Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Dead futures

It's a vexed issue, and one with which I've found myself grappling recently: is an obsession with (or even simply an interest in) so-called "ruin porn" ethically problematic? The New Statesman's Anoosh Chakelian suggests it possibly is - especially if you're a Westerner gazing at images of abandoned and/or derelict Soviet architecture and infrastructure and dwelling on their visual impact and aesthetic qualities alone, while failing to consider the lives of those who once inhabited the buildings or the repressive nature of the regime that constructed them.

Nevertheless, Chakelian does quote the defence offered by Will Strong, one of the curators of a new exhibition called Dead Space And Ruins, part of the Power & Architecture season at the Calvert 22 Foundation in London. Wary of the "fetishisation of dead space", he suggests that the dark history behind the images should not and cannot be ignored, and that the exhibition actually "looks at the aftermaths of when utopia hasn't been delivered".

Photographer Danila Tkachenko - whose Restricted Areas series is featured in the show (and was mentioned on this site recently) - broadly agrees, though suggests that the exhibition's message is even more pessimistic in outlook: "There is disappointment in all utopias".

All of which serves to remind me that a review of Mark Binelli's book The Last Days Of Detroit - in which ruin porn is discussed as a contentious phenomenon - is long overdue.

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

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