Weekend in Detroit

Despite the 100+ degree weather and complete lack of electricity we were forced to endure while our friend Jennifer was visiting from Chicago last weekend, we had an excellent time exploring Detroit, filling our faces, and seeing one of the great loves of my life, Fiona Apple. Here are some instuhmagrams from the weekend. I doodled on ’em for fun’s sake.

Michigan Central Station. It closed in 1988 and, like much of Detroit, is decaying, though efforts (however slow) to restore the building are underway. You can see more current photos, including the interior at SeeDetroit.com, watch a video tour here, or imagine the station in its former glory in the Talk to the Station gallery. For more “lost Detroit”, check out Dan Austin’s website and book.

Created by artist Tyree Guyton, The Heidelberg Project is an urban, out door work of sculpture, installation, and painting that both represents and recreates its community. It’s named for the street it started on in East Detroit. This was my first time there and, while it’s always exciting to see any part of Detroit getting positive attention, and while it’s playful and heartfelt work, it’s also undeniably sad. The cheap, carnival prize stuffed animals are rain soaked, matted grey and musty smelling. The grass is at once dead and overgrown. Residents sit on their porches, idly watching as visitors take photos, then get in their cars and leave. A welcome sign warns you to lock your car doors and windows, secure your valuables. It’s as mesmerizing and hopefull as it is beat down and pitiful. It’s so Detroit.

I love Tyree Guyton’s spirit (this video he speaks in is so wonderfully uplifting), but I feel a lot more conflict when I think about my actual experience of it then I expected to. I feel like I did seeing the DIA exhibit Detroit Revealed earlier this year. You’re looking at trash, basically. You’re looking at garbage, but you’re looking at it from the perspective of art. Of course I don’t think people are so bird-brained they’re only looking and thinking “ooh, pretty colors!” I’m sure those photos, and Heidelberg, make others feel just as bad and just as awed. The degree of decay is sublime, so much so that for a moment you can forget that people live here. That tall dead grass, those shattered windows, people don’t just live next door to these places, they live inside them, and they probably didn’t come to see the exhibit. It’s such a strange thing to stand inside a museum looking at a huge, framed photograph of a site you just drove past and see it as something else. It’s strange to enjoy looking at the same kind of decay that kept you, literally minutes before, from using the museum parking garage (which is closed because the city can’t afford to maintain it). It makes beautiful media, but when you step back outside it’s garbage again. It’s hard to reconcile.

Ben and I are huge book shop enthusiasts and the John K. King is one of our favorites. It’s a four story warehouse wonderland of used and antique books with categories for just about anything you can imagine. Unfortunately our time there is always limited by the fact that it has no climate control. In the winter, it’s time to go when my teeth start chattering and my nose starts a-runnin’, and last Saturday it was time to go when after only about 30 minutes of shopping, when putting my head directly in front of a fan wasn’t enough to keep me from melting. Seriously, it’s a wonder no books were disintegrated in our sweaty, sweaty hands.

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