Detroit Was Always Made of Wheels: Confronting Ruin Porn in Its Hometown

  • Kate Wells


Despite the fact that Detroit still retains a population of over 900,000 souls, the assumption that nobody actually lives in Detroit anymore obscures the difficult subject of what happens on the margins of a city. This research asks the question of what does happen when a city’s pain is aestheticized without a deeper engagement of the intersections of history, race, space and place. This essay will discuss Detroit’s public art projects and movements spanning the twentieth century from the City Beautiful movement to Diego Rivera’s murals to the Heidelberg Project. It will explore how Detroiters have been endowed with an innate sense of activism and social justice, countering the abstract magnificence of the famed ‘ruins of Detroit’ and offering a human perspective on abandonment.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kate Wells
    • 1
  1. 1.York UniversityTorontoCanada

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