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.
What the image depicts is a transient going through overflow trash from the inadequate dumpster in the alley behind my studio, serving a building that houses students and working people. Like the bankruptcy filing, however, this is not the entirety of what is going on in Detroit. On the other side of Canfield Street from the lofts, a number of high-end businesses aimed at a young, urban, professional clientele have opened up. One sells boutique bicycles in the $2900 range; at some point, I may buy one of their hand-crafted bells. There is a shop for runners and soon Avalon Bakery will move to larger quarters there. The alley behind my building is also home to the recycling unit for Motor City Brewery–a model for the responsible handling of waste–and the Green Alley, an urban recovery project next to the Green Garage, where innovative planning meetings take place. It simply makes sense, then, to elevate this image to the status of art, admire its lush tones, post-cubist composition, site-specific intervention, and handmade graffiti–and circulate it widely.