This is the face of the Heidelberg Project, started by Tyree Guyton in his Detroit neighborhood. Here, I’m reminded of John Water’s Desperate Living where castaways run to a secondary universe of drop-outs and criminals. 30,000 homes are abandoned in Detroit, more than any place in the nation save for Las Vegas. The amount of abandoned land in Detroit is the size of San Francisco. From 2 million people at its height to half that today. If this isn’t desperate living, what is?
Back in March, Toby Barlow wrote “In a way, a strange, new American dream can be found here, amid the crumbling, semi-majestic ruins of a half-century’s industrial decline.” Yes, here is Detroit struggling for survival in a country that has essentially doomed it to decline. In “How the Crash Will Reshape America,” Richard Florida writes that cities like Detroit and others in the “Slump Belt” may have reaching a tipping point where they will become ghost towns. The challenge for Detroit and other cities will be “managing population decline without becoming blighted.”
So far, not so good. On one hand, the decline of a major American city provides a kind of cerebral beauty, an exercise in irony, a warning against hubris. On the other, it remains a frightening specter for what may come in a nation built on manufacturing with no more manufacturing jobs. Exodus and Art, hand in hand.