HE’S COME A LONG WAY; THAT’S MY BOY
2019 – ongoing
“Ten, nine, eight”, the electrified crowd chants in chorus. “Seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, go!”. Within seconds, a myriad of colorful cars roars into action and start racing and crashing into one another. Demolition derby is a fight to the end with a simple idea behind, elimination through destruction.
Beginning in the later half of 2008, a global-scale recession adversely affected the economy of the United States. A combination of several years of declining automobile sales and scarce availability of credit led to a more widespread crisis in the United States auto industry that has its heart in Michigan that lost more than 800,000 jobs between 2000 and 2009 as the subprime housing bubble burst, sending hundreds of thousands of homes into foreclosure as the automotive industry collapsed among the rubble, leading to the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler.
With this project I’ve explored the areas of this state that have been hit hardest by this financial and social tragedy, traveling from the industrial cities of the south, already strained by decades of racial injustice towards the rural areas of central Michigan, a fertile land for the president Trump’s ideals and politics.
I’ve decided to narrate this state thought the phenomenon of demolition derbies that, mainly in conjunction with the summer county fairs, take place all over the United States and especially in its most rural and poorest areas. Here, in Michigan, cars and motors have always been a sort of cult for the whole population, a cult that finds his most powerful expression in the the desire by men, women and kids to build fast cars from wreckages and race in temporary dusty arenas where crowds of adults and children cheer for their steel gladiators, trying to forget the worst recession in generations that hit them so hard and that now, after many years of uncertainty, maybe is coming to an end.
In according to the event and divided in RWD and FWD categories, it can be a race on an eight-shape track (Figure 8) or a derby where the last car that outlives, wins. Families with children, teenagers and motorsports enthusiasts crowd the wooden bleachers and the grassy hills around the track, waiting for a spectacular crash or a fearless struggle for the victory. Even if apparently there are no rules, each car is carefully inspected before the show by the race officials in order to check the presence of a roll bar, the absence of glasses and other few requirements that guarantee an illusion of safety for the drivers, whose courage is supported by the groups of relatives and friends who fill the pit area before every event, helping with the last adjustments on the car, often accomplished with a big hammer or a blowtorch. Local sponsors, whose names are painted on the crushed body of the cars, allow the best drivers to keep the cars running and enable them to attend a large number of events in order to win the state championship; Despite this, on the local level, the cost of stock car racing each week far exceeds the amount of money that can be won, making racing more of a sport of love than commerce, love that have kept this communities tight during the automotive crisis that hit hard Michigan in the past decade.