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The ahistorical aesthetics of Ruin Porn

An excellent 2011 Guernica article by John Patrick Leary:

“In viewing Detroit Disassembled and The Ruins of Detroit, one is conscious of nothing so much as failure—of the city itself, of course, but also of the photographs to communicate anything more than that self-evident fact. This is the meta-irony of these often ironic pictures: Though they trade on the peculiarity of Detroit as living ruin, these are pictures of historical oblivion. The decontextualized aesthetics of ruin make them pictures of nothing and no place in particular. Detroit in these artists’ work is, likewise, a mass of unique details that fails to tell a complete story. Both books include a picture of a melting clock in the shuttered and soon-to-be-demolished Cass Tech High School; the clock is emblazoned ironically with the brand name “National Time,” inviting clucks of recognition from Salvador Dalí fans and armchair allegorists. Michigan Central Station on the city’s west side is an abandoned depot from the golden age of rail travel, designed by the architectural firm that produced New York’s Grand Central Station. The station is the Eiffel Tower of ruin photography and probably Detroit’s most recognizable modern monument other than the downtown Renaissance Center complex, as shown by the hobbyist and professional photographers who descend upon it on every sunny day.”

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