Note: If you see this text you use a browser which does not support usual Web-standards. Therefore the design of Media Art Net will not display correctly. Contents are nevertheless provided. For greatest possible comfort and full functionality you should use one of the recommended browsers.

Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathDouglas

icon: previous page

USA) strikingly abstained from the special effects normally expected from a horror film, yet still established a disquieting, occasionally disturbing, atmosphere.

The ruined city as a phantasm of modernity

The city of Detroit was founded under the name Ville Détroit («Town on the Strait») by French settlers in 1701. Due to its location on a river connecting the Great Lakes, Huron and Erie, it became an important center of trading and shipbuilding in the course of the 19th century, and the city of the American automobile industry in the 20th century. Once a figurehead of modernity in the world of industrialized production, Detroit today offers a picture of the destruction wreaked by capitalism and its effects on the city s urban structure and inhabitants. Practically the entire inner city is deserted, run-down, left to its fate. This urban disaster was triggered by the manufacturing industry's departure from the inner city and the white population's concomitant exodus to the suburbs. Black families moved into the vacant apartments, and met with economic and racial discrimination. The final blow


was dealt by the auto industry crisis of the 1960s and '70s which, triggered by the hitherto unknown competition from Japan and the rapid transformation of car production (from conveyor belts to automated assembly lines), led to high unemployment rates especially among unskilled workers and lower-level clerical staff. Whole districts were reduced to poverty, real-estate prices plummeted. The city as a whole faced economic neglect, while the prosperous outlying districts and suburbs with predominantly white populations increasingly flourished. As the political self-awareness of America's black population grew, confrontations occurred repeatedly from the mid-1960s onward. The mounting tension culminated in the Detroit Riots of 1967 (whereby Detroit had already witnessed racial unrest as early as 1943), which further accelerated the affluent white population's exodus from the city. Throughout the US the media disseminated the picture of a violent city best avoided, of a place worth neither living nor working in, and certainly not a prudent choice for private investment or state subsidies. Those who could, among them increasing numbers of blacks, left the city. Detroit

icon: next page