Entries tagged with Detroit

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The day Detroit threatened to declare bankruptcy–with a population loss of over 50%, and with 18 to 20 billion debt declared by new accounting–this was the scene in the alley behind my studio in the Canfield Lofts, in the pleasant and prosperous midtown area. A friend commented, “Basquiat!”; I thought “Rauschenberg”; Smithson would declare it a “nonsite”–there is a certain aesthetic appeal to the image, certainly, partly due to the water drops on the window, from a recent heavy rain and high temperatures, creating painterly effects. Pink graffiti meets material overflow as sensory excess. As art, the image presents itself to the senses so we would all agree that the pleasure we would feel is certainly not due to its depicted content.

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Ice house, Detroit, 2010.

A link to the Ice House Detroit project, courtesy Joe Paszek. In this project, Detroit artists sprayed an abandoned house with water in January, in a reversal of the usual method of getting rid of excess housing inventory by fire (a.k.a. Devil’s Night, a custom that seems to be on the wane). There is a description of a similar midwestern moment in Wyndham Lewis’s Self-Condemned (1954), where he describes a Toronto hotel encased in ice after a fire.


Tonight at MOCAD, San Francisco archive activist Rick Prelinger showed an hour’s worth of material from his vast collection of film images of Detroit from the first three quarters of the 20th century (earliest 1917; latest in the 70s). I attended, along with several hundred other people—the space was full to overflowing. The screening was open to audience participation, and Prelinger, after his opening statement, encouraged vocal responses.

This dynamic made for a unique occasion. To begin with, the range of Prelinger’s material was limited—indeed, its limitations made for a kind of interpretive framework in themselves. We saw clips of downtown and water transport (modernity); the auto industry (mode of production); suburbs (community) and family (reproduction); police work (power); and local landmarks that no longer exist (history). We did not see sufficient images of labor or the black community, as Prelinger noted, likely due to the distribution and use of home movies.

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In a FaceBook post today, Bay Area artist Scott MacLeod began a thread that concerns me directly and which I will paste here, along with an explanation and answer to his query:

Scott MacLeod: Complete the following: “Displaced agency in social space becomes nearly filmic in its sutured continuity—and the meaning of this temporal autonomy of signification is _____________.” [Barrett Watten]

Miekel And: screen burn

Jakub Calouseque: sequestering of dour libido

Barrett Watten: the Dream Cruise.

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Link 03: Mark(s) Archived

Mark(s), the Detroit-based, multigenre, poetry/art webzine, has concluded its ten-year run by putting up a remediated archive of the work it curated and published: www.markszine.net. Mark(s) was notable for developing a transformative digital aesthetics that worked between word and image, always attentive to the ways the developing display, linking, and animation possibilities of the medium could reinterpret the work. Designer Deb King accomplished this spectacularly in one of my own contributions, “Question of Interpretation”:


The work was a series of twelve four-line serial poems, each highly subjective in their content and interpretation, introduced by a “Rorschach” inkblot image made by the author about age 12. I had preserved these icons only to discover them, and their proper use, decades later. … More

Image 03: Detroit logo

Detroit logo by Asa Watten. "It will rise from the ashes."