Grey Room Lois Diderot Analysis

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Denis Diderot -Le Salon de 1767

Diderot is well known for his distinction in the formulation of the ‘poetics of ruin’. Diderot wrote nine Salons from 1759-1781 under the instruction of Melchior Grimm. These were to simply be the minutes of the exhibitions at The Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture as a part of the literary journal la Correspondance littéraire. Diderot’s writing however created a radical change to the nature and scope of the only artistic section of the literary journal, he himself convinced by the moral function of art, transcending the function of the ‘salon’ to one of a literary status. The Salons are widely recognised in a contemporary setting for their importance in the pioneering of the art critic. Diderot can be
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Huyssen is well known for his discourses on international modernism and postmodernism, and is currently working on a book compilation of his own essays on contemporary visual arts. This article was written for MIT Press Journal’s Grey Room No. 23. “Grey Room brings together scholarly and theoretical articles from the fields of architecture, art, media, and politics to forge a cross-disciplinary discourse uniquely relevant to contemporary concerns.”("MIT Press Journals - Grey Room"). Huyssen focuses in this piece on the sanitization of ruin, questioning whether or not “authentic” ruins can exist in a contemporary setting (pg. 11). When does a ruin become an exhibit, preservation culture transforming it into an aesthetic and designed object? He uses the etchings of Piranesi as a foil to the contemporary obsession with ruin and modernism’s failure to exist in an authentic ruinous state. Piranesi’s Carceri, is a series of 16 prints depicting prisons as aggregates of monumental historical architectural structures “he captured their overgrown residues with archival precision”(pg. 15). Piranesi’s etchings were rediscovered in the twentieth century, a reflection on northern transatlantic countries’ growing obsession with nostalgic and romantic ruin. Piranesi’s ruins represent a different and nightmare-ish ‘authentic ruin’ of which Huyssen argues contemporary depictions of ruin cannot realise. “Such ruins and their representation in picture books, films, and exhibits are a sign of the nostalgia for the monuments of an industrial architecture of a past age that was tied to a public culture of industrial labor and its political organization.”(pg. 8) The twentieth century has been an age of regeneration and preservation, losing the chance for things to age. The state of ruin in contemporary setting falls short to ‘authenticity’ due to the absence of natural

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