An open letter to Detroit from a confessed Ruin Pornographer

First of all, People of Detroit, take a pill and calm down. You seem upset. We Ok? Ok.

While I have never visited you specifically, Dear Detroit, I feel accused for what I do in Berlin: take pictures of the city’s ruins. Ruin Porn is your name for my fetish, I learned recently.

Ruin Porn…I guess then that makes me a Ruin Pornographer.

The more I say it actually…it does have a certain ring.

But name-calling and fighting each other is not needed at this point…we have greater problems at hand. Dragons.

Yes, Dragons. Pictures of the feeding dragons follow the below screed.

You are, Detroit: A special snowflake.

 ‘Ruin Porn’ anyway is all He said She said: A NY Times blog article commenting on the magazine’s coverage of people in Detroit’s response, indeed a certain blog entitled”about that porn you sent me” to the Eminem Chrysler advertisement refuting the city’s down and out state.

Detroit might be bad right now…but the city had dealt with worse and would surely survive the current predictament…anyway, you should buy a car, the Superbowl-premiered commercial says. Simultaneously refuting that Detroit is down and out, while playing on the fact the city is struggling; the money shots of Detroit’s Greatness and Eminem’s mean fucking glare; the“Imported from Detroit”: it’s simply a well-made ad.

And our Detroit blogger echoes that “thanks…but no thanks” cry…adding, you should judge me for my inner person…not my appearances…I’m a special snowflake, and, don’t call me a ruin, you…you ruin pornographer!

So Detroit, if I have this correct: you accuse me of voyeurism, of having a penchant for watching innocent cities degraded and stripped down before me, you think I like to look at wrecking balls up close, I sneak peeks at urban centers when they are vulnerable, you accuse me of sniffing around your unkempt privates, taking dirty pictures of said privates and then publishing them?  

How can I take pictures of your nasty parts, you ask, when there is so much positive going on in the city?!  

 See…it’s like this, Detroit: I’m not saying you are in denial, just that you seem a bit defensive.

 Look…listen…Detroit, honey…coming out of the closet is ok. Every great city has these feelings at times.

There I said it. Yes…you know deep down it is true.

Don’t deny it. You have noticed you are not like every other city. You have inspiring monuments. Monuments that mean something. You are different. Special. A Great City.

The problem is that for this greatness, your monuments must gain meaning, and that often means a city has to suffer. Greatness comes with suffering, with a forged bond between bricks and people…

I know, I know…”why me?” It’s natural for you to question why, and even resent the fact that you of all cities were chosen to be great…and the answer to that is complicated.

Nature or nurture? Regardless, you suffer

Some say it comes down to experiences you had when growing up, they say being Great is a conscious choice. It must be said, many cities have greatness forced upon them. Others blame geography, physics, even communists. Science postulates that you are either Born This Way, or you are not, greatness is either in your genes or it’s not.

Whatever the answer, Detroit: know all great cities struggle with Greatness, and each reacts differently.

Paris, they say, was despondent for hundreds of years after finding out, but now embraces it to the point of arrogance. Fucking drama Queen, she.

New Orleans used to take it in stride, but after getting nearly murdered for it, has had second thoughts. Rome is a bit overwhelmed by greatness. Rio has never looked back. Beijing hams it up a little overboard if you ask me…just look at the way she was dressed at the Olypics…I mean, jesus.

New York tries every once and while to get strait and act respectable, but no one is fooled. You could respect Prague, if she had not lately been acting a whore. Don’t even mention whore around San Fransisco and London…they might respond.

So to answer, you are, Detroit. A special snowflake. A Ruin Porn Star of the first degree.

We ‘ruin pornographers,’ if that’s what you want to call us, we love you exactly for who you are. That’s our job. “Greatness hunters” is what I call the job.

And we are here to help you, not hurt. Our hope is to promote the discovery of your true beauty, that your meanings not be forgotten.

 The danger of repressing your inner self

And that’s why I write you here. I bring a cautionary tale. A tale of DRAGONS!

You see, Detroit, fundamentally, at least, all the above cities accept their nature, their greatness.

Some can’t help it…there is too much greatness to deny…others loose greatness to nature, but for that, like the Great City par excellence, Atlantis, a city no one has actually ever seen, Great Cities live on even after death.

The only Great City that no one respects is a Great City in denial of its Greatness. A repressed Great City. A flaming closet metropolis.  

Berlin, for instance.

Berlin, at times appearing to embrace its greatness, actually only does so out of lack of money. Berlin doesn’t want to be Great for the reasons everyone thinks it’s great. Berlin wants to be great for other reasons. If Berlin had the money it would erase every sign of its old self, and forget its true Greatness.

Don’t get me wrong: Berlin wants to be great. But Berlin doesn’t want to be the Great City of Berlin…Berlin wants to be the Great City of Dubai.

Of course, to be fair, greatness was forced on Berlin. Repeatedly. Indeed, almost a hundred years she was held hostage by Greatness against her will.

