Ruin is the theme that connects the individual parts of the cycle Oh and Hah, Beauty, Ruin and Slack. We perceive a ruin not as something negative, but as a lingering emotional farewell to the past. It helps us find connections between the past and the future and see the places of transience. It motivates the emergence of something new and at the same time relativizes our future plans. The ruin is not just a romantic image of slowed-down disappearance, but a genetic part of ourselves. It is based in the foundations of natural cycles and everything created by humans. We also understand it as part of the PLATO venue – which is currently the ruin of a former hobby market; in the near future PLATO will move to the reconstructed ruins of the former municipal slaughterhouse, while the city of Ostrava can be perceived as a ruin of the industrial age.
Each of the five parts–scenes is based on the gradual addition of selected individual works of art and art projects. At a certain point, the scene emerges as an exhibition entity, which is then disintegrated and transformed with the creation of another scene. When it becomes stabilised for a while, it is celebrated by the act of an “opening”. We understand the scenes in a theatrical sense. The cycle Oh and Hah, Beauty, Ruin and Slack is something like a theatrical performance in one act and five scenes.
The scenes are permeated by other interventions such as performances, lectures, musical events or film screenings. The entire project is covered by a publishing platform – the Octopus Press publishing house, which has borrowed its identity from an underground Greek publishing house that operated in the 1970s. The project will be completed in mid-2022 with the transfer of PLATO to its ultimate venue in the reconstructed municipal slaughterhouse.
A ruin can manifest itself in various ways. In the first scene, called “Metamorphosis”, our ruin is connected with the issue of the place in which the process is passing through. The second scene, “Time of Mourning”, allows us to experience the transitional act of parting and the time of the ruin, or the ruin in time.
The third scene titled “Ruin, Differentiation” shows how ruins enlarge their edges and contribute to a variety of relationships, intersections, identities, species, and environments. In the fourth scene, “Smouldering Ruin, An Image”, the ruin becomes a metaphor for the post-industrial city, the breakup of its dominant image and aesthetic canon. The fifth scene, “Ruin, Investigation”, brings our ruin to an end; it again becomes a place, an object that is questioned and examined, and that provides evidence.
The first scene, “Metamorphosis”, explores the places where exchanges and cracks occur between the old and the new. We are interested in the industrial ruins of the city of Ostrava, both the post-revolutionary and the contemporary ones.
Is it possible to relate the American phenomenon of “ruin porn” to the situation in Ostrava? This tourist “zombie” offshoot turns the life in city centres into entertainment industry and the residents into indigenous objects. What other ruins are produced by the present city for the well-being of its inhabitants? What is the contribution of its institutions, including cultural ones to this production? In what ruin resides the nomadic institution PLATO, which will soon settle in the brick ruin of the former municipal slaughterhouse? What will PLATO transform into and what will become of its current venue, the Bauhaus hobby centre? Its ruin has provided a generous space for contemporary art that has lately been escaping from the white cubes of galleries and entering ruins of various types, from architecture to nature – which knows perfectly how to include the ruins into itself.
Mourning should be associated not only with environmental grief, it concerns the whole way society works. Mourning is a purifying process during which we learn to live together with the past and seek meaningful continuations in the future.
Mourning is a shared emotional act that has brought various historical institutions and individuals opportunities to cope with loss and change, and facilitated the collective and individual transition to other temporal, geographical, and social strata. The current proposals to restore this ritual in our highly pragmatic and technologically dependent life attempt to use the formats of institutional reflection and sharing. At the time when its relocation is moving it to a permanent venue burdened with the past, PLATO raises a claim for space and time to observe this situation. The act of mourning is a farewell as well as a collective re-experience, which could also be well applied in the processes connected with the city and the stigmatizing industrial DNA of Ostrava.
The ruin that diversifies settles right in our bodies. It is an important indicator of how interconnected we are. Today, diversity is the answer to the great failure of monocultures, and the pressure for diversification is supposed to solve all our problems. We are asking, however, what about our integrity within the concept of diversity, how new kinships will form independent of gender, sex, race, species, class, party, citizenship, minorities, religions. Are new communities without fixed ideologies sustainable?
What happens to a ruin when it is translated into different aesthetic canons? What is the relationship between the ruin and its representation, what represents it and how? How useful and harmful are representations of ruins? Does the representation multiply the ruin’s entropy or does the ruin acquire a new (and significant) integrity in the image? Through emotional identification with it, it offers the possibility of transition, of continuation.
The image of a ruin – if it is not a mere document – is an exorcism, a new construction. Does the ruin sweep all other themes into the abyss of time? The image of a smouldering ruin wishes to hang on the wall for a long time, being caught in peripheral vision while meandering along the online stream of images of the present, and to create a new identity that is difficult to simply capture. It takes many images to illuminate it.
The method of investigation consists of a detailed research and subsequent reinterpretation of the context, or tacitly accepted facts that were not originally given special importance. It is also an active reconstruction of an event or phenomenon that took place in the past. It is therefore a way of retrospective knowledge based on the evidence and information obtained so far, which is common to archaeology, the detective novel and critical analysis. As an analyst, archaeologist and investigator, the French curator Pierre Bal-Blanc, in collaboration with a number of artists, has decided to explore and critically activate the legacy of the prematurely deceased American artist-anarchist Christopher D’Arcangelo.
Supported by Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and Moravian-Silesian Region.