8. For all its allure, its mystery, its sublime significance, the ruin always totters on the edge of a certain species of kitsch. The pleasure of the ruin—the frisson of decay, distance, destruction—is both absolutely unique to the individual wreckage, and endlessly repeatable, like the postcard that is so often its tangible memento. The very recent, industrial ruin is the contemporary equivalent of the picturesque view of a decaying Roman amphitheatre: it is part of an aesthetic now so generalized as to have lost almost all of its charge as a generic image. The twentieth-century ruin has become the preserve of countless urban explorers and enthusiasts of decaying concrete: the evidence of their obsession is spreading across hundreds of websites devoted to haunted asylums, silent foundries, vacant bunkers, and amputated subway stations. The secret of these places, in short, is out: the motivation behind such a fascination for decay is less clear, however. The ruin, still with us after six centuries of obsession, is no longer the image of a lost knowledge, nor of the inevitable return of repressed nature, nor even of a simple nostalgia for modernity. Instead, it seems almost a means of mourning the loss of the aesthetic itself. Ruins show us again—just like the kitsch object—a world in which beauty (or sublimity) is sealed off, its derangement safely framed and endlessly repeatable. It is a melancholy world in which, as Adorno put it, “no recollection is possible any more, save by way of perdition; eternity appears, not as such, but diffracted through the most perishable.”

more from Cabinet here.