’s not pure, isolated monolithic. Instead it is negotiable, chimeric, and just plain dirty.

Change 
In this sense change can be seen as the opposite, or remedy to purity and sustainability. Embracing change, rather than fighting against it, for the search of an impossible ‘balance’, is a key philosophical tenant of New Ruins. By embracing change we are enacting a realist philosophy where designers constantly re-negotiate with the present. As this essay has discussed this renegotiation is through aesthetics, in particular Seel’s aesthetics of appearing. Gilles Clement’s quote at the beginning of the essay, that the illusion of mastery is dangerous and will lead us to ignorance, is prescient considering our current naivety. With this naivety comes idealism, literalism and an obsession with purity. New Ruins stand against this philosophy. But why is change important ? because ecologically we are de-entangling and entangling faster than we ever have on the planet. The great acceleration is so fucking fast. Thus I take Clement’s ‘illusion of mastery’ as a comment on anything that isn’t tuned into our hyper changeable paradigm. Things that seek a constant, or a sustained outcome are looking to be taken as dogma, laid to rest and not challenged further. It is an illusion to believe that we do not need to continuously re-negotiate, to re-assess, to re-inquire. The illusion of mastery is not just a well of ignorance, it’s a down right bear trap! Instead these Ruins embrace change as an their core physical and metaphysical imperative. As they re-negotiate, they become stronger and forever less like themselves. By embracing change these objects are engaging with a realist aesthetic philosophy. They engage, and then re-engage from changing moment to changing moment.

(1) Gilles Clement – https://www.pca-stream.com/en/articles/gilles-clement-favoring-the-living-over-form-115
(2) The Rise of Realism by Graham Harman and Manuel DeLandahttps://www.wiley.com/en-cn/The+Rise+of+Realism-p-9781509519026
(3) Killing Simplicity: Object-Oriented Philosophy In Architecture by Mark Foster Gage
(4) The I Ching or Book of Changes by Richard Wilhelm with introduction by Carl Jung, pg. 6
(5) Aesthetics is most commonly known as ‘a particular theory or conception of beauty or art : a particular taste for or approach to what is pleasing to the senses and especially sight’ See link for more details https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Aesthetics
(6) Harman is noted to say that “Relations between all real objects, including mindless chunks of dirt, occur only by means of some form of allusion. But insofar as we have identified allure with an aesthetic effect, this means that aesthetics becomes first philosophy” I take this to mean that relations between objects are aesthetic or sensual. On Vicarious Causation by Graham Harman pg 221
(7) Liquid times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty by Zygmunt Baumanhttps://www.amazon.com/Liquid-Times-Living-Age-Uncertainty/dp/0745639879
(8) I used the word ‘object’ in the OOO sense of the word “an object is any unified entity, whether it has a reality in the world or only in the mind.”  Toward Speculative Realism by Graham Harman
(9) Tim Morton says ‘sincerity eats irony’ fromhttp://ecologywithoutnature.blogspot.com/2010/10/in-defense-of-phenomenology.html
(10) Note. Once again here I’m using ‘object’ in the OOO sense of the word
(11) Object Oriented Ontology: A New Theory of Everything by Graham Harman pg 81
(12) The Aesthetics of Appearing by Martin Seel in Radical Philosophy 118 March/April 2003
(13) Killing Simplicity: Object-Oriented Philosophy In Architecture by Mark Foster Gage
(14) Hyper-realism and loose-reality: the limitationsof digital realism and alternative principles in landscape design visualization by Karl Kullman
(15) Novelty in the Entropic Landscape by Julian Raxworthy (PhD Thesis) pg 71
(16) Ibid.,  pg 71
(17) Alien Phenomenology by Ian Bogost. In this book Bogost talks about how objects have internal ethics, that we are not privy to. I have taken this as a given when talking about plants.
(18) Novelty in the Entropic Landscape by Julian Raxworthy (PhD Thesis) pg 39 Propositional Geography is as Raxwothy states techniques that were used to discuss process in architecture and landscape architecture primarily using post-modern techniques and readings of mapping and geography. 
(19) Overgrown by Julian Raxworthy pg 68
(20) Ibid.,  pg 131
(21) Gilles Clements in interview with PCA Architects https://www.pca-stream.com/en/articles/gilles-clement-favoring-the-living-over-form-115
(22) In the interview Gilles Clement states: “Since then, I have often suggested that a managed space should be accompanied by an undeveloped adjoining space, left to its own devices, in such a way as to become a reservoir for hosting species that are deemed “auxiliary” for the gardener, species that help the gardener without asking for anything in return”
(23) Ibid.,  
(24) Culture of Illusion: Landscape Gardens, Fabricated Ruins, and the Diorama, c. 1750 –1850 by Kasie Elaine Alt 
(25) Ibid., pg 42
(26) Ibid., pg 52
(27) Parafiction is fiction masquerading as fact while fiction does not nessesarily present itself as fact. 
(28) Geothermal Futures Lab exhibition text https://sciarc.edu/events/exhibitions/mark-foster-gage-geothermal-futures-lab-the-counterfactual-machine
(29) Ibid., 
(30) “Hyperstition is a neologism that combines the words ‘hyper’ and ‘superstition’ to describe the action of successful ideas in the arena of culture.”http://merliquify.com/blog/articles/hyperstition/#.XGE1ijMzZPY
(31) Novelty in the Entropic Landscape by Julian Raxworthy (PhD Thesis) pg 66 Raxworthy refers to ‘interpretation machines’ as those things designed to register environmental, geological or other forces and subsequently be ‘read’ or seen by the viewer. 
(32) The Aesthetics of Appearing by Martin Seel in Radical Philosophy 118 March/April 2003
(33) Object Oriented Ontology: A New Theory of Everything by Graham Harman pg 90


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