Last night, via iPlayer, I watched Julien Temples new documentary on the rise, fall, and maybe rise again of Detroit.
Julien coins the term in his narrative - 'post-American'. At first glance, the landscapes shown are post-industrial, and fabulously photogenic, but then, Detroit never had an industry in the traditional sense, mined or processed from the earth with belching chimneys. This was something else, it was a slick, clean, blue collar industry from building the car, but also, more importantly, it was the birth of commercialism and consumerism which defined the condition of this city, right down to the fundamentals of the pseudo-Fordist methods of Motown, the birth of commercialised music.
Whilst industry forced populations out of the centres of European cities one or two generations before, the car and the well paid automotive construction industry had actively brought them into Detroit. Now, with the decline of both the industry and the city, allayed to the gross social injustices and the riots brought about by them, the city centre is empty. This is at a time when truly post-industrial cities are reclaiming their centres and the towering architectures of production for living in. So then the condition of Detroit must be described as something else, and where post-consumerist may be premature, maybe post-American is not, in light of the slowly fading economic and political power of the last great super-power.
As for the documentary itself, it's a must see, with the derelict sea of buildings recalling any number of post-apocalyptic visions and the move toward an urbanised agriculture reflecting recent trends for university projects in a much more believable, if less glossy way. potentially putting the city at a new kind of forefront.
If only we'd listened to Paul Verhoevens version of the Detroit of the future in Robocop....