Whatever the reason, Berlin has never admitted to itself that it is a Great City. Each time she is free to put her life back together, Berlin begins to destroy every mention of her true nature, of what has happened to her, of her monuments. Berlin tears down the previous monuments and replaces them with remade replicas of another epic or someone elses dream utopian ideal and then hopes the world notices it has a world-class monument.

One quick example is Berlin’s ten-year-long debate about rebuilding a zillion dollar realistic copy of the Prussian Royal palace, which only thanks to the 2008 economic crisis was so far put off.

Any human who doesn’t have greed as their commanding principle, who has visited the site lately (it changes weekly) would agree that actually right now it looks great! Stop! Leave it alone.

The lawn and surrounding ruins of the old palace, used momentarily as a huge public open space with events including concerts and circuses, is an amazing open space, a breath of fresh air in an urban jungle, and the monuments surrounding are plenty enough. The openness gives a person the ability to take in the breathtaking buildings surrounding: The TV tower, The Dom, the Neue Museum, the beginning of the Unter Die Linden leading down to the Brandenburg gate,  monument after monument, every way you look. I mean, come on, Berlin. Monuments enough, baby.

Sure, the old Prussian Schloss had meaning–of course it did–but the dumb Commies blew that up like a Buddha and buried the Greatness in a park.

Poof. History corrected.

They did that because they didn’t like the old Schloss’s meaning. They wanted to build their own new meaning. And eventually, for better of for worse,  they did build their own meaning, after 40 years, the Palace of the Republic, Eric’s Lampstore, came to have a meaning.

Yes. Believe it or not, the orange glass had meaning.

“Meaning? What meaning?” Berlin asked. “I don’t feel comfortable with my meaning,” it answered nervously, and again moved to erase that ugly memory. Forget that monument. Bad symbolism. Poof! The Palace is now gone.

Monarchy, on the other hand, now there is a grand symbolism! Let’s rebuild the nice and happy Prussian castle. The Prussians were nice and happy, right?

Even if that were true, a replica of the monarchy’s castle used as a conference center is Disneyland. It has no meaning.

Another example from Berlin? You might remember, Berlin had a no man’s land with guard towers and zig zag haphazard path cutting through the urban grid where the friggin’ Berlin Wall ran?

How about we erase the wall path for the most part and reclaim the old city plan, building a quasi replica (with a modern twist) of our turn of the 20th Century intersection made famous in the films of our pre-nazi era cultural heyday?  

What the? Yep.

Ummm, sorry to disappoint Berlin, and I admit this is against the odd tastes of land value, but except for one or two interesting buildings and Mendelsohn Bartholdy Park running nearby, and except the impressive engineering going on under the ground, Potsdammer platz looks like a shiny circus tent on the edge of just another mall with a “wall exibit” passing through on display out front.  

Still, Berlin succeeds sometimes despite itself. An artistic and thoughtful, well-designed (however poorly poured) open space dedicated as the new Holocaust monument, built over and symbolically covering Hitler’s Bunker/Tomb…that works. The art acts as a vessel of the surrounding memory, the echos embedded in the area.

A holocaust Mall built on the same site, would not have worked.

Do you see the pattern here, Detroit? Good.

So what happens when a city like Berlin represses its Greatness? That’s a good question, Detroit, I’m glad you asked.

My plea

The result, indeed, is my warning.

The result is dragons! When a city represses the pure force of its Greatness, the Dark Side awakens, sensing this weakness. The Dark Side, of course, feeds off exploiting a city’s Greatness. Normally a city can defend itself against being consumed by the Dark Side, but if weakened enough, a city loses all its natural defenses and the dark side can gain the upper hand. Eventually, the Dragons of the Dark Side are released, feeding on the weakened body, eventually even consuming a city.  Dragons eat the memories, the monuments and the Greatness of a city is destroyed, lost but for old photos showing what might have been.

Indeed, Berlin has been and is still being, ravaged by Dragons. Whole areas eaten, disappeared, and then covered with mostly meaningless. Berlin is not yet consumed…but the city has lost a lot of weight recently.

Let Berlin be a warning to you, Detroit! Don’t hate your secret self and your tender, sometimes overly sensitive, memories, your “ruin porn” as you call it. Work with us to preserve these memories and to ensure that Detroit becomes a healthy and proud Great City, and not some disrespected fake bitch, or just some common whore city.

Be proud of your rotted out buildings and save them from falling.

As an example, I have included pictures of a pair of dragons feeding on a corpse of dying memories in Berlin’s Marzahn I happened upon last week…best clicked through at a brisk pace.

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And the Video…


About Andrew Flohr-Spence

Something about the sound and the word. Was a singer/bassist for five years, a German major for five, an English teacher in Germany for another five, then a journalism major in Denver for 5 more, and now I'm back in Berlin (for a while, I intend).
This entry was posted in Life in Berlin and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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