Rory Cariss

"The Industrial Sublime - Recasting the Corrugated Metal Sheet"

Section MS19, Alison Bartlett


The project is born from an investigation into the significance of London’s industrial history, as well as it’s current, de-industrialised state. Seeing the city not just as a physical object, but one of collective perception, it recognises London’s ties to industry as playing an important role in how we imagine and represent (or have imagined and represented) the modern and postmodern city.1 Globalisation has largely driven industries abroad, whilst those remaining - typically in the form of light industry - have been pushed to the fringes of the city; occupying what can be defined as the urban backstage.2

By contrast, historical sites of industry - warehouses, factories, power stations and the docklands - have been remade in London in a manner that makes the building’s former function a prominent part of the building’s new identity - a process driven by capital investment.3 Spaces that were historically associated with poverty, dirt and noise have been reframed as fashionable, becoming nostalgia commodities.4 This process has resulted in the development of the industrial style present in contemporary architecture - a trend that utilises aesthetic carriers associated with labour and working-class histories. Analysing themes of monumentality, nostalgia and invisibility, the project seeks to re-read these implicit meanings and histories by recasting a simple material artefact - the corrugated metal sheet.

The corrugated metal sheet - a material utilised in industrial architecture, construction hoardings and objects of industry - is rematerialised in ceramic, brass and plaster - materials of high art and collectable design. The meanings and histories embedded in the sheet are re-contextualised through the installation of it’s recastings on a fragment of gallery wall, which is subsequently juxtaposed against the original object in question, situated on a site of contemporary urban industry - an industrial estate. This recasting seeks to talk about the ‘negativity’ of the object - all that is unseen, before, during, and after its existence.

  1. Christine Boyer, Cybercities: Visual Perception in the Age of Electronic Communication, 1996. Page 16. 

  2. Cecily Chua, Labeja Kodua Okullu, Marta Michalowska, Introduction in Urban Backstages, 2023. Pages 6-7. 

  3. Nicholas Balaisis, Factory Nostalgia: Industrial Aesthetics In The Digital City, 2014. Page 2. 

  4. Ibid. Page 4.