Thursday, January 27, 2011
Ruin Nation: Detroit, Winnipeg, And Other Troubled States Of Mind
John Patrick Leary, a Detroit native, deconstructs the "ruin porn" that captivates the imaginations of so many outsiders — including my own. Noreen Malone, a New Yorker, is more blunt: "Stop slobbering over abandoned cityscapes!"
While Leary and Malone do make valid points about the superficial appeal of "ruin porn," their jeremiads do nothing to halt my prurient poring over the salacious photos they decry. Until there's a 12-step-recovery program for poor souls like me, photographs of ruin will continue to nudge my thoughts in all sorts of directions, some of them troubling, others potentially useful. And Detroit is neither unique nor alone in its state of Ruin Nation: Winnipeg qualifies just as easily. So does the village I currently reside in. I believe any photographer with a little sand in 'em could — and should — have a field day in every town in the atlas.
And why not? How we face the inevitability of decline and death is a common mark of wisdom, or the lack thereof. As for the photos on offer, I've already noted that the older and more arcane the structure, the more aesthetic interest it generates. Surely this says something important about our current aesthetic. Its relative instability coupled with its grievous inability to erode fittingly into the biosphere are just two characteristics that suggest our last 100 years of building activity have been, at best, a halting transition toward an architectural modality that better suits our species.
So do read and consider what these people have to say. But keep those pictures coming — and don't stop watching.