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things 13
winter 2000-01
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Editorial
Look, no hands

Sometimes things has a way of running away with itself.

Try as we may in this issue, we have been unable to go very far without encountering the idea of ruins.

Our obsession with them began with our fascination with things that are somehow on the edge. We like ruins because they have outlived their time, and often we cannot understand them. We like them because they always stand for something else. We like them because they are man-made things that can seem almost not made by man – as the German sociologist and philosopher Georg Simmel (1858-1918) put it, ‘The major enchantment of a ruin relies on the fact that although being man-made it seems to be a gift of nature.’ 

We began talking about them; and then things took over.

Pretty soon, and with practically no intervention on the part of the editors, we had a poem by Peter Davidson (page 151), a visit to the modern ruins of Cuba’s art schools (page 92), a review of Lynda Nead’s absorbing account of the tearing down and rebuilding of London in the late 19th century, Victorian Babylon (page 84), an Anglo-Saxon poem about the ruins of Bath, and an essay by Joseph Mashek on Adolf Loos’s unbuilt proposal of 1922 for the Chicago Tribune building – a sort of conceptual ruin (see things 15). When Dan Smith proposed a piece on the decaying dinosaur sculptures of the Crystal Palace (page 29) and Esther Leslie’s essay on Walter Benjamin’s Arcades project (page 49) turned out to elaborate his idea that it is possible to learn more about a great building from its plans or ruins than from the completed construction, we realised that we might as well boil the kettle, put our feet up on the desk and let things get on with editing itself.

So here is things 13, the issue that made itself – with apologies to those who don’t like ruins (and assurances there are plenty of non-ruinous articles, too); and promises, to those who do, that it doesn’t end here.

As to the shape of things to come – we suppose we shall all just have to wait and see what things chooses to run in its next issue....


things 13, Winter 2000/01

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