Monday, January 31, 2011

ruin porn tourism

one of the few signs of decay i've seen in denmark
i love a good ruin...falling down buildings in decay are so picturesque and evocative. some of my most powerful imaginings have been at ruins...whether it's standing on the plains at troy and almost being able to catch the sounds of battle on the wind or walking along the paved streets of ephesus at midday and imagining john the baptist and paul (misogynist tho' he was) treading there before me or whether it's the old house down on the creek where my father spent his early childhood. ruins evoke memory and emotions and are haunting somehow. and even more haunting if the pictures of them are without people - making the building or place seem that much more abandoned. there is a lot of emotion in such photos of decay.

what does it take for there to be decayed buildings in a landscape? time, for one. the ancient ruins dotting turkey, greece and the balkans, with the odd column sticking up in a field here and there, are just part of the landscape - the history of the place, as the sands of time pass relentlessly over it. on the prairies, it's a sign of the consolidation of all those small family farms into big corporate farms. and there's simply not enough people out there to be living on all of those little homesteads anymore, so some of them fall into picturesque ruin as they bake in the summer sun and are exposed to harsh winters.

somewhere near stickney, south dakota
i miss a good ruin in my daily life. denmark is too prosperous, too middle class, too neat, and perhaps simply too small to allow ruins to stand. one of my favorite exceptions is the old windmill above. but i wonder how long it will be allowed to stand in decay. it's probably violating some or other municipal ordinance in all of its shabby glory.

i feel like i'm hearing an awful lot about detroit lately. it seems it's become the archetype of an american city in decline. famous photographers take haunting peopleless photographs of its once grand buildings in ruin. and those photos are extremely moving. when i see them, it makes me want to go to detroit as a ruin porn tourist.  i recently saw some photos of an abandoned complex near berlin that made me feel the same way. but what are the implications of such voyeuristic practice? being a visitor to a contemporary ruin seems much more somehow violating than visiting ephesus or pergamon or the acropolis. it's so much closer and more raw. many of the buildings in detroit were still in use up to the early 90s, so the wound is quite fresh in a way. and is making a photographic essay of those once glorious buildings, empty of people, doing detroit a disservice?  the new republic thinks so. and so do the people who made this documentary.

what do you think?

8 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Now you are also infected by the Detroit-virus!!!!

Karen said...

I cannot believe the state of that city! I was aware of an economic decline in the auto industry, but I had no idea the city had so much blight. These places were beautiful, the people of the city must be heartsick!....incredible photo essay too....

Molly said...

I really read this title as you starting a movement to ruin porn tourism. Get it?
Lol.
Do you read Sweet Juniper? I love his Detroit posts.

NuminosityBeads said...

Molly, I totally read it that way too. I thought I was going to read about some activism in Thailand or Cambodia!
It was fun to read the actual intent of the title.
xoxo Kim

julochka said...

just trying to rise in the searches. :-) heehee. not really. i only realized afterwards it would look like that. tho' frankly, after flying through bangkok about a million times, i can tell you i'd also like to wreck some porn tourism. yuck.

Magpie said...

I love a good ruin too. Or just the frayed edges sometimes. It's why I started a photo blog.

http://decayanddesuetude.blogspot.com/

!!My word verification is FUNKY!!

mrs mediocrity said...

the photos are haunting. i don't think it's a disservice, it's what's there, what is real. it is sad though.

Pia K said...

derelicted buildings often have an amazing story to tell, i'm totally with you on this, love 'em. it's the melancholy that draws me to them, it's the magic that's there and the eeriness. i found an a-mazing building some year ago, neither picture nor blogpost do it justice, but it really was/is a sight...
http://piaks.blogspot.com/2008/12/old-house-in-hverdal.html