Sunday, October 25, 2009

Survival supplies

For the Piranesi of our time, I'd like to nominate the photographer who blogs at DetroitFunk,

This person appears to be anonymous. Just now, that nameless condition is an anomaly as full of dark meaning as the shadows in a Piranesi prison. Everywhere else in the American economy, art is a traffic in names. "Get me a Murakami," says somebody in the Art World, and in Japan somebody in an art factory turns on the lights for the night shift. But in Detroit, night is the default condition. There, names aren't readable anyway.

The photographer of DetroitFunk understands that, and when the sun is out he (or she) understands Piranesi's other subject too: ruin.

The anonymous photographer took this picture and the one above in the ruins of Detroit's Wilbur Wright High School, where artifacts from a Cold War fallout shelter rust and crumble. The large canister in the top image is labeled "Survival supplies," but the photographer of DetroitFunk doesn't do irony. In that respect, too, he's post-Art World. Jokiness turns out not to be necessary for survival in Detroit. That too marks a difference between Detroit and the Art World.

Of course, once upon a time, some small person in Detroit may have thought for a while like Takashi Murakami. But she appears to have grown up after that, into tracelessness. In any case, she's gone now. All that's left of her in traceless Detroit is a totemic little mini-Murakami: source and derivative, a commercial token of transactional love, smiling for a little while longer into the empty sky.