What Remains After

Because I have so many links about art saved (>200), I’m trying to group them by themes. Today’s theme is abandoned spaces, and although the title seems a bit dark, it’s not a commentary on current events in the world. 

What remains after we are gone? After the life industrial has faded and transformed into its modern, shiny, robotic cousin? (Well, that’s how the moving pictures show it…)

The end of everything? The slow decay of silent things, with no one to witness their passing? The carcasses of once-great buildings, now uncertain in their unstable uselessness and sharp aura of danger? There is potential in these abandoned and lost spaces – but a melancholy potential, the complete opposite of new beginnings, a potential that is meaningless and only full of the possibilities of what could have been, what never was, what never will be. A lot of never will be.

From THE END OF EVERYTHING, by Jan Erik Waider.

Still, what it can be is a whole lot of art.

As an introductory piece, what could be called found art, this photo is for a newspaper article about the declining paper industry and the buildings remaining behind. Still, found out of context, it has a certain implausible, science fiction quality.

The digester building, built in the early 1930s, stands alone as destruction of the Kimberly-Clark plant continues Thursday evening. In the foreground sits a 32-foot acid accumulator. The building is scheduled to be brought down on Saturday. Via heraldnet.com.

Then there is Brett Patman, who I came across via the Guardian article, Beauty in ruins, in which he explains how his career as a photographer of industrial wrecks began:

I’d started my career as an apprentice fitter and turner in a hot and dirty workshop in the north Queensland city of Townsville. It was such a shit job – every day was stinking hot and we were working on heavy machinery smeared with grease, chemicals or both. But I wanted a trade to fall back on so felt compelled to stick it out. The nickel refinery was one of my first onsite jobs and one I’ll never forget.

Yet unpleasant as it was, I found the sight of this hulking mass of steelwork impressive, and the process of refining metals fascinating. Often I’d find myself looking at the machines and architecture and challenging myself to find one single object designed purely for aesthetics.

Craftsmanship made way for efficiency in engineering long before I’d even left school. Nothing in an industrial setting is intended to look good. But I did pick out certain details – the coloured metal swarf debris, a freshly milled piece of steel with perfectly parallel iridescent tool marks across its surface.

And he reflects my own feelings about these relics of past activity:

There’s this sense of wonder you get when looking at abandoned buildings. You try to imagine what these spaces were like when they were filled with busy workers trying to meet production targets. And why did they close?

By now he’s travelled the world, and has a gorgeous set of galleries online. Not all locations are abandoned, but they all have a particular desolate loneliness in common. If you need a timesink, this one’s brilliant.

Another photographer with a unique presentation is Danila Tkachenko, whose series Restricted Areas I particularly like:

The project “Restricted Areas” is about utopian strive of humans for technological progress.

Humans are always trying to own ever more than they have – this is the source of technical progress, which was the means to create various commodities, standards, as well as the tools of violence in order to keep the power over others.


I travel in search of places which used to have great importance for the technical progress – and which are now deserted. Those places lost their significance together with the utopian ideology which is now obsolete. Secret cities that cannot be found on maps, forgotten scientific triumphs, abandoned buildings of almost inhuman complexity. The perfect technocratic future that never came.

It’s a stark monochromatic landscape:

Tropospheric antenna in the north of Russia – the type of connection which has become obsolete. There were many of them built in far North, all of them deserted at the moment. Russia, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, 2014 (c) Danila Tkachenko

Deserted observatory. Kazakhstan, Almaty region, 2015 (c) Danila Tkachenko

And more here. His other galleries range from dramatic dives into the imagery of the former Soviet empire to near-whimsical encounters with history.

In keeping with the Cold War theme that has appeared, I would love to have this book: Abandoned Cold War Places explores relics of the Cold War in the USA and across Russia, in England and around the former Soviet Union. You can leaf through a few pages at the link, although I think the photos lose most of their character in that format:

From Abandoned Cold War Places.

Plus I want to read the captions.

Anyhow, that’s the end of today’s exploration. I can’t guarantee that future forays will be less melancholy (there’s a certain theme to my taste, it’s true, but it’s not a new one), but I hope at least some of you will find these new artists as interesting as I have done.

So, in echo of the start, I finish with a prelude: the Prelude to the End of Everything, another series by Jan Erik Waider.

Until next time.


  1. Ice Swimmer says

    Those sunken submarines are scary. Who knows what’s inside them.

    The look of the snow in the frozen sceneries is dreamy.

    The shades of red are beautiful in the first two.

    It seems that the digesters (I’m guessing they’re for cooking wood chips into pulp) of the Kimberly-Clark mill are batch digesters*, there are usually more than one in a mill and besides, the Kamyr continuous cooking digester wasn’t invented yet, though the Swedish inventor Johan Richter was already working on it. The acid accumulator hints that the process was acid sulphite process which is quite a dirty pulping process (the most common method, calcium sulphite didn’t feature cooking chemical recycling) even though the mill would not have smelled as bad as a kraft pulp mill (the mos common process today) without modern odorous gas collection and combustion equipment.
    * = That is, they are filled with wood chips and cooking chemicals, closed, heated, run for a few hours with the liquid circulating inside the pressurized vessel, depressurized and then discharged. The conical bottom of the digester makes the discharge easier.

  2. voyager says

    Wow, rq.
    I find this type of art quite moving.
    The differences in the styles of the artists you’ve linked are also quite interesting. Some use diffuse light to present a dreamlike and cold landscape, but others use fire and hard shadow to create a harsh, apocalyptic sense of dread. I found both styles commonly make use of open space, geometry and isolation, and all of the photos create a sense of dread and uneasiness.
    Thanks, I’ll be down this rabbit hole for a while.

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