Friday, February 5, 2010

Everyone's a Critic

If you read the Time Magazine Detroit Blog, you know there are a couple different voices there.  There's Darrell Dawsey, who's like the real Detroiter voice who tackles the more intellectually challenging issues we face.  Then there is Steven Gray, the embedded Time reporter who gives the "outsider" perspective and is good to follow if you want to see how long it takes someone to start to "get" Detroit (which unfortunately for Time is longer than a year).  And then there is Karen Dybis, who is basically the Detroit Synergy of bloggers with her wide-eyed suburbanite discovery of Detroit and reluctance to say anything at all negative about the city.

So of course it is a post by Karen Dybis that has irritated me today.

Karen has been, in her words, obsessing over the Ice House project.  She's super concerned over the "is it art" question, but apparently also the social implications.  So she goes to visit it.  She is horrified at the "frightening" state of the block, but finds the house beautiful.  And while the artists have been working concurrently to help the neighborhood, she ultimately decides that if she were a neighbor she would want them run out of town.  She would never want to live next to an Ice House.


Seriously?  A burned out block is ok to live near, but God forbid someone create something beautiful or interesting or noteworthy on that block.  What a fucked up perspective.

Karen asks, "Sure, the dazzling ice makes for some fantastic photographs. But who wants to buy a picture that symbolizes the sickest side of Detroit?"  You know who does?  A ton of Oakland County art buyers, that's who.  Just ask the Object Orange folks, they sold a ton of photographs of their Tiggerific Orange abandoned houses at the Paul Kotula Gallery in Ferndale.



I guess it's patronizing to create an art project out of a burned out abandoned home.  I hope nobody tells Tyree Guyton or the Object Orange people.
.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've lived here for 39 years and I still don't "get" Detroit.

Anonymous said...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sweetjuniper/4332642164/

Jim said...

Your assessment of the Time bloggers is pretty spot-on, although Darrell Dawsey kind of lost me when he said that literacy was overrated in one of those unmoderated Model D-sponsored panels, and that new media would allow illiterate Detroiters to tell their story. I digress.

The ice house is nifty, but of specious intent. We know it isn't the way it is because of the high rate of mortgage foreclosures, but of myriad other reasons the artists will never spend much time on anyway. If they really wanted to underscore foreclosures, they should have encased one of those recently deserted copper-clad mini-Mansions in Canton.

Except nobody in Canton would let that happen, and there's nothing sensational or interesting about Canton outside of its name.

I suppose it inspires discussion, which is one of the intents of art, right?

kdybis said...

I never thought of myself as hugely positive. But that's okay.

I'm grappling with what defines art. Even people who have studied art for decades struggle with what is art. So your definition is different than mine. That's good too (look, I'm being positive again...)

Anonymous said...

it could be considered equally patronizing to defend a piece of "art" just because one has a personal relationship with the artist or thinks he's a "good guy."

just sayin'

SupergayDetroit said...

Jim - I hear ya about the Canton thing. I think the statement of intent about an art project sometimes does more to demonstrate the purpose than the project itself does. But in every press item they say "to draw attention to the foreclosure crisis" so I guess technically on that level it works.

Not that the country really needed to see another "it could happen to you too" story from Detroit, but it's at least a novel approach.

Karen - you are so unrelentingly positive I think you need to have your medication adjusted! Thanks for commenting!

Anonymous #3 - If you're implying I'm trying defend my friends' project you're way off the mark. First off, I've never hesitated to name drop on this blog, so if I were pals with the Ice House guys I'd say it up front.

Secondly, what bugged me enough to write this post (in addition to Karen's post) was actually one of her commenters who acted like this was ruining the block. I mean seriously. And this was after reading Nancy Nall's disappointed post. All people who HAD to have sneak peeks at the Ice House.

I think most people are just disappointed it isn't this amazingly huge frozen ice house. As any Winterblast organizer can tell you, Michigan winter weather cooperates about as much as Michigan summer weather. If it had turned out massive like the ice tree or something, I think you'd hear a lot more positive comments about it.

Thirdly, I think you mean to use the word "disingenuous."

As someone who has spent a lot of energy working on projects only to have a bunch of armchair quarterbacks weigh in with a jaded "feh," these reactions hit *all* the wrong buttons with me.

