Every now and then I’ll get really into some mundane object.
Something about the green plants shooting up from the earth at the base, and those dirty shredded rags on the barbed wire at the top, seem weirdly profane, like some anti-Kether. Or at the very least, like those little plants are setting up to have their hopes and dreams dashed by what’s at the top. Draw whatever metaphor you want out of that.
Then again, maybe it’s just really good anti-mummy insurance. Make of it what you will, I just like the way it looks. Something visceral has to grab you sometimes, and you don’t have to know right away what it is. You can invent a point for it later.
I’ve read some detractions of so-called “ruin porn”, usually in places other than art sites, and seldom with concise reasons as to exactly why they’re so personally offended by the fact that some people are drawn to just about anything that doesn’t resemble a shiny pre-fab suburb. Some of it seems to involve a belief that photographers come from someplace else, aren’t involved in the communities where their images are taken. I’m sure there are cases where that’s true. But this is again belying an elitist assumption that artists and creativity do not exist within a poor or marginalized community. I promise you, these images were shot walking distance from our home. Some attempt to make some social point about their objections, about foreclosures, homelessness, loss of work and industry. That’s a little better, as these all actually are serious problems. They’re also more likely to get figured out with people taking more active roles in learning about housing rights and advocacy, rather than critiquing photos of the devastation. Unfortunately, I’ve been around long enough to realize that when urban ruins do get demolished, it never turns out that it’s to build affordable housing or shelters or anything like that. (Remember when CBGB’s closed and for a while some realtors were trying to say they were going to put a homeless shelter or an AIDS hospice or something there? Except what they really put there was a grossly overpriced boutique for ugly-as-sin men’s clothing? Ha ha, good one. Assholes.) The oh-so-scenic new Highline Park, i.e. a paved walkway, some benches and flowerbeds built over a stretch of dead elevated train track once hosted some unofficial homeless communities.Yeah, what tends to get built are Luxury High Rises and Playgrounds For The Rich and Heinous. You know what I think of those cold, impersonal new buildings? Luxury Porn.
Maybe some people are uncomfortable with urban ruins not for the economic failed-system disaster they represent, but because they are reminders of mortality itself. For you, for your culture, for everything you’ve been brought up to identify with. We’re used to thinking of ruins as leftovers of societies that died out in antiquity. Now we’re seeing the world around us entropy and change, but without seeing it from the detached distance of a history book. We’re still cognizant enough to ask what went wrong? What’s going wrong? I live among abandoned factories and trainyards, but I’m a few centuries too young to witness the fall of the Roman Empire. I do recognize such imagery as evidence of the failings of our bastardized capatilism/plutocracy hybrid, however.
And on a more superficial level, I’m a texture junkie. Brickface, rust, chipped paint, layers of torn advertisement laid on top of each other, uneven plaster, corrugated metal sheets–I can get lost in them as much as I can in the most ornate woven rug or fleur de lis patterns, or the brush-marks of Van Gogh.
Of course, these comments are based in what goes on in my own city. I can’t really offer comment as to what goes on in Detroit or Cleveland.
Oh well. Here, have some pictures I took in the spring of a blossoming tree. Also walking distance from where I live, someone planted them around one of the project buildings. My neighborhood is funny like that.