The Dereliction of Place

Master's Thesis


A Statement from the Artist: My interest focuses on industrial and economic collapse. The frail rusted shells of abandoned factories and buildings litter most urbanized landscapes. Landscapes that are always in a state of flux. In many ways, this change is physical and comes from long exposure to the elements, yet I am most interested in the change set into motion by the abandonment of old technologies for more cost efficient ones. Deserted factories still stand as monuments of past industrial wonder and a past prosperous time. However, they tower as an abjection on the landscape and a reminder of the enormous economic change we are currently experiencing. When confronted with abandoned derelict places, I find myself consumed with curiosity, disbelief, and trepidation. It is in these moments of conflicting emotions that a relationship is built between the urban industrial landscapes and myself.

I use the illusion of an oxidized I-beam, an industrial structural material, for my sculptural installations, with rust representing the slow deterioration of our built environments. In the article, Anxious Landscapes: From the Ruin to Rust, Antoine Picon describes rust as a prison. Rust consumes us and our environment; creating a prison and separating humans from the natural environment, acting as a reminder of our active role as the builders of these landscapes.*

The I-beam is the basic framework of industrial construction. The I-beams are presented in a state of collapse and deterioration, their inherent supporting strength is in question, much like the jeopardized framework of the economy. Because the I-beams are constructed out of paper, the recognition of the frail and false economy we live within is made apparent.

The installations bring into question every cityscape. How we view them and how we view ourselves is developed out of what they represent. Industrial landscapes have become graveyards with abandoned buildings towering like massive tombstones, a representation of progress and decline sealed in the confines of an oxidizing surface.

* T Edensor, “Waste Matter - The Debris of Industrial Ruins and the Disordering of the Material World,” Journal 10.3 (2005), (accessed Aug. 2012).


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04162013-084657

Author Justin Dewayne Barfield
Advisor Jean Dibble
Contributor Richard Gray, Committee Member
Contributor Jean Dibble, Committee Chair
Contributor Maria Tomasula, Committee Member
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Art, Art History, and Design
Degree Name MFA
Defense Date
  • 2013-04-08

Submission Date 2013-04-16
  • United States of America

  • post industrial

  • economy

  • art

  • paper mach

  • Rust

  • sculpture

  • printmaking

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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