The Ruins of Detroit: A Sad Narrative of Urban Life in America

Michigan Central Station

The Ballroom, Lee Plaza Hotel

Atrium, The Farwell Building

Bagley-Clifford Office of the National Bank of Detroit

The William Livingstone House

The Ruins of Detroit: A Sad Narrative of Urban Life in America

The Ruins of Detroit is a powerful and disturbing collection of photographs, which are the result of a five-year collaboration by the French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain MeffreThe Ruins of Detroit tells the city’s story in one starkly beautiful photograph after another, adding up to nothing less than an end-of-empire narrative.  The abandoned factories, the eerily vacant schools, the rotting houses and gutted skyscrapers chronicled by Marchand and Meffre are the artefacts of Detroit’s astonishing rise as a global capital of capitalism and its even more extraordinary descent into ruin, a place where the boundaries between the American dream and the American nightmare, between prosperity and poverty, between the permanent and the ephemeral are powerfully and painfully visible.  No place exemplifies both the creative and destructive forces of modernity more than Detroit, past and present.

In addition to these remarkable photographs, this piece presents a memorable slide show of additional images from the collection and a documentary short film.  Pure Detroit is a short film by Ivan George with gorgeous cinematography, but it’s also one that confronts the viewer with dramatic images of the collapse and decay that rapid economic and social change can have upon urban life.  The impact of the film has been described as somewhere between heaven, hell and quiet meditation.  While Pure Detroit is a beautiful visual mood piece, it’s also incredibly sad.  The film reveals so much about the rapid changes we’re encountering in our world right now, how the old things gets broken much faster than new things are put in their place.  Pure Detroit serves as a powerful reminder of what the old things breaking down can be like for so many of us.

Pure Detroit: When Old Things Get Broken

Slide Show: The Ruins of Detroit/A Sad Narrative of Urban Life in America

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Civic Haze: Uncertainty and Ambiguity in Urban Life

Civic Haze: Uncertainty and Ambiguity in Urban Life

Photography by:  Maria Ines Manchego, NYC and New Zealand

Civic Haze is a photographic-essay by Maria Ines Manchego, a visual artist currently living in New York City.  Her photographs present an urban landscape portrayed by images reflective of emotional vacancy and loneliness, of memories isolated from their origins, a documentary of a city’s unconscious.  The images are mysterious, with features of noir photography.  The hazy atmosphere creates a sense of uncertainty and ambiguity, about both time and place.  It’s neither night nor day; it’s in-between, like a liminal moment.  Although the photographs were inspired by life in New York City, they convey the sense of an anonymous city, rather than of a specific location.

Slide Show: Civic Haze/Uncertainty and Ambiguity in Urban Life

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Drift Away: A Slow Glide Through Misery’s Homeless Mind

Drift Away: A Slow Glide Through Misery’s Homeless Mind

In each individual the spirit is made flesh,
in each one the whole of creation suffers,
in each one a Savior is crucified.

Hermann Hesse, Demian

Drift Away is a beautiful, but sadly melancholy 4-minute short film directed by Jean-Julien Pous and produced by Sophia Shek.  During the course of the film, a gracious and ethereal young woman slowly glides silently and all alone through the busily teeming streets of Hong Kong.  During the earliest part of the film, it’s somewhat difficult to discern exactly what’s going on in this little film, or even what the movie’s theme might be, except possibly a visual rendering of the emotional deadness of anomie and anhedonia in contemporary urban life.  The attractive young woman’s eyes acutely capture everything around her, but only the movie’s camera can catch her own eyes.  Sadly, it’s probably true that only when you’re really able to lose yourself in something or someone else, only then will you finally become capable of an emotional investment in yourself, another person and/or the world around you.  Lacking that, the despairing message for people left with a desolately barren life in the midst of the intensely seething modern world is something like: “Pour your misery down, pour your misery down on me.”

Drift Away: A Slow Glide Through Misery’s Homeless Mind

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Train/Bed: Only One of Eight Million

Train/Bed: Only One of Eight Million

Train/Bed is a 2-min. stop-motion short film by Lam Thuy Vo. The film was created for a 2008 Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective screening. Set in New York City and Brooklyn, Train/Bed is a visual essay, a form of visual storytelling, about the feelings of anonymity, sadness and loneliness of life in the big city.

Train/Bed: Only One of Eight Million

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Beep-Beep, Toot-Toot: David Byrne Plays the Whole Building

David Byrne: Playing the Building

New Yorkers would be quite willing to pay good money to silence the daily Manhattan Symphony, which is a cacophony of sounds composed and performed by the din of garbage trucks, car speakers, bus brakes, warped manhole covers, knocking radiators, people yelping down from high windows and the racket of numerous blaring television sets.

But in a paint-peeling hangar, the old Great Hall of the 99-year-old Battery Park Maritime Building (a former ferry terminal) at the very foot of the Manhattan, David Byrne, the avant-garde artist and musician, is purposefully making such music, although many might not call it that.

David Byrne’s Playing the Building is a sound installation in which the infrastructure of The Maritime Building has been converted into a giant musical instrument.  Devices are attached to the building structure, to the metal beams and pillars, the heating pipes, the water pipes, and are used to make these things produce sounds.  Pressing the keys of a beat-up Weaver pump organ, its innards replaced with relays and wires and air hoses, activates three types of sounds: winds, vibrations and strikings.  The devices do not produce the sounds themselves, instead they cause the building elements to vibrate, resonate and oscillate so that the building itself becomes a very large musical instrument: a gargantuan cast-iron orchestra.

Playing the Building: A Tour

Installing “Playing the Building” at The Battery Park Maritime Building

More here.

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