For a preliminary definition of overgrowth and whence my interest in ruins and fringe spaces has developed, please read the following abstract, as it was written for the final publication of my MLA Thesis at the Rhode Island School of Design in May 2010:
Ruins sustain the validity that there can be many truths; that the ruin can be decaying – but that it can also be teeming with growth. The perception and experience of truth is difficult to navigate without a juxtaposition of its physical context. The displacement of stratified, ruined material generates a shift in perception through the use of overgrowth.
The landscape of ruin has lost its human occupation to time and memory. It is perceived as a site of singular decay, a space to be re-conquered from its devolution into the dangers of the urban wilds. It is perceived that these urban wilds do not hold purpose in the safe, controlled conformity of the dominion of man. With these pre-established societal perceptions of the ruin, it is understandable to fail to notice that the ruin is also a site of growth. It is this truth – that the ruin is decaying, but that it can also be teeming with growth – that suggests the potentiality for a human social need: transcending perception.
Ruins are the opposite of the new, the opposite of the constructed, and the opposite of the inhabited. To propose that ruins can generate new things, ‘build’ new spaces, and encourage inhabitation to the point of active participation speaks of the duality between the physical displacement of truth and the intellectual displacement of thought. If what is comprehensible is a physical context that has fluidity, then what is not comprehensible, what is nonsensical, is the disruption of that physical context. That disruption acts as a trigger to the mind as it races for a justification for this change. A sudden moment of awareness (satori) may result, enabling the mind to see a material condition that was always there, but never perceived.
The layering of decaying and growing material permits these moments of enlightenment. This does not mean that these two forces are negating each other, it suggests that there is only one type of growth, which, because of its inherently parasitic and pilfering nature, also causes decay: overgrowth. This overgrowth is a process that results in a considerable scalar change to an existing condition. The appearance of this is in relation to the ruin is what triggers satori. Overgrowth can happen with vegetation, earth, water, wind, time, thought, human occupation, industrial constructions and limit-less others.
Experiencing overgrowth is of greatest importance in understanding our role with the many truths of the landscape. But, such observations do not delve deep enough in the mind to perceive more truth. It is indispensible to question the conditions and the observation itself to enable a refined understanding of overgrowth, the ruin, the individual, and the society. This thesis proposes that engaging the ruin is a necessary regenerative process in structured inhabitation and asks its audience to reconsider the concept of the ‘death’ of a site. It is only during this sliver of time in a ruined state that mysterious moments of satori could spontaneously occur with an audience escaping the banality, conformity, and the quotidian modus operandi of the urban fabric.
May 11, 2010