The other week I stumbled upon Robert Mullins‘ article on The Politics and Archaeology of “Ruin Porn” (via the Contemporary and Historical Archaeology list) where he characterises ‚ruin porn‘ as a trend within which an „enormous number of artists, urbanites, and even archaeologists have begun to focus their attention on the aesthetics and materiality of ruin“. In his post, he traces the various views on this ‚hipster‘ visual representations of modern ruins. These even reach a wider audience in popular cases such as Detroit (in Germany for example through the well known weekly Der Spiegel).
Arguably, many Cold War relics I will deal with in my project are ‚ruins‘. Over on the German language part of my blog I (intend to) gather quite a few examples. Actually, when preparing a post, I even have to choose a featured image which is meant to persuade people to click and read the story. Mullins‘ article got me thinking about whether I’m thereby not just engaging in ruin porn, but even advocating a „purely self-centered gaze and seeing urban and industrial ruination for sensationalistic if not purely emotional and instinctive reasons“.
In his appraisal of the potentials ruin porn offers for contemporary and historical archaeology, Mullins argues that work that draws on practices associated with ruin porn (such as aesthetic photography, c.f. the Ruin Memories Project) can „illuminate how archaeologists, states, and communities value spaces, heritage, and things.“ This is exactly what I intend to do in looking at how heritage authorities, museums and different kinds of ‚explorers‘ deal with Cold War relics.
So, I guess my own bits and pieces of ruin porn on this website, on the one hand, merely correspond to what is already out there. But on the other hand, they hopefully also help to connect these disparate fields. Some heritage professionals I met actually didn’t now that sites they deal with were part of practices like geocaching (and also what this hobby entails – which probably makes them akin to a larger part of the population). If my project is meant to evolve into some kind of public geography, then a fair amount of „ruin porn“ might actually help to communicate multiple views on place – despite controversial opinions on „ruin porn“ as a practice.