What a profound correlation between the vital machine of the Gothic and the vital machine of the digital! (The Sympathy of Things, p. 62) Ruskin is central to Lars Spuybroek’s The Sympathy of Things and the supporting anthology Vital Beauty from NAi/V2 in Rotterdam, and as such they are a part of a periodic resurgence of interest in Ruskin and the use of his works and their prestige to authorise new kinds of enquiry today. Vital Beauty anthologises ‘Of Vital Beauty’ [Modern Painters II] among sympathetic contemporary authors, and The Sympathy of Things is a direct repurposing of Ruskin’s idea that the Gothic held the potential to set right the disruptive technologies of his day. Just about every leap for relevance in cultural production these days grabs onto the advances in computing or the biosciences, or both. Ruskin’s vitalist concept of the commonality of nature and artifice ought to be relevant, and putting contemporary issues in the frame of a longer intellectual history does give an interesting and potentially valuable perspective.
The purposeful anachronisms that arise from this freewheeling Digital Gothic are fascinating and maddening in equal proportions...
Subtitle: "The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design By Lars Spuybroek, Rotterdam, V2 Publishing, NAi, 2011, ISBN 978-90-5662-827-7, Pb, pp. 400, ills Vital Beauty: Reclaiming Aesthetics in the Tangle of Technology and Nature Editors Joke Brouwer, Arjen Mulder, Lars Spuybroek, Rotterdam,V2Publishing, 2012, ISBN 978-90-5662-856-7, Pb, pp. 252, ills colour".
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