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The Aesthetics of Decay

Nothingness, Nostalgia, and the Absence of Reason


Dylan Trigg

In The Aesthetics of Decay, Dylan Trigg confronts the remnants from the fallout of post-industrialism and postmodernism. Through a considered analysis of memory, place, and nostalgia, Trigg argues that the decline of reason enables a critique of progress to emerge. In this ambitious work, Trigg aims to reassess the direction of progress by situating it in a spatial context. In doing so, he applies his critique of rationality to modern ruins. The derelict factory, abandoned asylum, and urban alleyway all become allies in Trigg’s attack on a fixed image of temporality and progress. The Aesthetics of Decay offers a model of post-rational aesthetics in which spatial order is challenged by an affirmative ethics of ruin.

«‘Between sublimity and the dissolute, we discover the aesthetics of revulsion’, writes the philosopher Dylan Trigg in his recent book The Aesthetics of Decay (2006). Trigg is the latest in a venerable line of thinkers to turn his attention to decay in general and garbage in particular. His book's contention – that the ruin or remnant embodies a mode of ‘critical memory’ at odds with the sanctification of official monuments and sites of collective recall – may be argued at the level of contemporary cultural theory, but its terms and tone are actually ancient. There seems to be something in the study of ruins, rubbish, junk and trash that means its enthusiasts can't help reverting to awed lists of defunct artefacts. They may begin with more rigorous and abstract ambitions, but time and again it is the details of decay that fascinate its theorists.» (Brian Dillon, Frieze Magazine)
«‘The Aesthetics of Decay’ challenges the common assumption that progress is rational. With analytical rigor and eloquence of argument, Dylan Trigg’s book takes the reader on a journey through metaphysics, psychoanalysis, aesthetics, ethics, theology, and music to suggest the opposite: that the modern ruin redefines progress by embodying decline. A remarkable display of erudition and creativity, and written in an engaging and accessible style, this book is an exceptional foray into intriguing subject matter.» (Sally Macarthur, Senior Lecturer in Musicology, University of Western Sydney; Author of ‘Feminist Aesthetics in Music’)