PLACES : DAVE JORDANO & AARON ROTHMAN
In the early 1970s photographer Dave Jordano documented a series of buildings and places in his native Detroit; in 2010 he returned to the same spots. The result is the Detroit Rephotography Survey, selections of which we are pleased to present here. As our photo editor Aaron Rothman notes, Jordano's then-and-now images "implicate us in the changes they depict," and work as a kind of antidote to the cool aestheticism of ruin porn.
OBSERVERS ROOM : ROB WALKER
A product called Marlboro Black might call to mind everything negative and dangerous about cigarettes. But that strategy might not be as suicidal as it sounds. Maybe wrapping smokes in the graphics of a warning is a form of design jujitsu: the allure of the unsafe.
OBSERVERS ROOM : RICK POYNOR
The issues surrounding reading and writing that Ellen Lupton raises in an essay for Graphic Design: Now in Production
have been with us for decades. From Amusing Ourselves to Death
to The Gutenberg Elegies
to The Shallows
cultural critics have clanged the alarm about the fate of reading in an electronic age. While these issues do possess a design dimension, addressing them largely from a designer’s perspective misses some central points.
PLACES : JERRY HERRON
"What does it add up to, all this abandonment of lives and buildings, neighborhoods and property? It doesn’t seem to add up to anything, other than the decontextualized spectacle itself and the demographic souvenir-hunting opportunities it provides. This city is never coming back; whatever happens next will be without urban precedent because the context of city no longer applies in this place where history has finally run out." Here Jerry Herron reflects on his home city of Detroit, tracking the excesses of ruin porn, the decline of Hudson's, and the improbable hopefulness of the retrofitted carpark in the gutted theater.
OBSERVERS ROOM : JOHN THACKARA
When the new Italian Prime Minister, Mr. Mario Monti, gave his acceptance speech to the Italian Senate before Christmas, he used the word "growth" 28 times and the word "energy" — well, zero times. Why would this supposed technocrat neglect even to mention the biophysical basis of the world's economy? Well, Mr. Monti is better described as a theocrat, than a technocrat. His main job is to keep us all believing in the impossible: an economy that expands to infinity in a finite world. It's important that we stay mesmerised: once we stop believing in his make-believe world it will all come crashing down.
OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER
Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities curated by John Foster, highlights images of design, art, architecture and ephemera brought to light by the magic of the digital age.
OBSERVERS ROOM : MARK LAMSTER
The very idea of a healthy city is, for many, something of an anethema concept. "I view large cities as pestilential to the the morals, the liberties, and the health of man," wrote Thomas Jefferson—a stigma that remains deeply ingrained in the American psyche. Current events, and a new exhibition, suggest the opposite just might be true.