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Concrete Ambivalence: Inside the Bunker Complex

Lookup NU author(s): Dr John Beck


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The defensive systems of fortified bunkers built during the twentieth century have become, especially since the end of the Cold War, objects of troubled fascination for artists, architects, and archaeologists. Images of bunkers proliferate in contemporary art and photography, and the heritage business has become increasingly interested in exploiting public curiosity towards the remains of recent conflict. This article positions current work about bunkers within the context of postwar debates surrounding modernist aesthetics - minimalism in art, brutalism in architecture - and the latent connection between modernist concerns regarding shape, form, and materials and military construction. Recent interest in bunkers is linked, it is argued, to the ongoing reappraisal of postwar modernist art and architecture and its relationship not only to the violence of World War Two but to the secrecy and passive aggression of the Cold War. As such, the bunker as a site of power in much of the work discussed is approached not merely as an historical artifact but as a deeply ambivalent structure that speaks to contemporary anxieties regarding the location and accountability of the systems of authority and control the bunker represents.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Beck J

Publication type: Article

Journal: Cultural Politics

Year: 2011

Volume: 7

Issue: 1

Pages: 79-102

Print publication date: 01/03/2011

ISSN (print): 1743-2197

ISSN (electronic): 1751-7435

Publisher: Berg Publishers


DOI: 10.2752/175174311X12861940861789


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