HD video, 18mins
In the summer of 2011, I spent several months as an artist-in-residence in Detroit, USA, as the guest of Expodium (NL) and The Yes Farm (US). This period was inspiring, informative, but also unsettling. I could not shake the feeling of having been parachuted into a strangely deceptive environment, as a late colonist, European, a shipwrecked survivor from the old world. At the time, I wrote the following blog post:
“All the time, I find myself making guesses and piecing together clues about what is really happening, what is really characteristic, and what are in fact ephemeral aberrations.
There are other problems, too. As I stand in line at the gas station, or waiting for the lights to change, I am torn between finding everything around me endlessly fascinating, or else so banal that I feel nothing but despair. What am I to think of the packet of Twinkies before me, or the traffic light swinging in the breeze? Are these things iconic, immortal, telling, poetic in the extreme, shining examples of what it is to be human, American, alive, and finite? Or are they simply objects, commodities, as meaningless as words in a dead language? I don’t know, I really don’t, and this constant switching between one and the other, right before my eyes, makes it harder than it already was to form any sort of concrete opinion about what I see.”
New Strategies DMC, 5 August 2011 (newstrategiesdmc.blogspot.com)
I wanted to produce some tangible response to my time in the city. But the moral difficulties in doing so were as great as the practical ones: what right does an outsider have to pass judgement after so short a time? This was particularly relevant in Detroit, a city that struggles with an image problem at least as large as the practical problems it faces (which are many). How is it possible to avoid being just the latest in the long line of outsiders coming, in a spirit of morbid curiosity, to poke their noses into the social and economic train wreck that is the Motor City?
My answer is Michigan left – a film which does not attempt to being anything other than a personal response to arrival on some strange urban island. This is not a documentary. It is the passage of time through my eyes alone.
With thanks to Expodium, The Yes Farm, Jonas Ohlsson, Mondriaan Stichting, Fonds BKVB