Tim Edensor - British Industrial Ruins

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Industrial capitalism creates the conditions under which objects, processes, places and practices become instantaneously obsolete. This speed of change means that industrial techniques and commodities attain venerable status and the recent past becomes ancient history. Things that heralded progress and the future are instantly forgotten for it is only through the enormous destruction of material that the illusion of progress can be sustained. As previously celebrated commodities and places decay and become irrelevant through the continual creation of the new, they can be recognised as the dreams they always were, emblems of the fragility and destructiveness of capitalism.

In ruins, like other spaces such as charity shops, jumble sales and car boot sales, unexpected shocks from the past - discarded fashions, crazes and trends - remind us of forgotten sensations, reawakening our own ghostly pasts. Office styles, calendars, wallpaper, advertisements, packaging, posters and machinery, and the artefacts produced suddenly seem absurd or kitsch.

In abandoned factories lie unfinished objects, things in loading bays which have never attained the status of commodity. Boxes were piled up for export but never sent, chits and receipts were never filed, parts of objects were never joined together. When the production process stopped these artefacts were left marooned, possessing no value as husks of things in the process of becoming. Moreover, many items that were worn, used, wielded by skilled workers, used during leisure breaks and to contain workers' belongings are now unused but continue to evoke the absence of the bodies that were so comfortable with these things and in these surroundings.
These manufactured and stored objects were suddenly dropped from the networks of production, distribution and consumption. The factory was a locus for movement where goods were shipped in and out, money flowed to and fro, transport came and went, flows of people circulated, all routinised according to a great pattern of scheduling.

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site designed by the Design & Print Unit at Staffordshire University, for Tim Edensor, hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University
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created 8/10/2002