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1. Desire In Ruins, like Ruins of Glamour/Glamour of Ruins, seeks the negation of all forms of abstraction. It contests the myths of individuality and value built on contemporary art practice. Indeed, it contests art practice itself. Thus the installation stands in opposition to both modernism AND post-modernism, which are simply two stages in a single trajectory.
2. Like Ruins of Glamour, Desire In Ruins exposes the control mechanisms built into architecture. The wall pieces in these 'shows' trigger in the 'spectator' a standard response to the gallery as an architectural space in which art is displayed. The gallery acts as a frame within which one set of 'ideas' and 'experiences' are sealed off from all others and, as a direct result of this separation, granted a privileged position. By 'unconventional' deployment of floor pieces and lighting, Desire In Ruins interrupts the smooth-running of this function and reveals the ideological role played by all systems of value.
3. A brief description of Ruins of Glamour may assist orientation to Desire In Ruins. Spectators entering Chisenhale Studios, London, during the course of the Glamour show, found themselves blinded by a spotlight. Since there was a wall to their left, they were forced to veer right. They thus found themselves entering a spiral of heaped coal. Any progression beyond the outer ring of the spiral was impeded by sharpened wood spikes. Similarly, it was not possible to step over the spiral at the point where the spotlight was hung. Spectators were forced to step over the spiral at a point just in front of the spotlight. By turning their backs to the light, they found themselves at the best vantage point for viewing both the exhibition and any other spectators (particularly those entering the gallery).

The role of sight in recent cultural history
The text is a stage of the Spectacle, and the Spectacle is fully realised in the text.
Text is 'vision' for those who cannot see. It 'explains' the world in terms that render its very 'explanations' 'meaningless'. More real than the real, text seeks to illuminate the world with a light so intense it will irreparably damage the retina, leaving the 'reader' in a position where s/he, too, can no longer see.
Text is 'inner vision' 'insight', a 'powerful device' that denies the 'reality' of Power. Words, a series of ciphers strung across the physical space of a page, letters arranged to create 'meanings'. This final characteristic is totally at odds with the avowed 'tenets' of the 'post-modern scene'. Ironically, the concept of hyperreality has been articulated almost 'exclusively' through the manipulation of text.
The 'crisis of the sign' doesn't exist outside the confines of the university and the salon. Post-modernism serves Capital precisely because it promotes a debate over 'meaning'. What interests those in Power is the effect (use value) of symbols, both singularly and in combination. Thus while 'post-modernists' rant about the 'loss of the real', advertising agencies continue to sell products by effectively manipulating signs.
If post-modernism was taken to its 'logical' conclusion, 'art' would be indistinguishable from 'advertising'. Instead, 'art marketeers' package the manipulation of pre-existing language by 'fine artists' as a 'new' art practice. Thus the shift from 'modernism' to 'post-modernism' consists of a switch from (deliberately) failed attempts to create a 'new' and 'universal' language, to an admission that art is utterly bankrupt.

Plagiarism as negation in culture
Given the total colonisation of daily life by Capital, we are forced to speak the received language of the media. It has always been impossible to give coherent expression to thoughts and practices that oppose the dominant ideology. However, we do not seek the creation of new languages. Such an act is doomed to failure and plays into Capital's hands (by reinforcing the myths of 'originality' and 'individual creativity'). Rather, we aim to reinvent the language of those who would control us.
While we refute the concept of 'originality', we do not find it problematic that the idea of plagiarism implies an original. Although we believe all 'human creativity' is accumulative (that is to say that all 'innovations' are built on the sum total of what has gone before), it does not trouble us that there is, in the past, a 'point of origin'. We cannot give an account of this 'point of origin' and will not waste our time making philosophical speculations about such irrelevancies.
Plagiarism is the negative point of a culture that finds its ideological justification in the 'unique'. Indeed, it is only through the creation of unique identities that commodification can take place. Thus the unsuccessful search for a new and universal language by 'modernist' artists should be viewed as a high point of the capitalist project. However, this in no way implies that 'post-modernism' is somehow more 'radical' than its precursor. Both movements were simply stages in a single trajectory. Such developments reflect the establishment's ability to recuperate actions and concepts that in the past threatened its very constitution. 'Post-modern appropriation' is very different to plagiarism. While post-modern theory asserts that there is no longer any basic reality, the plagiarist recognises that Power is always a reality in historical society.
Post-modernists fall into two categories. The first of these are cynics who understand the ideological process in which they play a minor role and manipulate the system for personal gain. The second category of post-modernists are simply naive. Bombarded by media images, they believe that the ever changing 'normality' presented by the press and tv, constitutes a loss of 'reality'. The plagiarist, by contrast, recognises the role the media plays in masking the mechanisms of Power, and actively seeks to disrupt this function.
By reconstituting dominant images, by subjectivising them, we aim to create a 'normality' better suited to our requirements than the media nightmare dictated by Power. However, we have never imagined that this can be achieved solely through 'gallery' exposure. The images used to sell washing powder have a powerful hold over our consciousness precisely because these cliches are so often reproduced in the media. For an image to be effective it needs continuous reproduction in the press and on tv. The only viable alternative to our strategy of exposure to images reconstituted by the process of plagiarism, is the physical destruction of transmission stations and print technology.

Desire In Ruins - Transmission Gallery, Glasgow May 87

Previous show: Ruins Of Glamour

Follow on events:
Festival of Plagiarism (including discussion of events leading up to it such as Glamour and Desire installations).

Humanity In Ruins (Stewart Home one man show London 1988).

Very short film of Stewart Home installations including this one

4 minute film of Refuse installation in Sweden

Desire In Ruins alternative text

2010 Gallery Work by Stewart Home


Desire In Ruins, Transmission Gallery, Glasgow May 1987

Desire In Ruins

Desire In Ruins

Desire In Ruins

Desire In Ruins

Installations shots of Desire In Ruins, collaborative installation at Transmission Gallery, Glasgow, May 1987.