Re-imagining ruins
: A practice-based study on perceptions of place in contemporary Ireland using analogue visual technologies

  • Katrina Maguire

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This practice-based doctoral research project contributes to a new understanding of Ireland’s contemporary ruins by responding to the landscape of abandoned building sites created in the wake of the collapse of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger economy in the late 2000s. Through an artistic practice encompassing film and photography, the research explores how art and creative practice can respond to this condition, offering new perspectives on how we perceive, interpret, and experience Ireland’s still visible sites of bankruptcy and abandonment. Primarily concerned with investigating how the transformative relationship between the object and its referent can generate a dialogue between the shared indexical, temporal and material properties of analogue technologies and Ireland’s contemporary ruin, the creative research also explores how these discarded building sites reframe our perception of place in Ireland today, examining the correlation between the ephemeral celluloid fabric of photography and film, and the decay and stains of time displayed on the unfinished structures of the contemporary ruin, each a temporal barometer, physically registering memory, the imprint and history of time. To convey this discourse on ruination, indexicality and temporality, the photography and film methodology is primarily informed through location-based fieldwork. Polaroid photography is employed for its distinct indexical, temporal, material and visual qualities, and to facilitate an intuitive interaction with these abandoned sites. This creative practice encourages a dialogue between the activity of looking and recording, and that of delivering on-site single framed images and objects, a dialogue that can also probe the dichotomies between the past and present, the fixed single moment and the sequential fixed moment. Recordings are made in Super 8 to examine celluloid’s ephemeral, and temporal qualities, and to investigate the medium’s transformative capacity through engaging with its alchemical processes and presentational properties. The research examines how this low gauge medium and its capacity to interpret time, duration and movement can also communicate stasis, and Super 8’s textural qualities and static shots are also analysed within this context to emulate the abandoned sites in between condition - stuck in time, yet slowly evolving and changing. Conceptually, the research is also informed by the work of various artists and filmmakers who have explored processes of ruination, film and photography’s indexical and temporal qualities, especially those who have employed the Polaroid as a visual notebook to inform context and cinematic style (for example, Andrei Tarkovsky and Wim Wenders in their respective reflections on the deployment and processes of Polaroid photography); Chris Marker’s film and visual art also draws upon an engagement with ruination, memory and time, while Tacita Dean has responded memorably to the demise of an industry and material by recording the closure of the Kodak factory in Chalon-sur-Saône after learning they were to halt production of 16mm film (Kodak, 2006). The creative practice is also influenced by the work of other filmmakers whose explorations into the texture and trace of celluloid and offers a mediation on the historicity of the medium (for example, Hollis Frampton and Bill Morrison). The thesis concludes with a discussion of the Static Vision (January, 2020), the gallery exhibition which acted as a catalyst for the creative and conceptual aspects of this practice-based project, and which invited the viewer to actively participate in its temporal and material qualities of the images, offering simultaneous engagements with stillness and movement, ruination and reclamation.

Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorRichard O'Sullivan (Supervisor) & Des O'Rawe (Supervisor)


  • Contemporary art
  • Irish contemporary ruins
  • analogue
  • polaroid photography
  • Super 8 Film

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