Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Ruhrgebiet in Close-up

The photos here were taken on a recent visit to the Ruhr – following the Industrial Heritage Trail. When the impact of globalisation and cheap foreign imports of coal, iron and steel products destroyed the viability of mining and heavy industry in the 1980s and 1990s, de-industrialisation rapidly took place. The local authority’s response was to preserve the most impressive industrial sites and open them to the public as educational and recreational resources. These photos come from Duisburg, Essen, Bochum and Dortmund. In close-up these structures offer compositions that in colour, surface and mass often resemble the sort of abstract formalism that can be found gracing the walls of Modernist art museums. It’s a conceit of course – the appearance of these structures was entirely dictated by their utility. The aesthetic input was zero. It is artists and photographers who have developed an aesthetic response to industrial spectacle and created the concept of the Industrial Sublime. A list of the guilty parties would be long and certainly include Charles Sheeler, Carl Grossberg, Albert Renger-Patszch and Bernd and Hilla Becher.

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