Ancient ruins were long considered aesthetic objects, vehicles for meditating on the human condition and the meaning of history, on the fall of empires, on the greatness of times past and present misery. Vanities, memento mori, reminders of our ephemeral passage on earth.
But today, contemporary ruins are considered economic and political symbols, the result of military, nuclear or climatic catastrophes. And the crumbling factories are the vestiges of systematic obsolescence, the remnants of the annihilation of an economy based on Fordism and Marxism, and the idolatry of the machine, an emblematic object of modernity.
In Nuno Perestrelo's photographs, the spaces merge; we look through a passage, a door, a window, the next room is simultaneously close yet unattainable: just as these ruins are at the same time contemporary and distant.
Regardless, this exhibition, now showing for the first time in Lisbon, is also a story of transformation and adaptation to new circumstances.
A solitary journey has been set to discover four of the biggest industrial icons of Portugal’s recent history, and nowadays transformed into archaeological areas falling apart piece by piece.
These have been companies who’ve affected the daily lives of nearly 30.000 people on its peak. Many of them migrated from the farming lands in the countryside and found a different life when coming to work in the new industries.
Lisnave (shipbuilding), Companhia União Fabril (chemistry), Mundet (cork manufacture), Siderurgia Nacional and its blast furnace (steel plant) became not only companies, but small empires and deeply changed the dynamics of Portuguese economy as a whole.
They’re all located in the south of Lisbon, along the Tagus river, whose quick access to the capital’s harbour and to the Atlantic ocean was seen by these major industries, now photographed, as a strategic point to be located.
Ruines Modernes, Le Monde, Oct 2021