SupergayDetroit said...

Oh, and I'd like to add, I think the final product, the video or pics or whatever, will probably be stellar. Much like the Object Orange houses were just curiosities in person, but striking in the photographs.

Anonymous said...

#3 here again. I'm sorry to assume you knew Mr. Holm, Supergay. I don't really know you personally but I know who you are and that you dip into a certain social circle from time to time in which Mr. Holm is well-regarded. I figured that if you didn't know him, you at least had been influenced by those people and that influence was perhaps coloring your take on this whole situation.

To me, the whole thing seems a little too much like an idea hatched up after too many pints in a Brooklyn bar after a couple guys read the $100 house article in the Times. And here we are discussing it likes it's actually art.

Anyway, wish you blogged more!

Anonymous said...

um. . .and I saw Matthew at one of the Hugh parties. are you saying you don't know either of them?

SupergayDetroit said...

#3 - I guess I'm a bit stymied as to why people feel it can't be art. Sure, maybe it was hatched up in a Brooklyn bar, but I hardly think that's an unusual origin for an art project.

#4 - Do I know either of them? Define "know" I guess.

I've met each of them before, yes. But I saw them at the Park Bar recently and we didn't exchange hellos, so I'm not sure I'd say we're buds.

I actually didn't know that they were behind the Ice House until last week when I looked at the Ice House blog. And kind of embarrassingly, I've been familiar with Greg's work for a couple years, ever since he did that great photo for the first Slows BarBQ postcard, but I didn't realize until I went to his website this morning that Ice House Greg Holm is the same person. I'm kind of slow sometimes.

Look, I'm a busy professional, and I don't have a lot of time to blog. I'm not about to take time to defend the Ice House project because I'm acquainted with the artists. But I *am* going to take the time to point out the fact that you can't win for trying in Detroit.

SupergayDetroit said...

And #3 thank you for liking the blogging, I will try to blog more just for you!

Anonymous said...

I think the biggest point being glossed over in the ice house discussion is that for all that work, it is kind of 'meh.' And, I don't consider myself a hater bitching about stuff I didn't think to do first on the internets. I do think the project is awesome because the local media is hyping it to a level that folks will have to venture an unsafe distance from the interstates to check it out, and the fact that is happening is to me a net positive.

SupergayDetroit said...

Good points #5. I think the other thing people are forgetting is that the finished product isn't the Ice House, it's the photography.

Anonymous said...

Great point SG, in which case, we haven't seen the final project.

In total, tho, i'd say the best thing about the project is not the house itself (i've seen much more stunning buildings encased in ice, heck Kefalinos had a pipe burst in one of his buildings on woodward a couple years ago that looked amazing for like two weeks or so) but that it shows the nation, you really can do just about anything you can think about in Detroit. It also shows the locals a neighborhood which could truly be any in the city - a mix of abandoned homes, lots, occupied well-kept older homes, in-fill new homes by the CDCs, and kind of shoddy slumlordian section 8 rentals -- that most would never stop long enough in to look around.

If it took a couple guys from brooklyn who didn't understand until the last week that a fan would keep the attic cool to do that, more power to them.

For me, it was a good excuse to go on a bike ride -- I haven't spent much if any time between Mack & 94 on that side of town with the exception of crossing thru in the Grand Blvd. area. I had never realized how dramatically the city goes to pasture NW of Indian Village -- there's like zero transition.

anon #5

Woodward's Friend said...

Hand-wringing over the social implications of this project is silly. As someone far smarter than I points out, it brings activity in that neighborhood. No one is going to break into your house and steal your radio is there are a dozen or so people always hanging out on the lawn across the street.

Besides, that house probably didn't have much of a future anyway. At best, it's destined for a quick demolition. At best, it's another potential drug house.

First impression of the Ice House: It's like Pageant of the Masters for a Thomas Kinkade painting. There’s no accounting for taste, I guess. My theory about Detroit art is similar to Detroit retail. I don't need to like it; I just need it to be successful on its own terms. I've kind of backed myself into a corner if Thomas Kinkade opens a gallery on Woodward but there it is.

WF
http://dyspathy.com

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