Tate Britain’s exhibition ‘Ruin Lust’, which runs until 18 May, ends with Gerard Byrne’s film 1984 and Beyond, in which the artist restaged a Playboy article from 1963 that asked science-fiction writers to imagine a day in the life of an urban male of the future. Made between 2005 and 2007, it’s a brilliant piece that draws on a creepy text in which sexism crackles like static electricity on acrylic suits. The authors can imagine new types of keyboard, wristwatches and ‘euphoric cigarettes’ but not a female boss. Women and martinis never change.
Futuristic fantasies are predictable, invariably involving streets in the sky, more leisure in the day, one-piece clothing and capsule food. Byrne’s piece might equally well open an exhibition which tells us that the past is much more surprising than the future.
The co-curator is Brian Dillon, a writer whose achievement has been to make ruins relevant to a new and post-Ballardian generation of artists. Ballard’s 2006 article ‘A Handful of Dust’ responded to Jane and Louise Wilson’s photographs of Nazi bunkers in Normandy, pondering how slave-built concrete can combine Piranesian timelessness