Paula Fernández Álvarez is a PhD candidate at the Art History Department of the University Complutense of Madrid (Spain). Her lines of research focus on the visuality of modern industrial architecture, urbanism, and landscape from spatial and objective approaches; particularly in the study of the performativity of post-industrial ruinous landscapes. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History, with an Extraordinary Degree Award, and a Master’s Degree in Contemporary Art History and Visual Culture from the Reina Sofia National Art Museum, the Complutense University, and the Autonoma University of Madrid.
She was previously JAE Intro Researcher at the Institute of Philosophy in the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and a FormARTE Fellowship in the National Museum of Decorative Arts by the Ministry of Culture of the Spanish Government. She also has collaborated in the Research Group of the Complutense University “Imaginaries. Cultural processes in Occidental contemporaneity” and on the project of the State Plan for the Promotion of Research “The just city: exclusion, belonging and commons within an urban approach to the theories of justice”. She has made training stays at the Art History and Archeology Institute of the Sorbonne University of Paris and at the Performing and Intermediate Arts section of the Collections Department of the Reina Sofia National Art Museum.
Post-industrial Ruins and Fossil Imaginaries. Worker Memory, Spaces and Visual Culture of Coal Mining.
This PhD thesis explores ruinous post-industrial landscapes as a critical object. Productive spaces in disuse or abandonment after the Occidental de-industrialization process are analyzed from a perspective that takes into account the territory through methodologies that belongs to cultural studies, especially visual and material culture fields. Ruins’ discursive possibilities are explored through the construction of the imaginaries and cultural devices from post-industrial era inhabitants, overcoming pure conservation or musealization. Applying a peripheral look regarding the canonical account of decarbonization, it deals with the visual, cultural, and material impact of the end of the fossil fuel energy model based on coal, in the different scenarios directly or indirectly associated with its extraction, transport, processing, and consumption.
Deindustrialization is a socially constructed process in which material and cultural dimensions operate. Industrialization imposes the logic of industry on territory, which is materialized in a strong landscape transformation via exploitation infrastructures; deindustrialization peripheralizes industries, affecting the management of a vast paleo-technical and neo-technical material legacy. In this context, landscapes are central tools in subjective identity configurations. Reflecting on ruination from the image takes into consideration the landscape as a cultural process in which a dynamic time and space converge and in which vital nexus – tangibles and intangibles – take place, also tensions derived from social and artistic practices.
More than a place in itself, the link between post-industrial ruins and fossil imaginaries proposes ruins as different place discourses: material landscapes built by mine engineering; landscapes attached to the progress machinist ideal of the productive system and the industrial working body; cultural affective landscapes of the ruin of work, as a memory, mining culture, and workers’ struggle space of experience; polluted and exploited landscapes as a destructor of previous spaces and generator of new visual and landscape systems, as well as new environmental, social and cultural relationships.