An Opinionated Primer to Detroit

(As sent to the Glasgow-based artists - Sent back in 2014)

I 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.

From between 2009 and 2017 local artist friends of mine have given me plenty of personal overviews of the art scene / the city’s history.

I would also suggest checking out:

This interview about an arts crawl in Hamtramck (a city nestled inside of the city)

This movie:
"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

This Poem:

Detroit As Barn


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:

Free Association

Cedric’s answers to questions that nobody asked - 2014

1. Could you use one word to describe the city?
Glasgow: Friendly

Detroit: Hermit

2. And what word represents the stereotype?
Glasgow: Gritty

Detroit: Hustle

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?
Glasgow: Walkable

Detroit: Over-Masculinity

5. How do people believe things get done the best?
Glasgow: Collectivism

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.

22. Personalities:
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: