Ruins and Experimental Film – Part 1

Post by Alessandra Ferrini

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union artists have become fascinated with ruins. Although not a new trend, the ruin aesthetics of the twenty-first-century differs from the tradition spanning from the Renaissance to the late nineteenth-century, not only for the focus on the ruins of modernity rather than of classical antiquity, but also for its association with photography and moving images.

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Zarina Bhimji’s Yellow Patch (2011) is a 35mm film shot on location in India. Focusing on decaying architecture, like derelict buildings, archives and spaces of bureaucracy, as well as deserted landscapes and seascapes populated by decaying boats, it is an example of the ‘twenty-first-century aesthetic of ruins’. The film is denoted by a slow pace and a layered soundtrack that create a meditative space and at the same time, contribute to a feeling of loss and intimacy.

Although the choice of location and subject are autobiographically inspired, the film refuses to convey a dominating narrative by documenting the traces that colonialism has left in the landscape. Bhimji moves from place to place, from interior to exterior, from architecture to natural landscape, creating a broken, non-linear narrative that refuses the superimposition of one prevailing interpretation. Her editing seems to be more dictated by aesthetic factors like shape and colours, than by a story-line.

Bhimji’s film shows how the past is embedded in the social and architectural fabric, posing questions regarding the future possibilities of these places, including the feasibility of metabolizing the past. Furthermore, Bhimji portrays a reality devoid of people, with the only exception of a shot of a woman’s back as well as of the voices in the soundtrack. This fragmentation of human presence, nearly dissolving, results in an atemporal space that provides the spectator with a site in which to confront him/herself with past, present and future, in a unifying mode. Faced with countless relics, as spectators we become conscious of their autonomous life prior, simultaneous, and probably subsequent to us. Temporal distinctions become blurred and we are transported in an oneiric space: the spatial and temporal dimension of postcolonialism.

Watch the video on the artist’s website.

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