The Aesthetics of Ruins; Pensive Metaphysical Afterthought.
In any reflection on the aesthetics of ruins, not least as part of an attempt to reach a definitive overview, we are in danger of substituting ourselves for Time. And to substitute ourselves for Time is to substitute ourselves for God. The aesthetics of ruins becomes a metaphysics of ruins. This category error or rhetorical slippage seems an unavoidable part of the human condition. If we remove it from one aspect of human existence (religion) it reappears elsewhere (ideology, nationalism, communalism etc). The human condition is to go infinite. To be human is to seek justification in the eternal. Yet to err is also to be human, for the human condition is also a temporal condition. Thought in this area rapidly finds itself rerouted onto the closed circuits of a racetrack designed by Mobius.
God, who (as we know from twentieth century physics) does worse things then play dice, may well have a pact with entropy. Entropy may indeed be the nearest thing to the physical aspect of the deity (the probabilistic energy levels of modern physics being the nearest thing to materialism that twentieth century physics has to offer). The face of God offers us the slope down which the toboggan of existence races. We however, caught midway between the micro and macro forces of physics, in the relatively stable pocket between quantum multi-dimensionality and the curvature of space/time, have only metaphysics to fall back on. Albeit in a guise that (like religion, and like ideology) pretends to deny its own existence.
Our last word must concern our own (present) use of the past in the ruin, for time has already put paid to one past aesthetics of ruins (the aesthetics of ruins. Rather it is the ruin of an aesthetics (if not the ruin of aesthetics itself) that appears before us as part of our contemplation of the ruin - as part of the past in the ruin, the past of the ruin, of its perception. If the spectacle of the ruins of aesthetics on the rock of (our) time repeats the key trope of the traditional form of the aesthetics of ruins itself, such a repetition should warn us that the step into the metaphysics of ruins may have already (always already) been taken (even before the question that reveals the metaphysical agenda behind the aesthetics of ruins has been asked). The metaphysics of ruins are a part of the (post)modern ruin of metaphysics. This ruin of metaphysics itself being a part of the unavoidable ruins of metaphysics through which we all must walk. These same ruins of metaphysics turning out to be a structure which is itself built among the metaphysics of ruins. (And so governed by an aesthetics of ruins.)
It is in these endless loops of (bad?) infinity, that we encounter the time of rhetoric. The rhetoric of time with its description and comprehension of the basic rhetorical slips, substitutions and transformations may offer the illusion of mastery, of the 'last word' in the perpetual end game of metaphysics: in fact its insight (always an important one) lies only in illustrating the fundamental shape of the route, the contour of the journey (especially the key moment when thought unconsciously performs a back flip and believes it is heading outwards, exploring new vistas, when it is simply heading back for home). We are, however, presented with the mapping of the most fundamental operation, one which is infinitely repeated by all thought attempting to find its way in this zone of illusionistic perspectives. The gradient of thought turns out to be governed by the same entropic process as its putative opposite, matter, where a slope of diminishing returns insures that repeated visits, strategies and assaults do not succeed in breaking out, they do not even succeed in moving one step forward; but only repeat (only repeat (only repeat)).
Meanwhile the super tanker of advanced capitalism pushes on into the mists that sit upon the, as yet, uncharted waters of the future. The sea of the new approaches. But here, where it must learn to think anew, thought (believing itself branching left or branching right) only wishes to repeat (to repeat (to repeat)).
Copyright © 2002, 2005 Peter Nesteruk