An Opinionated Primer to Detroit
(As sent to the Glasgow-based artists - Sent back in 2014)
I've started a bibliography of interesting things to become immersed in that will give a MUCH better understanding of the city than any all encompassing documentary.
I would suggest checking out:
This interview about an arts crawl in Hamtramck (a city nestled inside of the city)
"Searching for Sugar Man" about Sixto Rodriguez
This Non-Fiction Book:
The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton Studies in American Politics)
This Fiction Book:
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Detroit As Barnby CRYSTAL WILLIAMS
Gone the hay. Gone the tools. Gone the morning work.
Over there a tractor rusts. Gone the cows, goats,
the slack-tongued mule. Left are owls & rats, fat, wily cats,
& the field where wild weeds grow.
The farmer, they whisper driving past, knows everything
a body need know about dying. You can tell by how
he doesn’t bother to paint or prop the barn’s worn wood.
Still folks click their teeth & wonder on which day,
at what time, the pitiful barn will give. The farmer, too,
scratches his mighty, balding head.
He’s forgotten the good wood he used,
the hard nails, the friends & their strong backs,
that long-ago barn raising, that cider & fine punch.
This link leads to a good summation of Detroit's bankruptcy in case you were wondering:
Cedric’s answers to questions that nobody asked - 2014
1. Could you use one word to describe the city?
2. And what word represents the stereotype?
3. How do people talk about this place?
Glasgow: People are more often generalized for their personality (Glaswegians)
Detroit: The city is more often generalized as a place (The D)
4. What's one word that describes a difference from the other city?
5. How do people believe things get done the best?
Detroit: Don't rely on anyone else
6. What's the best aspect of the art scene?
Glasgow: People do in fact "work as if they live in the days of a better society" or at least their lives aren't taken over by part-time jobs.
Detroit : Outsider artists and the ability to be a hermit and just make art... or not.
7. What do some art specialists in that city do with their time when not making art?
Glasgow: Take on an archive project
Detroit : Buy a house under 3,000 dollars and put 30,000 dollars worth of work into. (and say good bye to any free time for about 5 years)
8. You're likely to hear:
Glasgow: Someone speaking another language, or talking about independence
Detroit: Someone honking at you if you're going to slow, or the sound of your own heartbeat when a car zooms past you a little too close for comfort.
9. What changed the most in the last three years?
Glasgow: The main source of funding for many organisations
Detroit: Eastern Market and Midtown
10. What got better in the last five years?
Glasgow: Projects that continue to sustain themselves are now fully established.
Detroit: Home brewed micro beers.
11. What does the other have that the other wish it had:
Glasgow: The birthplace of music from House to Motown and we'll throw in Eminem in the mix too.
Detroit: Consistent critical art writing
12. What is considered the "traditional route" to go?
Glasgow: CCA, then Tramway or GOMA, then London or Modern Institute
Detroit: Buy a house, have two kids, get a dog (for security reasons)
13. What have people done traditionally to relax?
Glasgow: Watch movies
Detroit: Go out for food with friends.
14. What if you really need to relax?
Glasgow: Go an hour north, hit the Highlands!
Detroit: Fire off a couple rounds (hopefully not into the air since it’ll rain bullets.)
15. What do people do to show their kindness?
Glasgow: Offer someone a cup of a tea, take a break
Detroit: They get other people to show up to your event, they'll also lend you their truck.
16. How do you know someone is friendly?
Glasgow: Most likely they will make fun of you
Detroit: They don't avoid you.
17. What does the social contract entail?
Glasgow: Sending each other cards.
Detroit: Passing the medical marijuana around
18. Three worst qualities comparatively:
Glasgow: Weather, less healthy eating/drinking habits, less diversity
Detroit: Parochial, wasteful or low quality approaches, illusions of self-granduer
19. Things that bum me out:
Glasgow: If you don't live in Glasgow, you tend not to be able to see what's going on
Detroit: Jobs as a cure-all, or anything involving the free market
20. Arts Funding:
Glasgow: Artists are used to diverse forms of funding, and have proven that they can rally together to talk about it in a complex way (such as the letter to Creative Scotland)
Detroit: Artists are realising that all the money is only coming from large non-profit institutions paying for community art. Otherwise they're used to paying out of pocket for years to fund spaces and projects. The US as a whole since Reagan was in office has not seen consistent arts funding in a long long time.
21. The elephant in the room of social problems:
Glasgow: The alcoholism continues to be a defining aspect of liquid confidence in the city, Detroit however turns this into something much more scary when you consider that people are getting in cars, and that there is a heavy racial element as well when people are coming into the city to watch all the sports games and get drunk and they want to feel like they own the city like they used to.
Detroit : The elephant in the room is a structural disfunction connected to the segregation between rich and poor across 8 mile rd. What's worse, it's somehow taboo to bring it up in conversation as if people not investing in black owned businesses could possibly be part of why Detroit is not flourishing, there are a lot of white privileged 'heroes' that have spawned the renewed hope in the city. Also, the schools, which should be the backbone are not in good shape and not looking like they will be any time soon.
