The Portrayal of Detroit Through 'Ruin Porn' Fails To Tell The Full Story

Do the stylized pictures of crumbling edifices and the recent incorporation of a vacant home in an art show do a disservice to the residents—mostly poor and black—who still call Detroit home?
February 22, 2016, 7am PST | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Patricia Drury

In an article for The Guardian, Brian Doucet and Drew Philip argue against the artistic portrayal of vacant homes and crumbling buildings in Detroit—imagery they describe as "ruin porn." Doucet and Philp cite a project by artist Ryan Mendoza that transported a vacant Detroit home to Rotterdam where it was included as part of the Rotterdam Art Fair. They argue that the fetishization of Detroit as a city in ruins is a simplistic one that ignores the people who still call the city home.

"Ruin porn” is based purely on aesthetics and is almost always devoid of people. Employing the mismatched spoils of history, ruin porn ignores and overwrites the voices of those who still call Detroit home. When its ruins are fetishised as art, these injustices are, at best, ignored, and, at worst, mimicked. They ignore the humanity of residents’ current struggles, while replicating the history that created them.

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Published on Monday, February 15, 2016 in The Guardian
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