Art UTOPIA

A new paradigm of art has been generated in Detroit as a result of artist interpretations of its economic decline. At first glance, downtown Detroit is only a scene of urban decay with rusty buildings and dirty streets, seemingly far from “art” which should be enhancing the quality of life. It is hard to feel the kind of artistic vibe in Detroit that one feels in big cities like New York or Los Angeles. However, one can still find beauty in a demolishing city. A self-identified Detroit Situationist, McKenzie Wark states, We live among the ruins. We later cities know that cities are mortal” [1].

Some artists have moved into downtown Detroit to incorporate the city’s dynamic into their practice by producing their works using deserted parts of the city. For example, for some people, an abandoned building without owners can be a canvas for graffiti. Buildings with graffiti can be a reminder of an old city where people are not obsessed with “neat” or “clean” streets, but rather let the art of that time merge into their city naturally. True, it might not look like what one might expect from the highly aesthetic, but this is the art of Detroit. This phenomenon resists the trend of art being always pretty and pleasing but encourages artists practice their work to re-make the city in a different image [2].

utopia

Fig. 1: On the façade of an abandoned car repair shop, the sign “AUTO PARTS” has been changed to “UTOPIA”- this seems to refer to Detroit’s success in automobile industry decades ago, of which we can only see the remnants. Source: Detropia (2012). [1]

The population of artists in Detroit is growing because of the area’s low living cost and opportunities to practice [2]. One artist featured in the movie Detropia says he can afford both the studio and house at a very low cost and make a living with less than $700 per month, which would not be possible in other cities [2].

Plus, since the city government usually does not put restrictions on people doing performance art, while other cities might, artists have more freedom to create their own work. In Detropia, one artist couple conduct a performance by placing and sitting at a long, wooden table on a frozen lake, wearing golden masks on a snowy day [2]. The golden masks seemed to represent Detroit itself which has enjoyed golden, but ephemeral times during its industrial boom.

detroit performance art.png

Fig. 2: An artist couple doing a performance art in Detropia on a snowy day – they wore golden gas mask and sitting at a table on a frozen land. Source: Detropia, 2012 [2]

 


 

Works Cited

  1. Carducci, V. (2011a, August 17). Beneath the Pavement, the Beach! — Detroit Art from a Situationist Perspective, Part I. Deliberately Considered. Retrieved March 05, 2016, from http://www.deliberatelyconsidered.com/2011/08/beneath-the-pavement-the-beach-detroit-art-from-a-situationist-perspective-part-i/
  2. Atkinson, Craig. (Producer), & Ewing, H., and Grady, R. (Directors). (2012). Detropia [Motion picture]. USA: Independent Television Service.

List of Figures

  1. Atkinson, Craig. (Producer), & Ewing, H., and Grady, R. (Directors). (2012). Detropia [Motion picture]. USA: Independent Television Service.
  2. Atkinson, Craig. (Producer), & Ewing, H., and Grady, R. (Directors). (2012). Detropia [Motion picture]. USA: Independent Television Service.