Kelly, Ben [Artist] and Abloh, Virgil [Collaborator] (2017) RUIN. .


Ruin was an immersive installation by Ben Kelly in collaboration with fashion designer Virgil Abloh, commissioned by The Vinyl Factory and located at The Store X, 180 The Strand. Kelly designed the installation and consulted with Virgil in order to draw on his work and ethos throughout the design process. Kelly then went onto re-design the installation for a working club ‘Joséphine’ at the Theatre-du-Chatelet in Paris –a new nightclub advocating civic engagement, gender equality and LGBTQI+ identities. Ruin presented a collection of broken fragments and abandoned relics from a ruined and mythical nightclub. It used a material language of physical decay to highlight the decline of the public realm, and the social fabric of community spaces, which result from typical contemporary approaches to urban development in contexts such as central London. As sites of communal gathering rapidly disappear, the creation of a ruined nightclub forces us to speculate on possible causes of urban social ruination –neglect, violence, commercialisation –and the consequences. Ruin was housed in a brutalist building at 180 The Strand, itself a site of ongoing development. The installation also contained fragmented video set ups showing clips of films from past night clubs, plus a soundtrack of 12 music tracks selected by Ben Kelly, interspersed with birdsong to exaggerate the face of nature taking over and reclaiming urban decay. Ruin adds to the canon of the architecture of dereliction. It deliberately echoed the new retail stores designed in the 1970s by architectural practice SITE for the BEST Products Company, each of which presented a newly-built hub of contemporary consumerism as an apparently already crumbling embodiment of a flawed ideology. Ruin was also inspired by the rewilding narrative of the song “(Nothing But) Flowers” by Talking Heads, in which the human-made fabric of shopping malls and highways is made redundant by the living forces of nature. Ruin functioned in the same way, as visual and experiential commentary on the destructive forces of urban change. The creation of a physically ruined nightclub also echoes the actual demolition of iconic Manchester nightclub, The Haçienda, which remains an early touchstone of Kelly’s established design language. The Haçienda ran from 1982 to 1997 and the building was ultimately demolished in 1997. The site was bought by property developers and now a block of expensive flats sit on the site of the former ‘People’s palace’.

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