Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

223 × 144 × 22 mm
216 pages
20 illustrations
18 Jan 2021

Landscape as Weapon Cultures of Exhaustion and Refusal John Beck

Once the playgrounds and raw material for the avant-garde, abandoned places and things – decommissioned military sites, post-industrial spaces, contested and forgotten edgelands – are now just as likely to be seen as assets for entrepreneurs or connoisseurs of the authentically worn-out. This is the age of patina, where the material remains of times past – the fields and factories, test sites, back alleys, machines and statues – are coveted, adored, mourned and commemorated, as well as sometimes despised. Through an exploration of a wide range of recent film, photography, art and writing about place, Landscape as Weapon argues that these abandoned sites are a critical arena for debate about the meaning of space and time under late capitalism.

‘How landscapes and their histories are depicted matters profoundly and it matters politically . . . In this wonderfully wide-ranging critique, John Beck challenges the easy packaging of landscape and its history as tourist 'heritage' sites, film locations, edgy ruins or icons of national identity. Exploring pastoral landscapes, industrial sprawl, abandoned ruins, bunkers and much more, Landscape as Weapon is an essential reminder that how we think of places and their pasts is pivotal to how we live now. Essential reading.’ — Stephen Graham, author of Vertical: The City from Satellites to Bunkers

‘John Beck’s Landscape as Weapon is a tour de force of reflective writing that scrutinises recent artistic, literary and cultural negotiations with the infrastructural netherworlds and landscapes of late modernity. Developing his arguments with subtlety, criticality and wit, Beck uses the claims made upon these spaces of contested memory and experience to skilfully build what amounts to a symptomatology of our contemporary historical imagination.’ — Mark Dorrian, Professor and Forbes Chair in Architecture, University of Edinburgh

‘Beck’s probing disquisition on the multiple ways in which representations of the past in history, literature, film and photography are coming under renewed questioning, is timely and thought-provoking . . . Landscape as Weapon ranges well beyond rural nostalgia, fake industrial heritage, and historical mis-representation, to go into the bleaker territory of ruin porn and dark tourism. Here are the blasted heaths of military firing ranges and nuclear testing grounds, the defensive territories cultivated by proponents and activists of bunker ideology, the continuing memorialisation of tyrants, where the old and the new, satellite skies and pastoral latifundia, slums and cultural quarters, all sit alongside each other. These are places where, in the words of novelist William Gibson, "The future is already here but has just not been evenly distributed." Beck shines a light on all these conundrums, helpfully so.’ — Ken Worpole, author of The New English Landscape

Show all

John Beck is Professor of Modern Literature and Director of the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture at the University of Westminster. His many books include Dirty Wars: Landscape, Power, and Waste in Western American Literature (2009).


1 What Will Become of England?
2 Dreary Secrets of the Universe
3 The Poverty of Ruins
4 Invisible from Here on in
5 The General Was Rubbish in the End