Modernist ruin in London canal provides a glimpse at an uncertain future

Emma Tucker
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British artist Alex Hartley has installed this crumbling modernist ruin in the gardens of London's Victoria Miro Gallery.

The installation, entitled A Gentle Collapsing II, has been designed to resemble an abandoned and decaying modernist building.

The piece was specifically designed for the gallery's canal-side garden and intended to present "a situation of ambiguous cause and uncertain outcome"."The work offers poignant reflection on themes of entropy and decay," said Victoria Miro gallery. "It is, in some ways, emblematic of a wider collapsing – of ideals or even spirit."

"Running contrary to such thoughts, however, is the undeniable aesthetic pleasure we find in ruins – their compelling, transportative quality," it continues. "In this sense, A Gentle Collapsing II becomes a kind of time machine that frees the mind to wander, gently collapsing or dislocating a sense of linear time as it does so."

Typical of modernist architecture, the the building is characterised by simple forms and a lack of decoration. It takes its cues from pioneers of the movement such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier – who recently had 17 of his buildings added to UNESCO's World Heritage List.The building, which is part of Hartley's After You Left exhibition, appears to be sinking into the waters of the Wenlock Basin, a part of Regent's canal that reaches behind Victoria Miro gallery.

Internal walls are exposed to the elements, with plaster fallen away to reveal brickwork. The remains of a staircase are open to the sky, and windows are missing their panes.

Inside the gallery, further architectural fragments – which appear to have been rescued from the installation – are displayed alongside a set of blurry black and white photographs of modernist buildings taken by Hartley in California.The region has a strong historic link with modernism. It was famously documented in a series of photographs by Julius Schulman showing buildings from the mid-century movement that had "slipped from public view".

After You Left is on show at the Victoria Miro Gallery until 16 December 2016.

Modernist ruin in London canal provides a glimpse at an uncertain future