Excerpt from 'Grigorescu’s Body in Crisis: Architectural Ruin as Abjection’. Essay, April 2011.

In this essay, I looked at the film work of Romanian artist Ion Grigorescu through a reading of Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection. Grigorescu’s film and video work documents the Soviet ruins of Bucharest. His subject matter and way of filming are both ‘ruins’, and this gives his work an abject power – the abject being something that evades categorisation and comprehension, and that exists in a liminal zone between life and death, acceptability and the defiance of order.  


Film of/ as Ruin

Grigorescu’s medium of film is liminal (from limen, ‘threshold’),[1] neither fully alive (1994 and 2000 are past times, and the ruins refer to an even more distant past) nor dead (film exists in the present time of its projection, and ruins in the present time of their decrepit existence). In this way, film of/as ruin is a living corpse:

‘([C]adaver: cadere, to fall) […] what I permanently thrust aside in order to live […] There, I am at the border of my living being. My body extricates itself, as being alive, from that border […] the corpse, the most sickening of all wastes, is a border that has encroached upon everything […] It is death infecting life […] It beckons to us and ends up engulfing us.’[2]

Death and the corpse (or ruin in Grigorescu, with ruin’s etymology: ruere to fall)[3] are threatening because they directly confront the structure of existence.
Film and ruin are both forms of allegory because they are like ‘double exposures’:[4] existing in the present and referring to the past.

[1] Chambers English Dictionary (1988) Cambridge: Chambers p.829
[2] Kristeva (1982) ‘Approaching Abjection’ in Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection New York: Columbia University Press p.3
[3] Chambers op.cit. p.1284
[4] Huyssen, A ‘ Authentic Ruins; Products of Modernity’ p.20 in Hell, J and Schonle, A (eds) (2010) Ruins of Modernity Durham and London: Duke University Press


text: Becca Voelcker
images: Tate