Dora Apel reads at Book Beat this Sunday from her work 'Beautiful Terrible Ruins: Detroit and the Anxiety of Decline'



We try to shy away from what's largely called "ruin porn" around these parts, because it's hard to think of much new that can be added to that conversation. Also, you really do not want to look at the comments section on our Facebook page when we do touch on such subjects. But when we saw that this book reading was being hosted by Book Beat (Sunday at 3 p.m. — event page is here), we naturally gave it a second look. Art historian Dora Apel's book Beautiful Terrible Ruins: Detroit and the Anxiety of Decline is clearly going a more nuanced look at this subject, and this looks to be a very worthy event.

Apel shows how Detroit has become pivotal to an expanding network of ruin imagery, imagery ultimately driven by a pervasive and growing cultural pessimism, a loss of faith in progress, and a deepening fear that worse times are coming. The images of Detroit’s decay speak to the overarching anxieties of our era: increasing poverty, declining wages and social services, inadequate health care, unemployment, homelessness, and ecological disaster—in short, the failure of capitalism. Apel reveals how, through the aesthetic distancing of representation, the haunted beauty and fascination of ruin imagery, embodied by Detroit’s abandoned downtown skyscrapers, empty urban spaces, decaying factories, and derelict neighborhoods help us to cope with our fears.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.