Carducci continues his series of reflections on art in the age of de-industrialization in this post on the work of Scott Hocking. -Jeff
It was recently announced that after more than five decades of abandonment and neglect, the sprawling, decrepit Packard Automotive Plant on the east side of Detroit will be demolished by its ostensible current owner Dominic Cristini. (For news coverage, click here, here, here, and here.) Designed in the early 1900s by industrial architect Albert Kahn, the 40-acre, 3.5 million square foot complex was once the headquarters and main production site for the Packard Motor Car Company, one of the premier American luxury automobile brands of the 20th century. The plant was the first large-scale reinforced concrete industrial construction project in the world and at its opening in 1907 was considered to be the most advanced facility of its kind anywhere. The plant’s opening preceded by three years Henry Ford’s legendary Highland Park Plant (also designed by Kahn and immortalized by Louis-Ferdinand Celine in Journey to the End of the Night — for $5 a Day) and the moving assembly line by six years.
Since its closing in 1958, the complex has progressively fallen into decay with several sections in collapse as a result of exposure to the elements and a succession of fires; although, most of the buildings remain structurally sound due to their reinforced concrete construction. Much of the wiring and other building materials have been stripped by scavengers over the years. In recent times, the plant has also served as an enclave for so-called urban explorers, graffiti artists, and purveyors of the photographic genre known as “ruin porn.” Without question, the most significant work done in this environment is that of Detroit artist Scott Hocking.
Born in Detroit in 1975, Hocking has been surveying the postindustrial landscape of Detroit for more than a decade. His project Relics, begun . . .
Read more: Scott Hocking’s Garden of the Gods
During a stop on their ‘roadshow,’ two world renown media researchers, Elihu Katz and Paddy Scannell, treated an audience at The New School for Social Research to some current reflections on “media events” and long-term television developments. It was Katz and his co-author and DC regular Daniel Dayan, who started exploring these events in the 1970s when the surprising trip by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Israel and the ensuing television coverage inspired them and the world. It was the start of their long and intensive exploration of ceremonial contests, conquests and coronations that were celebrated through live broadcasts on television, resulting in one of the defining books in the field of media studies, Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History. Recently, Katz and Scannell, the founding editor of Media, Culture and Society, have been revisiting the phenomenon. Things have changed, but media events appear to be still with us.
A telling example: Barack Obama’s inauguration in January 2009 which drew some 37+ million viewers. This once in a lifetime happening was a quintessential “media event.” The live broadcast of the meticulously scripted ceremony brought everyday life to a temporary standstill. Reporters and the vast audience were filled with awe in their celebration of the election of the first American black president. In addition to media that offered a live-streaming of the event, TVs were still the go-to medium. Television seemed to be alive, if not completely well.
As a student and collaborator of Paul Lazarsfeld at Columbia’s Bureau of Applied Social Research, Katz for many years was skeptical about the power of media to change people’s minds. But as a co-author with Dayan, he speaks in awe and fascination about the live images of astronauts landing on the moon, of the newly elected Polish Pope kissing his native soil, and of royal weddings and official funerals. He knows that the television broadcasts of these events were performative, with real and significant social impact.
Fast forward to . . .
Read more: Beyond Television?