Glasgow: The average person is educated, where there is a stigma towards those who appear to go out of their way to deny the education that is offered to them (NEDS). Also there's a sense that people do not act entitled to individual happiness or act like they are meant to single-handedly produce change nor would they ever want to be put in charge of that.
Detroit: You will find a lot of people that are very optimistic and opinionated (however not always making educated rationalisation to make their arguments) Many people even love the concept of debates because there are winners and losers and that there will be 'truths' that will arise out of it. Over the years the concept of "agreeing to disagree" no longer holds much favor, instead, it seems for the moment that conspiracy theorists rule the day, as at least they were right about the NSA.
23. Art Styles:
Glasgow: Emphasis on gestures and making more down to earth or seriously funny artwork (at least compared to London where it is much more highly polished) there is a sense that people get done only what needs to be done.
Detroit: Emphasis on craft, but especially design, technology is seen as wonderful putting aside whatever waste or environmental problems this may produce.
24. Maybe how do things run?
Glasgow: You're expected to do good work because there's nothing in your way, however people don't take themselves too seriously, while at the same time they know that there is probably an educated audience out there for their work.
Detroit: No one's here to get in your way. However, many people actually rely on mentors or having a set of surrogate parents to help them pursue what they want to.
25. What makes engaging with other people tough?
Glasgow: Working with health and safety to do something that isn't dangerous or environmentally irresponsible.
Detroit: People take big political issues too personally.
26. The DIY aesthetic is very interesting how they are quite different:
Glasgow: DIY means entire organisations, some people embody it to a brilliant degree, it's not just relegated to men with hobbies.
Detroit: When a lot of industry went down, a lot of CNC machines etc. got really cheap, DIY sometimes means duct taping a broken cooler to the top of a tree to act as a bird feeder, or the numerous ways of constructing seats for waiting at bus stops.
27. What I wish I saw more in the other city:
Glasgow: People playing board games
Detroit: Good video work
Interesting people and their counterparts:
Gwenan Davies <---> Andrew Thompson
Graham Mack <---> James Dozier
Francis McKee <---> Mitch Cope & Gina Reichert
Alasdair Gray <---> Grace Lee Boggs
David Harding <---> Charles McGee
Leigh French <---> Jef Bourgeau
Jim Lambert <---> Chido Johnson
Sukaina Kubba <---> Gilda Snowden
Kitty Anderson <---> Cezanne Charles
Sarah Tripp <---> Matt Schlian
Urara Tsuchiya <---> Sarah Lapinski
Patrick Jameson & Leanne Hopper <---> Daniel Sperry & Alivia Zivich
Jenny Brownrigg <---> Mary Fortuna
Duncan Campbell <---> Matt Eaton
Anthony Schrag <---> Corrie Baldauf
Merlin James <---> Steve Panton
Carrie Skinner <---> The Hinterlands
Stephen Murray <---> Steve Hughes
Jim Lambie <---> Nicola Kuperus & Adam Lee Miller (ADULT.)
Diane Torr <---> Richard Newman & Liza Bielby (The Hinterlands)
David Shrigley <---> Tyree Guyton
Karla Black <---> John Dunivant
Tessa Lynch <---> Dylan Spaysky
Ross Sinclair <---> Olayami Dabls
Torsten Lauschmann <---> Ed Brown
Claire Barclay <---> Charlie O'Geen
Sophie Mackfall <---> Ed Fraga
Laura Aldridge <---> Haleem Ar-Rasheed
Craig Mulholland <---> Jon Brumit
Douglas Gordon <---> Judy Pfaff
Richard Wright & Sarah Lowndes <---> Graem Whyte & Faina Lerman
Toby Webster <---> Susanne Hilberry
The Hub <---> GalGael
These were added/altered
Rosie O’Grady <---> Michaela Mosher
Oren Goldberg <---> John Nicol
Ellie Harrison <---> Halima Cassells
Duncan Campbell <---> Julia Yezbick
Kate Davis <---> Allison Wong
Lisa Ure <---> Holliday Martindale
Christina McBride <---> Tsz Yan Ng
Tam McGarvey <---> Soh Suzuki
2HB <---> DittoDitto
Re:view Contemporary <---> Common Guild
SWG3 <---> CAVE Gallery
Torsten Lauschmann <---> Ben Hall
Sven Werner <---> Leon Johnson
Alistair Payne <---> Tim Van Laar
Kenneth Davidson <---> Efe Bes
Kresge Arts in Detroit <---> Generation Art Scotland
I was thinking of other names but it was too difficult to match them up with someone else... a lot of these are really loose associations as well in terms of my relationship to them and their perceived importance in the art scene. I don't even know if these people would get along, but I think other people would get the context of how particular types of art practices thrive in one particular city and what makes them different from one another, if you'd like me to explain any of the connections, I can definitely do that.
Recent things I have written about/for Detroit and its inhabitants: