On our visit to the Heidelberg project on June 3rd 2012, during the SAIC study trip Detroit from the Ground Up, I took the picture above of one of Tyree Guyton’s characteristic ‘dot’ paintings covered in graffiti from visitors from all over the world.
Across it, at the bottom, someone has scribbled in large sprawling letters:
‘HOME IS WHERE THE ART IS!?’
I doubt this slogan originated here, in fact this bastardized version of the old truism “Home is where the heart is” is the KILROY of the art world. It pops up here and there as stickers or buttons or in bathroom stalls of squatted art spaces, and more exhibitions than I can recall bore this title. But what this anonymous graffiti artist lacked in originality (s)he made up for in poignancy, because never had this slogan looked more at home than in Detroit.
During our stay in Detroit and in the conversations we had, this idea came up time and time again; that art-making as an activity is crucial to territorial behavior, both as positive reaffirmation and identifier of ourselves as individuals and as part of a group and of our connection to a (sense of) place.
Not only in the superficial sense of interior decoration or in the pragmatic approach of occupational therapy, keeping the youth of the street, art encompasses both of these realms and presents us with a new (self-) understanding in relation to space and time: You are here. Now.
From our group- and from my own conversations with Kerstin Niemann from the FILTER residency, which was our ‘home-base’ and studio space during our time in Detroit, surfaced the wish or the felt need of some artwork in, on and around the Filter space. To signal occupancy and to work as a sort of ‘burglar repellant’, but also as a visual reminder that FILTER is an art space, and belong in the company of art spaces in the community of Hamtramck where art is a lived reality and ongoing activity, not only as an archive or as recorded dialogue, but in the here and now.
As a reply to her request for artwork that could also double as break-in prevention I decided to do a window graffiti –the thought being than rather than act as a physical barrier, maybe a window that was decorated with a (positive) message to the intruder would less likely be smashed. For the words I borrowed a phrase from -Detroit’s very own – female rapper Invincible’s song “Spacious Skies”.
The hook, in its beautiful simplicity, goes:
With your spacious skies
I want to love you but you hide behind
A fake disguise
I found it reflected both my own conflicted sentiments about America as my new home, but also specifically could be interpreted as an ode to Detroit and it’s beautiful, spacious skies.
For our upcoming exhibition in the Sullivan Galleries, I am currently working on a large marker pen mural, which hopefully some time in the future will find a permanent home in the FILTER house. It incorporates the portraits of a few of the people we met there who, each in their own way, contribute to the rethinking of Detroit as an urban community. The title is “(un)De(s)troit!” as a testimony to the resilience of the city of Detroit and these people, and many more with them, who are continuously un-destroying Detroit through their art and mark making.
P.S. Here is a picture of Jessica Care Moore, one of the beautiful people un-destroying Detroit, and myself, in front of the mural as it appeared in the exhibition “Detroit: Site, Space, Narrative” in fall of 2212 at the Sullivan Galleries, Chicago.
And here is a picture of the mural as it was installed in FILTER Detroit, in fall 2013: