because it’s cheaper to own an empty lot…
After years of lumping Detroit with other Rust Belt capitals that find themselves in a similar predicament, still reeling from the population drain and fiscal drought triggered by the exodus of local industry, we’re now obliged to confront the devastation head-on, as it’s documented in two forthcoming books of photography: “The Ruins of Detroit” by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre (Steidl), and “Detroit Disassembled” by Andrew Moore (Damiani/Akron Art Museum).
Marchand and Meffre’s account of these and other everyday landmarks is decidedly bleak. Streets and sidewalks are empty: no people, no traffic. Sunlight filters down through gaps in the roofs. Ferns spring up on a factory floor. Snow drifts in through shattered windows. The city, once a cacophony of clanging machinery, immigrant languages and music, has gone silent. Marchand and Meffre interpret what they see as a case of nature reclaiming land the city appropriated, slowly erasing these remaining vestiges of a failed metropolis. Both of these books find beauty in decay, lingering over the paradoxical grandeur of disintegrating monuments and the random juxtapositions made possible by neglect.
Ruins are a loaded subject, one that puts metaphor within easy reach. The images here constitute a requiem for an American empire in a state of precipitous decline. Both books feature the same clock on a classroom wall, its frozen hands and melted face right out of a Dalí painting — as if time in Detroit had ticked to a halt, distorted, when in fact, with our gridlocked government and blind faith in our own exceptionalism, time is passing us by.