A few weeks ago I heard about a project entitled Imaging Detroit sponsored by the Metropolitan Observatory for Digital Culture and Representation.
I thought it represented the perfect opportunity for me to bring together my interest in visual politics, and my love for Detroit, and obliquely in neoliberalism.
Let me explain.
The current iteration of the "Detroit Comeback story" looks like this. Take bombed out images of Detroit, show huge expanses of empty land, then add a dose of the "creative class", emphasize their gritty entrepreneurialism and stir. This article pretty much nails it.
Now there are a few problems with this narrative. I'm going to focus on two. The first problem is that it assumes that the systemic challenges faced by Detroit and rustbelt cities can be solved by a combination of small business development generated by small undercapitalized firms and a turn to the arts.
It won't be. In fact the entire idea of transforming Detroit into an entrepreneurial hub is the reason the rustbelt looks like it does in the first place. Furthermore the reason the "creative class" is so interested in cities like Detroit and New Orleans isn't only because they've been branded as post-industrial places to be, but because they this class is being aggressively priced out of every other market. Manhattan? Far too expensive. Chicago? Too high as well.
The second is these narratives tend to whiten Detroit and ignore pre-existing Detroit human capital. Detroit is and always has been multi-racial. But by contemporary stories you'd think that Detroit's population is predominantly white rather than predominantly black. And you'd think that the "creative class" is also predominantly white, and predominantly migrant.
Both couldn't be farther from the truth.
There's more to it, but I wanted to put together a video installation of sorts that plays with traditional images of Detroit and complicates them a bit with regular Detroit folk.
So my friend Kofi Boone and I came up with a simple project. "I am From Detroit."
We based the title on a line delivered by a character in Spike Lee's movie School Daze.
We're asking for Detroiters–people of all backgrounds either born and raised in Detroit, or people who are currently living in Detroit–to send us smartphone video clips. In these video clips we want folks to simply say a bit about themselves, maybe what they do, or where they went to high school, and then conclude by saying "I am from Detroit".
Send that clip to iamfromthed AT gmail dot com.
And we'll then compile the clips and mash them up against a few other past and present images of Detroit.
I've a hard deadline of tomorrow to create the entry….and then a looser deadline of late August early September.
If you would like to contribute or know people who would, please do. Also, please forward broadly.