'Let's go to the beach' - Paul Virilio and the Littoral
Updated: Feb 14
A compulsion to visit/revisit abandoned place (sifting through the relationship between organic and slow mechanical decay of ferrous concrete).
Here, Celeste Olalquiaga looks at Virilio's fascination with the (almost) indestructible Nazi concrete edifices which scatter the Normandy Littoral. A summer holiday in 1958 led Virilio to spend seven years roaming the French coast documenting what he initially referred to as the 'cryptic architecture' of the Atlantikwall, the outer skin of Festung Europa.
Bunker Archaeology is a codification of military emplacements, many of the structures hoping to reflect Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space and find some polished inner beauty. Virilio's artistic sensibilities are triggered by the invasive edifices which have buried their feet into the French landscape. Permanent monuments to totalitarianism, The Organisation Todt's concrete edifices invite the explorer to search for some inner attraction, invariably finding only hollow chambers. Their inner walls, which once absorbed and rebounded the strident voices of National Socialist superiority, now face inwards to their own slow end. Obsolete.
Quasi-organic, these liminal spaces for the organic beings, are maybe neat segue into the science fiction of J.G. Ballard perhaps?
Modern ruins to go with the cast-off modern machine?